Category Archives: Music

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Opening my emails from blogging friends has taken on some of the qualities of Christmas morning.  They all purport to come from Lenore Diane so the excitement builds as each surprise package is opened.

Today I opened one that came from my blogging friend Val at Arty Old Bird.  She talked about accepting that one might be different to others and coming to terms with it..  Do go over to read her blog post.  I am sure you will find it interesting/illuminating.

About two-thirds of the way into the post she directed us to Israel who sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow with such feeling that it brings tears to the eyes.  Most of us have heard this version of the song and loved it.  And yes he does look different to most of us.

And then there was this – Jonathon and Charlotte .  This odd looking couple competing in Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year.  Just look at Jonathon; at the time of the audition  he was 17 years old and Charlotte was 16.   As you can imagine Simon Cowell et al dismissed him but that was before he started singing.

Look at the faces of the judges and the audience and then look them as Jonathon starts to sing.  Who would have thought this young man had such a voice.  And how many would have dismissed him because of his size and the way he looks?

We are all guilty of judging a book by its cover and in doing so how much do we miss.  We know that first impressions are important but …  We may miss out on a great friendship because of judging somebody by the way he/she looks.

This couple totally wowed the audience and the judges.  Simon Cowell has now signed them to a GBP 1million contract and admits he was wrong in his first impressions of this duo.

As a footnote do you believe that this couple with those voices, were beaten in the final by a performing dog?  What were the British people thinking.

Related post –    Seeing is Believing or Is It?

A Really Special Sunday

The Supper Club

Click to read about the Supper Club

It was a very wet, cold and miserable Sunday night.  I really would have preferred to stay in my nice warm house, with a book and a cup of coffee.  But I had agreed to attend “An Evening With Simon O’Neill” a Supper Club fundraiser.  The event was hosted in a private house and parking in these winding, hillside streets of Wellington is not easy,  So we parked illegally in a Residents’ only parking area (and we got away with it!).

About 40 people turned up to be entertained by this singer and regally entertained we were.  Simon is here to perform in the NZ Symphony Orchestra’s Die Walküre and we were lucky that he gave his time for this fundraiser.  We are told that “Simon O’Neill has rapidly established himself as one of the finest helden-tenors on the international stage. A native of New Zealand, he is a principal artist with the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala and both the Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals, appearing with a number of illustrious conductors including James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Valery Gergiev, Antonio Pappano, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Sir Charles Mackerras, Daniele Gatti, Edo de Waart, Bertrand de Billy, Donald Runnicles and Pietari Inkinen.” Source http://www.thearts.co.nz/artist_page.php&aid=39&type=bio.  WOW!!

Not only did Simon sing for us, but he generously answered Aidan’s questions on a variety of interesting things. (Aidan Lang is the General Director of NZ Opera and another interesting person with whom to speak)  Simon spoke reverently of Mr Pavarotti and told us of understudying  Placido Domingo on several occasions.  He made us laugh with a few light-hearted moments on the stage and in all showed what a truly nice person he is.

He told of his rise to fame and agreed that much of it was being in the right place at the right time.  For instance he was in New York shortly after leaving New Zealand and landed a role at the Met.

In response to one of Aidan’s questions he talked about his role as Mao Tse-tung in the opera Nixon in China.  This is one of the roles that he likes to talk about.

Throughout his performance Simon was accompanied by Bruce Springfield, the Head of Music Staff at NZ Opera.  What a fantastic pianist is Bruce.  In conversation later, he gave all the credit to Simon and the wonderful grand piano owned by the host.  What a truly generous and self-effacing this man is.

Simon has just celebrated his 40th birthday so there will be many more occasions on which to see him and hear his wonderful voice.

So there you have it – More Opera.  And we are so lucky to have the opportunity to see these first class opera Stars in close proximity.  Simon and Bruce mingled amongst the guest after the performance and delighted each of us in turn once again.

Bouquet of roses

For the organisers of such a fantastic evening.


