Archive for Opera Blog

Feb
17

How To Become an Opera Star

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Short of getting on a show like America’s Got Talent, or having a personal video go viral on YouTube, the path to becoming an opera star is going to be a long and difficult one. However, below are some basic tips to get you started upon the right path.

Learn a Foreign Language

There are numerous operas, which have been composed in English. However, many of the great operas are written in languages other than English. If you are intending to sing opera, you should understand the language and master pronunciation.  There are numerous ways that you can begin your studying. You could study courses over the internet, at a school or hire a tutor. Among the languages which you should consider are German, Italian and Spanish. Learn as many as you can.

Practice

Opera is a craft and as such you will need to learn and hone your skills. You will have to spend at least two or three hours each and every-day  practicing. However, you must be careful and make sure that you are practicing correctly. You would not want to cause permanent damage to your voice. One thing which many serious singers do is to take courses in anatomy. They learn how the vocal cords function and operate.

Hire a Professional

Get a great vocal coach. This is not a substitute for school; it is an extension. Learning can never start too early, even extremely young individuals can learn and benefit from professional instruction.  Many professors at the colleges and universities take on additional students outside of school. They may even have classes for extremely young students or older ones.

Music

Learn as much as possible about music. This includes learning sight reading and theory. Music is the key to singing, and you should be able to read and write the language.

Learn to Play an Instrument

Learning to play an instrument can give you valuable insight into the world of music. This skill will not only help you to improve your sight reading and theory; it can assist you with your practice sessions. Knowing how to play a piece of music on the piano can help you to learn your roles much faster.

Acting

An opera singer is far more than a singer; they are in fact an actresses and/or an actor. As such you should learn the craft of acting.

On Stage

There is no substitute to being in front of an audience. Audition for everything and anything. This includes both singing and non singing roles. Get on stage as often as you possibly can. Join a local opera group or a community theatre.

Listen to Opera

Start listening to operas. Listen to the same opera over and over. Listen to it being performed by as many different troupes as possible. Get a printed version of the opera and follow along with the words.  Go to and see productions. Watch and learn from professionals.

If you are serious about becoming an opera star, these are a few of the things that you can do. However, these are just the starting point. Years of formal training and hard practice are going to be required if you truly want to achieve your dream.

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)

The Phantom of the Opera is a fictional novel. However there are a number of different opera houses in the USA that are reputed to be haunted. Among these spooky theatres are the Woodland Opera House, Fulton House and The Twin City Opera House.

The Woodlawn Opera House – California

In 1976, this beautiful old building was designated a National Historic site.  The original opera house was designed by Thomas J Welsh. Built in 1885 the opera house was in operation for only seven years when tragedy struck. A fire started in the alley behind the opera house. The fire quickly spread and the opera house was destroyed. Sadly, during the fire, a fireman was killed while trying to save the building.

The land was then purchased by a local business man, David N. Hershey. He got the support of a number of other residents, and the opera house was rebuilt. The Woodland Opera House re-opened in 1896. However, unfortunately, the combination of a lawsuit and declining sales forced the house to close its doors in 1913.

The house would remain inactive until 1971 when it was sold to the Yolo County Historical Society. A massive renovation project began funded by donations and charity drives.  The house opened once again in 1989. However, this opening saw the addition of the ghost. Since the doors opened visitors and staff alike have seen many strange sights and often hear many strange noises. People claim to smell smoke and have a seen the apparition of a ghost in a number of different areas in the hall.

There have been countless investigations into these strange occurrences. During a number of these studies, teams have gotten EVP recordings of strange voices. One recording says, “go back” and another says, “go away.” Believers claim that this is the voice of the fireman who died in the fire.

The Fulton Opera House – Pennsylvania

According to many, this is one of the most haunted places in the US.  The opera house was built on the site of an Indian massacre. The Conestoga Indians who lived in the area were peaceful and friendly. By the year 1763 there were only 20 of these natives remaining. After their village was attacked and all the people present were killed, the local government decided to move the Conestoga to the local jail. They were supposed to be there for their protection. However, a group of citizens broke into the jail and slaughtered every last one.

This was the location chosen by Christopher Hager to build his opera house. He purchased the land in 1852, and tore down the old jail. In its place Christopher had a four-story  concert Hall built. This hall has been active ever since it opened although it has undergone numerous changes and renovations. It has been a vaudeville house and a movie theatre.