Related Posts

Rigoleto Continued

As I said in yesterday’s post, Rigoletto was fantastic.  As part of the Opera Supper Club we were invited for drinks and nibbles prior to the show and then at the interval were plied with more wine, or in my case water as it was so very warm in the theatre.  This crazy weather we are experiencing makes it so difficult for organisers – it is autumn and it should be getting cold, instead of which we are having better weather than we had in the summer.  As my grandsons would say – go figure!

Anyway, the story of Rigoletto is no doubt known to you all.  The Duke Mantua and his jester, Rigoletto are cursed by the nobleman, Monterone  because the Duke has defiled Monterone’s daughter.  Meantime, Rigoletto is keeping secret the fact that he has a beautiful young daughter.  Of course, Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter falls into the clutches of the evil Duke, Rigoletto vows and plans revenge but in the end it is not the Duke but Gilda who is killed.

There you have it – Rigoletto in fewer than 70 words.  Do read the synopsis from the Met here.

After the performance we were once again treated to a look behind the scenes with the stage manager.  He explained how the props were moved up and down, how the revolving stage worked and also how all of this amazing scenery would be packed into containers on Saturday morning (“so if anybody is free on Saturday…”) and then shipped off to Auckland on Sunday.  Apparently it takes all day to dismantle and more than a day to install and to check that all is working as it should at the other end.

Much of the scenery had been hand painted including the marbled effect on the salon walls.  A magnificent chandelier had been purposely made for the production but had already been booked for hire by another organisation for use in its production.

And later in the year the whole set is to be shipped to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia for use by the Opera Queensland –  Lindy Hume, the Director of Rigoletto is usually based in/with  Opera Queensland.

And when the sets of the various operas are not being used, they are stored in containers in an open yard on the outskirts of Auckland.

Just a fascinating half hour and a perfect way to round off a perfect evening.

Earlier this week I asked what would your perfect day be like.  Now after this perfect evening I ask you what would your perfect evening look like.

Sunset

Ducks on the lake at sunset.

Rigoletto

Another really short post.  It’s 11.15pm and I have just returned from a performance of Rigoletto here in Wellington.

I am speechless and so following a tour backstage after the performance I offer you the most famous aria from Verdi’s masterpiece.  Here it is sung by The Three Tenors – Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.  Enjoy…

In the NZ Opera performance Rafael Rojas played the part of the Duke of Mantua.  More on this production tomorrow.

And  I am closing off now and having an early night with a new library book, cup of tea and my trusty companion Lotte, what more could a woman ask for?

Lotte in bed

It’s been such a long day and now it’s time for bed!

More Opera

As I have said before, here in New Zealand we have a world class opera company.  We have world famous opera singers joining the company for specific performances – Rigoletto currently being performed in Wellington has three singers from around the world and an Australian Director.  These people are brought in to encourage and educate our resident singers.

Upcoming talent is nurtured by the Opera company and from time to time we are delighted to be invited to listen to some of this talent.  Last night was one such time.

It was a bitterly cold Wellington evening with a strong southerly wind blowing so we were very pleased to get inside the theatre.  The evening started with drinks and nibbles (always in new Zealand) and then we were entertained by 12 Emerging Artists.

Music covered arias from Handel, Rossini, Gounod, Mozart, Puccini, Guestavino, Massenet, Britten, Monteverdi, Offenbach and of course Verdi with Bella figlia dell’amore from Rigoletto.

We were told that this is the first time that a counter tenor had been included in the Emerging Artists programme.  Have you heard a contralto tenor sing?  This is the first time I had heard one and it was quite beautiful and if you excuse the expression, I was filled with awe that such a very small man – he was about 5ft 6″ tall – could produce such a wonderful sound.  It was amazing.  He sang Puebilito, my pueblo from Guastavino.  I can only repeat – amazing.  I couldn’t find a recording of a male alone singing this but here is a beautiful duet.

There was a little lighthearted injection when two of the male singers sang We’re public guardians from Offenbach’s Genevieve de Brabant.  This complete with all the appropriate actions was greeted with laughter and applause.  Please click here for a great version of this duet.  It was a fund raising evening and look like lots of fun.

A few weeks ago I wrote about seeing Manon in an Opera at the Met production and last night we heard one of these young singers performing as Manon. She sang Gavotte.  This is from the time when Manon is the toast of Paris and is flaunting herself around town.

So a most enjoyable evening once again.  And now I am looking forward to seeing Rigoletto on Thursday evening.  Please watch this space.

Bouquet of roses

For the organiser of such a lovely evening.

Thanks and an Opera

Thanks

First I would like to celebrate a milestone and say thanks to my loyal followers.  Today I reached the heady total of 150 yes, one hundred and fifty followers.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”
William Shakespeare

For many of the blogs I follow this is a small number but when I first started on this blogging journey some 14 months ago I wasn’t sure that I would gain even one follower.  So I am overwhelmed by this total.
___________

I have written before on my love of opera.  Recently I wrote about Manon at The Met and other operas I have seen in that series.

Here in New Zealand we have a very professional  world class opera company.  The company (NBR New Zealand Opera) puts on two or three performances each year, with singers brought in from around the world to support and encourage our own ‘home grown’ talent.

RigolettoThe next performance is to be Verdi’s Rigoletto directed by Australian Lindy Hume who was last here in 2007 to direct Lucia di Lammermoor.  The NBR New Zealand Opera’s Director of Music, Wyn Davies, conducts a stellar cast, including Warwick Fyfe in the title role, Emma Pearson as his daughter Gilda and Rafael Rojas as the cynical womaniser, the Duke of Mantua.

The Supper Club

NBR NZ Opera’s The Supper Club

NZ Opera has a so -called Supper Club which is part of the NBR New Zealand Opera’s sponsorship programme.  This allows entry-level sponsorship of the opera at a level we can afford.  In return we get early notice of upcoming operas, tickets and invitations to special events at which we meet some of the singers from here and overseas.  Tonight was one such event.

Over wine and beautiful finger food, we got to meet all three principals of Rigoletto.  And as a special treat they all sang for us.

The Wellington function is always held in Logan Brown‘s a first class restaurant housed in an old bank building and the banking chamber is perfect for the acoustics required for opera.  There are never more than 30 invited guests and so it is quite an intimate occasion and as we are so very close to the performers, we get to see all the facial actions which we won’t see in the theatre.

The Opera performs in both Wellington and Auckland with each centre having its own chorus.  So the Director has the added challenge of getting two choruses working individually with the stars. There are to be only four performances in Wellington and the cast is busily rehearsing for the opening night which is to be May 19th.  I am really looking forward to this production and so watch this space!

Grand opera is the most powerful of stage appeals and that almost entirely through the beauty of music.

Manon at the Met

Metropolitan Opera House

Image via Wikipedia

This will have to be a short post because it is now 11.20pm and we have just returned from The Met.  Yes, the New York Metropolitan Opera House where we saw a performance of Manon with Anna Netrebko in the title role.  Again I have to admit that I didn’t fly over to New York for the performance but saw it as part of the Metropolitan Opera Series – The MetLive in HD – at our local bijoux cinema.

As I said in an earlier post it was almost as good as being there.  And we did get to see interviews with the stars and the stage being set during the intervals; so maybe it was even better than being there.

Fish risotto

Photo - Ian Wallace

Supper was served during the first interval.  My choice this time was a smoked fish risotto followed by coffee.  Because there is such a short interval supper is ordered before the performance and is served as one comes out.  Great service and good food.

So to the opera – do you know the story of Jules Massenet‘s  Manon?  It’s a simple tale of a country girl who has been sent to Paris to join a convent because her family think her too exuberant.  Her cousin is charged with meeting her and getting her to the convent.  However, while he is away with his friends, Manon meets Chevalier des Grieux and their attraction is immediate.

So they flee together and set up residence in a one room apartment.  But Manon is attracted to the good life and gives up her ‘true love’ to follow her dreams of riches and fun.