This wonderful concert hall is still in operation. It is once again being used to stage various shows and is included on the local haunted tours. The natives are not the only ghosts that are said to be in residence. There are a number of other spirits, which are reported to inhabit the opera house. Some claim that Marie Cahill, the silent film star, has been seen on a number of separate occasions.

Twin City Opera House – Ohio

Construction on the building began in 1889. The hall, designed by H. C. Lindsay, was truly revolutionary. The theatre features an echo dome which is nearly acoustically perfect and a special sloping floor which allows those sitting in the front row to see the performer’s feet on stage. It was also the first building in the county to have electric lights.

When you go to the opera house beware that the usher who takes you to your seat is not a ghost. One of the resident spirits is reputed to be one Everett Miller. Everett was employed at the house for over thirty years as an usher.  He is not the only spirit, which now makes this opera house home. You may hear the giggling of ten-year-old  Elizabeth as she scampers on the catwalk, or you may be offered a glass of red wine from Red Wine Robert.

If you are really brave you can venture down into the many tunnels located under the opera house. There is a local legend that claims these tunnels which run from the opera house to the banks of the Muskingum River were a part of the Underground Railroad. Visitors to the tunnels claim to have seen Dark Shadow Masses. These paranormal beings will growl, and you may feel a drastic change in the temperature if you get too close.

If you visit any one of these haunted buildings you may get to see more than just an opera. You might get the chance to encounter one of the real phantoms of the opera!

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)
Sep
03

Modern Opera Masters

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Opera is alive and well. There are new operas being written and composed all the time. Today, many of the modern operas are gaining recognition far beyond the world of the concert hall. Two of the most noted present-day masters are Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dmitri Shostakovich.

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Arguably, the most well-known name in the opera and theatre world today, as far as composers go, is that of Andrew Lloyd Webber. There can be no doubt that he is among the most commercially successful composers of all time.

Andrew was born in Kensington, London on the 22nd of March 1948. As a child, Andrew grew up surrounded by music and theatre. His father Lloyd was an organist and composer and his mother, Jean, was a violinist and pianist. Andrew attended Westminster School before moving on to the Royal College of Music.

Andrew’s first collaboration was with Tim Rice was in 1965. They wrote the production “The Likes of Us”. However, the public would not see this work until 2005. The two friends continued to work together and created the first version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Afterwards, the two went on to achieve worldwide recognition with their hits “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”.

There has been no turning back for Andrew. His career is still reaching new heights, and he has expanded into the world of reality television. He selected the lead for his latest music extravaganza, “The Wizard of Oz” using the popularity of talent shows.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has won countless awards and has been recognized by the monarchy for his contributions to the world of music and theatre. He earned himself a knighthood in 1992 and a baron in 1997. There is no end in sight for this truly inspiring musical genius.

 

Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri has only composed two full-length  operas, but his effort the “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” is one of the most popular of all the operas written in the 20th century. His musical contributions included 15 symphonies and six concerti.

Dmitri was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on the 26th of September 1906. By the age of eight, he was recognized as being a child prodigy.  At the age of 13, he gained entrance to the Petrograd Conservatory. After graduating, he embarked on a career as both a composer and a professional pianist. Although, his playing style was frequently cited as being uninspired, his compositions began to gain in recognition throughout the world.

Sadly, for the world, his work, including that of the Lady Macbeth, was met with severe criticism and was publically denounced. Stalin was among his harshest critics. His style was not considered to be politically correct. For many years Dmitri was forced to restrict his composing to films in order to remain in good standing with the government. During this period, many of Dmitri’s friends and peers were executed. Between 1936 and 1948 Dmitri was able to gain some recognition; a few of his works even gained him favor.  However, in 1948 Dmitri along with several other composers was targeted for writing music that was not acceptable. He not only lost his position at the conservatoire, but his work was banned.

After the death of Stalin in 1953, Dmitri’s life took a turn for the better. He began reconstructing his career and was able to compose more freely. In 1965, he was diagnosed with polio and that marked his slow decline until his death in 1975.

Shostakovich produced one of the most creative operas of the 20th century. Unfortunately, for the world, his writing and creativity was stifled by the political climate in which he lived. Who knows to what level he might have risen if he had been given the opportunity to really explore his talents.

 

These are just two of the men who have had an impact on the world of opera and music in general. Although Shostakovich was never given the chance to fully develop his talent what he was able to create did indeed leave its mark.

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)
Jul
25

Opera Houses – A Colorful History

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Opera Houses often have their own colorful and interesting pasts. People picture a night at the opera as one where you dress up in your finest and go out for a night. However, the history of many opera houses is far more dramatic and exciting than a simple night on the town. Riots, fire and ghosts are all a part of some of the most famous opera houses in the world.

Metropolitan Opera House

This wonderful building is often referred to as the Met. The designer of this facility was Wallace Harrison. It can seat 3,800 and has standing room for another 195 people. It first opened its doors on April 11th 1966, with the performance of La Fanciulla Del West. The crowd in attendance was a group of high school students. The official opening night was on the 16th of September. This historical night was also the world premiere of Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber.

Fire was always a concern of opera house owners and fans. A number of opera houses had rooms that contained nothing but full buckets of water in case a fire did break out.

The Met was built to replace the Metropolitan Opera House that was located on 39th Street. The Old Met was demolished in 1967, after 84 years. Often referred to during its time as the “Yellow Brick Brewery”, the house was the first home of the New York Opera company. Unfortunately, the House was severely damaged by a fire in 1892. The fire forced the opera to close for the season and undergo major renovations. However, the new house still featured many of the House’s previous trademarks.

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House has become one of the most recognized buildings in the world. It was designed by notable architect Jorn Utzon. The building was literally years in the making. In 1955, an international competition was held to find the best design for the new opera house in Sydney. Utzon’s creative plans defeated 233 entries from 32 different countries.

Construction of the building began in March of 1959. The original estimate for the cost of this building was seven million dollars, and it was scheduled to open on the 26th of January 1963. Both of these targets were way off base. The final tally for the building was 102 million dollars, and the grand opening did not occur until 1973.

Every year thousands of people visit this remarkable building. However, many tourists are unaware that the house is a part of the city’s haunted tour. Harry is the resident ghost at the opera house. It is said that he enjoys playing the percussions, sometimes even during shows.

Astor House

One of the places to go and be seen in the city of New York in the mid 1800s was the Astor House. Astor House was completed in 1847. It marked its grand opening with a performance of Ermani. The house was specifically built to cater to those of high society. The lower class was regulated to a small area of seating and there was a dress code in effect that was strictly maintained. These factors were major contributors to the riot which broke out on the evening of May 10th 1849.

The other major issue was a rivalry between actors. Actors during this time period had very dedicated followers. Fans were extremely devoted and followed in the same way that many sports teams are followed today. The rivalry was between British actor William Macready and American Edwin Forrest. Both  men specialized in Shakespeare, and both felt that they were the best. This competition carried over to the fans.

The riot that occurred on this night would see 20 people dead and over 120 injured. This was the worst riot in the City’s history. It marked the first time that militia opened fire into a crowd of civilians. Sadly, the result of this horrible event was the closing of Astor House. The House was never able to regain its favor or reputation. The Opera House did attempt to begin a new season, but was unable to survive financially.

The next time that you plan to spend an evening at the opera, remember that the history of the house may be as colorful as the performance that you are about to see.

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)
Jul
17

Rocking at the Opera

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Picture an enormous stage with lights and a full orchestra. Actresses and actors portraying dramatic characters, all while singing rock music. Combine all of this and you have a classic-rock  opera!

Tommy

Tommy by The Who is one of the best-known rock operas. Tommy the album debuted in May of 1969. This double album was released by Decca and Polydor Records in the USA and Track Records in the UK. Since it was released, the album has sold more than 20 million copies and has earned countless awards.

More than twenty years later, this album took to the stage with its premiere in 1993, in San Diego at La Jolla Playhouse. Broadway would not see Tommy until 1995 when it opened at the St. James Theatre. The show had an amazing 889 presentations before is closed.

The story of Tommy is about the journey of a young boy who is traumatized after seeing a murder. In the stage version, he sees the death of his mother’s lover at the hands of his father, but in the film adaptation, it is his father who is killed by the lover. After witnessing this event, the boy is rendered blind, deaf and dumb. Tommy is about four when this tragic event occurred.

The story then progresses through various points in the boy’s life. The boy is tormented by his peers until he proves his prowess playing pinball. Pinball Wizard was a number one single from the album. The boy does not emerge from his catatonic state until his mother shatters a mirror in front of him. There are a few dramatic scenes after this point, which show how Tommy adapts to being back among the living. The stage version ends with Tommy reuniting with his family.