She becomes the toast of Paris and is kept by several wealthy men.  However, she learns that her ‘true love’ has never recovered from her betrayal and is going to take holy vows.  She tracks him down and entices him away from the religious life (after much fighting, soul searching and angst on his part) and they live the kind of life that Manon loves.

Click here for the synopsis that I just found on the web.

It was a very long night.  The performance started at 6.30pm, two short breaks of 20 minutes each and it finished at 11.05pm.  Good job I live 4 minutes away by car; luckily my friend brought her car.

Related articles

Just Another Day in Paradise
A Night At The Met

Just Another Day in Paradise

 

Firefox crashed and I hadn’t saved my post so I have to start again and perhaps yes, a glass of wine would help.  The air was a trifle blue with the words that I said.  Last week wordpress played up and now Firefox.  Oh woe is me!

Glass of red wine

Image via Wikipedia

So with glass beside me I shall start again.

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain.  Not heavy rain but the kind that soaks one through while doing absolutely nothing for the garden or the plants in tubs and pots.

Rain on leaves

Lotte took one look outside and decided it wasn’t for her.  She ran back inside and stood at the side of the bed asking for a lift up.  Well she has very tiny legs and the bed is quite high.

Lazy Lotte

Far too wet out there - I'm better off here!

So no little companion while I had breakfast and got ready to start my day.

I have told you before about Opera at the Met here in Brooklyn, Wellington.  Well today we were enchanted with Donizetti’s Anna Bolena starring  Anna Netrebko  in the title role.  This was really a tour de force.  It lasted 4 hours with only an 8 minute interval.  But what a privilege to see these fantastic artists.  Anna Netrebko was supported by Ekaterina Gubanova (Jane Seymour), Tamara Mumford (Mark Smeaton), Stephen Costello (Lord Percy) and Ildar Abdrazakov (Henry VIII).

Anne Boleyn

Picture via Wikipedia

We all know the story of Anne Boleyn and her marriage to and betrayal by Henry VIII so I wont belabour it here.  But look at this short video and see for yourself the mastery of these artists.

We also were privileged to see interviews with the stars and also with Marco Armiliato the conductor and with world-famous costume designer and former director of theater design at Shakespeare’s Globe theater, Jenny Tiramani.

A delightful way to spend four hours (10-2pm) on a wet Wednesday.

Then it was back to a normal day.  A quick lunch and then I helped my real estate friend set up a couple of apartments for photography.

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.”

And I think that this day deserves my rainbow.

Rainbow

My rainbow

This Is My Life

“I don’t need you to worry for me cos I’m alright
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home
I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life
Go ahead with your own life leave me alone “

So sang Billy Joel in his song My Life many years ago and I immediately connected with it.  I thought he had penned it for me.  When I first heard it I was coming out of the chrysalis that many women were in being stay at home Mothers raising their children.  And it just seemed to fit. And it still does.

I have been thinking back to how often over the years has somebody determined they knew better than me how I should live my life.

Often as with parents and then my late husband, this was always done with my best interests to the fore but there were those other ‘friends’ and acquaintances, and those figures in positions of power, who thought they knew better.

  • The friend who told me I was making a mistake getting married so young.  As an aside most of our group was getting married around the same time; she was the odd one out.
  • The cousin who said I shouldn’t move away leaving family and friends behind when we moved to Scotland shortly after we were married.  I never asked him if he changed his mind after my many moves to new places.
  • The school teacher who said I should continue with my science and language studies, but without telling me what I could do with the results of those studies and really giving no guidance at all.
  • The doctor who told me that after several miscarriages I should give up and adopt.  I wouldn’t have my lovely son had I listened to him.
  • The nurse who scolded me and said my daughter (and later my son) would grow up deprived if I fed her formula.  By the time my son was born two years later, I stood my ground and fed him formula from day one.

And of course, over the years my late husband would advise me against doing something but hey It’s My Life and we eventually agreed that if I decided to do something that turned out wrong, the mistake was my own doing.  I can only now think of one really glaring mistake that falls into this category. And when I make a mistake you can bet your life it will be a biggy.