 

 

Hair

This political opera made its debut in 1967. It premiered off-Broadway at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre. The music was composed by Galt MacDermot, and the libretto was written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado. The musical was such a success that it moved onto Broadway in 1968. While on Broadway, it ran for 1,750 performances. The musical was adapted into both a film, which aired in 1979, and an album.

The Story is about a tribe of people who live in New York. The Aquarius Hippies are fighting to end the draft. Claude the main character is trying to choose between siding with his friends and avoiding the draft, or following the conservative views of his parents.

The entire production is extremely political in nature. It revolves around the Vietnam War and the draft. It dramatizes the hippie struggle against the establishment. It focuses on the entire cultural revolution of the sixties. Sex, drugs and rock and roll all play major roles in this spectacular stage show.

Jesus Christ Superstar

This is one of the first collaborations between composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrist Tim Rice. Originally, this opera was only to be a concept album. It was released in 1969, and featured the vocal talent of Ian Gillian, the lead singer of Deep Purple.

On the 12th of October, the opera moved onto Broadway. Strangely, there had been a number of off-Broadway productions before this time, including one done by a local high school. These unauthorized productions resulted in a number of lawsuits and a change in the copyright laws.

The plot of the story revolves around the last days of Jesus and his Disciples. The story focuses on Judas and Jesus. Although the story uses these characters as a focus, it is not biblically accurate. These inaccuracies, among other aspects of the plot and dialogue, lead to several controversies surrounding the production.

Christian groups were offended by both the characters of Judas and that of Christ. The story portrays Jesus as being more of a man than as the son of God. Christians consider many aspects of the production to be blasphemous. The Jewish community is greatly offended by what they feel is the general anti-Semitic tone of the play.

Controversies aside, the production was an enormous hit both on Broadway and around the world. The opera has, in fact, won numerous awards, including five Tony Awards in 1972 and the Theatre World Award.

Rock opera is continuing to evolve, and new and exciting productions are being produced every year. Often labelled as rock musicals or operettas, these shows do fall into the genre of rock opera.

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)

Rock meets opera, what an idea! In the art world, it is not uncommon for artists to try to push the boundaries of their medium. They often like to experiment and combine one art form with another and create an entirely new genre. Such is the case with rock music and the opera.

One of the main problems with the forming of any new genre is trying to get an exact definition. In the case of rock opera, it is even harder than normal. This stems from the fact that there does not seem to be one clear and concise definition of the opera.

There are those that claim an opera is a dramatic piece of work preformed onstage that has no dialogue. There are operas that meet with this definition. However, not all operas, including those that are considered to be classical, fit into this strict characterization. In fact, many of the oldest operas feature an extensive amount of dialogue. Additionally, many of the operas that date back to the classical and romantic periods feature roles that do not have any singing parts.

There is even a term for the dialogue in opera, which  is often called a recitative. The person delivering a recitative was permitted to use ordinary speech patterns. They did not sing this part of the drama. The words that were spoken were not set to the music, although in numerous operas there was music playing lightly in the background.  Later operas and productions often removed the background music entirely.

What makes opera even more confusing is the introduction of the operetta and the musical. An operetta is generally defined as an opera which is light in both its theme and its musical score. Historians say that this genre of the opera is derived from what the French called the opera comique or the comic opera. The Italians used another term for this type of humorous opera entitled “opera buffa” to describe an opera that is more informal and up-beat than a Grand opera. Both styles of the opera evolved in an effort to please the common man, or the peasant class.

A grand opera is generally defined as very lavish stage production. These productions would feature an enormous cast, elaborate costumes and the plot would often revolve around historical events. One main requirement, of this type of opera, was that it feature at least one major ballet number. The dance section was extremely important and normally occurred in the first or second act.

The definition for a musical is a stage or film production that combines singing, dancing and dialogue. The only argument that any has as to how this differs from an opera is that there is more importance placed on the dialogue than on the singing potion of the performance. People often say that you could remove the music portion of many musicals and still have an entire show whereas if you did this in an opera, you would have almost nothing left. The music in opera is often used as a way of moving the action and the plot forwards.

As you can clearly see there is not a whole lot of difference between any of these stage shows. In fact, many musicals are often classed as operas and many operas are often called musicals or operettas. The defining term is usually decided by the composer or writer of the production. However, in recent years many production houses prefer to list shows that would have been previously classed as operas as musicals because the general audience has a much greater acceptance of a production that is considered to be a musical. They find that people are more inclined to go to a musical than an opera.

The rock opera only confuses the issue even more. If you were to type the word rock opera into a search engine you will rapidly discover that you not only get stage productions, but concept albums as well. Many people list albums like Rush’s “2112” and Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” under the heading rock operas.

Other people claim that these are not operas at all. Rather, they are concept albums. A true rock opera is more along the lines of the Who’s “Tommy” or the production of “Hair” or “Jesus Christ Superstar”. There are those who claim that you can even include “The Little shop of Horrors” and “The Rock Horror Picture Show” as examples.

When all is said and done, perhaps the name really does not matter. What is important is that the music and the show is entertaining and fun to watch!

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)
Jul
05

Understanding Opera

Posted by: | Comments (0)

OperaMany people are hesitant to go and see an opera because they are under the impression that they will not be able to understand what is happening on stage. They seem to think that an opera is a dramatic stage event where nobody speaks and they all sing in some strange language. This is not even close to the truth.

Are all operas sung in a foreign language?

No, there are numerous operas that are written in English. The language that an opera is preformed in is usually dictated by the language of the composer and the libretto writer. If the composer of the opera was English, or was catering to an English audience, chances are that he composed his work in English.

Many operas are based on English literary works, but when they are transformed into an opera, the composer will often choose to write the opera in their native tongue.

Can you translate Operas?

Operas are not translated into other languages very often, but there are some that have been translated. In certain instances, people have taken the librettos and altered the words, changing some of the dialogue to make the translation smoother. A good example is the opera Romeo and Juliette, which has been performed in a number of languages, and each one is slightly different.

The opera, Don Carlos, composed by Giuseppe Verdi, can be sung in either French or Italian. Mondo della Luna (The World in the Moon) is an Opera by Haydn. Originally done in Italian, it has been preformed as a Singspiel.

One of the keys to any opera is that the lyrics are set to the music. Due to this fact, often when you try to translate the music portion of the opera, it does not work well with the new language.

 


Which composers normally wrote in English?

Samuel Barber
This wonderful composer is from West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was born in 1919 and died in 1981. Although, he is one on the more modern composers, his operatic works gained worldwide attention. His opera, Vanessa that debuted in 1958 won Samuel a Pulitzer Prize.

Leonard Bernstein
This famous conductor/composer was born in Sharon Massachusetts in 1918. His well known operas include Trouble in Tahiti and Candide. His other works, which are considered “musicals”, include On the Town and the famous West Side Story, which is a modern version of Romeo and Juliette.

Aaron Copland
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1900, he is referred to as “the Dean of American Composers”. His most notable opera is entitled, The Tender Land.

Arthur Sullivan
Sullivan was born Lambeth, London in 1842. Arthur is best known for his collaborations with librettist W.S. Gilbert. Their operatic works together include The Mikado, The H.M.S Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance.

Henry Purcell
Henry was born in London in 1659. His opera Dido and Aeneas is a three act baroque opera. It was said to have made its debut in 1688.

Benjamin Britten
This opera composer was born in Suffolk, England in 1913. Before his death in 1976, he composed more than a dozen operas. His operatic works include Let’s Make an Opera, which is an opera that was written to entertain very young children.

His other works, which include Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Beggar’s Opera, have been preformed all over the world. He is considered one of the best operatic composers of the 20th century.

How will I know what is going on?

Many operas are based on well known literary works. Although, the librettist may take some liberties when creating their work (in the same way that screens writers are often forced to change details and parts of a story when they are turning a novel into a movie), you will have a general idea of the plot.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays have been changed into operas, as have many of the Greek myths. You can also go and see a number of other classic tales, including, Paul Bunyan and Robin Hood.

Opera houses appreciate that many members of the audience want to know exactly what the cast is saying. Therefore, many houses are using technology to aid them in this endeavour. There are a number of opera houses, which have installed giant screen displays for their patrons to see during the performance. The screen provides what amounts to subtitles for the action that is occurring on stage. Some opera houses have even begun to install monitors for their guests to use in the boxes.

Rather than snubbing your nose at the idea of going to an opera, you should investigate what shows are on in your area and really think about going to see one in person. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Categories : Opera Blog
Comments (0)