I decided to purchase a Mini Minor.  I had never owned one.  Each of the children had been given used Minis when they passed their driving tests, many of my friends either had one or had owned one earlier and so I wanted one.  But not for me the plain and simple Mini.  I purchased the top of the range GT version that was approximately twice the price of the regular model.

This was a very smart vehicle.  Bronze with gold highlighted stripes down the sides and alloy wheels.  I thought I had made exactly the right choice.

But it was what my husband called a ‘Friday car’.  The men on the assembly line wanted to get home and so they rushed the final cars through.  The car leaked through the floor, the windscreen wipers had problems working correctly because the surround to the windscreen hadn’t been cut off.  Each time the wipers moved to the top of the arc they bounced off this small piece of uncut surround.  Suffice it to say that when I took the car in for its first check there were 37 defects noted by the mechanics.  They thought it was so very funny; my husband agreed; I did not.  I very quickly sold that car and I hope that the young man who bought it enjoyed it. We often talked of that debacle in the years that followed.

And now, of course, this really is my life.  My decisions without having to confer with anybody else.  My mistakes and my triumphs.

As we go through the various stages of our lives we note that some are better than others, but each has to be lived as it doesn’t come with a choice   So thanks to Billy Joel for penning and singing the song.  And I am enjoying my life as it now is.  The Busy Years are behind me and my time is my own.

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
Charles Kingsley, (1819 – 1875)  English priest university professor, historian and novelist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night at The Met

Last night I went to the opera at The Met and it only cost $NZ25 (approx $9.50).  OK OK so I didn’t travel to New York City but I did see a production of Don Pasquale.  This is part of The Met’s enormously successful Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series of transmissions into movie theatres, which enters its sixth season in 2011-12.  It currently reaches more than 1,500 theaters in 53 countries.

It was almost like being there, with the added bonus of seeing what went on behind the curtains when the scenes changed.  We were entertained with various shots of the audience, settling down before the performance began and then during the breaks for scene changes.  And we saw the principals talking backstage with other cast members.

The music was fantastic as was the singing.   This performance featured Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecien, and John Del Carlo in the title role.  The Musical Director was  James Levine. When this production premiered in 2006, the New York Times called it “brilliant” and “wonderful.”

Unfortunately I have since learned that Levine slipped while vacationing recently and has had to withdraw from all commitments with The Met.

The main benefactors are the Neubauer Family Foundation and Bloombergs and those of us who can’t get to The Met thank them for their generosity.  This was an encore performance from the 2010 series and the 2011 series will screen from November.  I am certainly looking forward to that.

We are told “The Metropolitan Opera’s 2011-12 stage season will feature the world’s leading singers, conductors, and stage directors in seven new productions and nineteen revivals, including a world premiere, a Met premiere, and the first complete performances of a new Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle directed by Robert Lepage.
The season includes the Met premiere of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, conducted by Marco Armiliato and directed by David McVicar (the beginning of an ambitious multiseason project to produce all three of Donizetti’s famous “Queen” operas directed by McVicar); The Enchanted Island, the world premiere of a Baroque pastiche with an original welcome… libretto by Jeremy Sams and set to the music of Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, and others, conducted by William Christie and directed by Phelim McDermott; the Met debuts of Tony Award winning directors Michael Grandage and Des McAnuff with new productions of Don Giovanni, led by Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi, and Faust, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin; a new production of Massenet’s Manon conducted Fabio Luisi and directed by Laurent Pelly; and Robert Lepage’s productions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, the third and fourth installments of Wagner’s Ring cycle.”

These performances are being shown in bijoux cinemas around New Zealand.  another added bonus is that in these cinemas one may take their wine into the theatre and at intermission, one may have a meal.  We ordered ours before the performance as did most others, so the 25 minute interval was just enough time to eat our soup – Leek and potato and freshly baked bread.  Yummy.

Bowl of soup

Soup via Wikipedia