"Ladies and gentlemen from all over the world, welcome to this brand new forum destined to all those opera lovers. It is my intention to create a cultural space to remember the great composers such as Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, as well as all the stars that walked through the most famous stages around the world like Caruso, Gigli, di Stefano, Pavarotti... I also intend this forum to be a debating space where readers can state their opinions, ideas, advises, likes and dislikes.

Through the last years opera has been losing popularity at the expense of more modern music, and though the heyday of the latter is a social and cultural worldwide phenomenon, it would be of great value to retrieve the transcendental meaning of opera in the history of man.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, may the world take its seat, let the curtain raise, come up to the stage with me and be the performers of this experience..."


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Some thoughts on Opera & Opera Forum

Opera constitutes in its real essence a versatile spectacle. The art of singing is an indissoluble aspect of its language. As a natural way for the expression of feelings and moods, singing has been taken to the point of beeing the quintessence of the opera through the inspiration of great composers from different times in history. And these genuine stars of the opera, the singers, have kept and still keep alive the flame of this form of art. Sopranos, mezzosopranos, altos, among the female voices, tenors, baritones and basses, among the male ones; all of them seem to be indispensable, and it will always be like that as long as opera is alive with its special magic, with its particular and unique world, and with the mystical environment that the great houses of opera provide all around the globe and the wholehearted support that audiences give, helping the opera to endure and keep it in force.

It is the intention of Opera Forum to include all those heroes and heroines of the opera from all times. Those who really made history, many times generating prototypes, becoming icons in their respective tesituras, and fixing up that condition of divos and divas.

Opera Forum is not restricted just to the singers, but includes in here all the elements that are intimately related to the world of opera: the composers, the conductors, the great houses of opera, the sotries, the past and current productions... All of them are part of this site, which hopefuly with the help of the readers will grow.

The Metropolitan Opera' 2008 - 2009 season

Brand new season for the Metropolitan Opera House! And certainly not without a reason. In its 125th Anniversary, Opera Forum decided to publish a brief review of the marvellous titles that the Met will offer in the upcoming season.

125th Anniversary Gala - James Levine will conduct a gala performance of fully staged scenes from classic Met productions, which will be realized with scenic projections and new costumes made from the original designs. The gala will also celebrate Plácido Domingo’s 40th anniversary with the company.

"Adriana Lecouvreur" - Guleghina, Borodina, Álvarez, Frontali; Domingo.

"La Bohème" - Kovalevska / Netrebko, Phillips, Vargas, Kwiecien, Hakala, Gradus, Plishka; Chaslin.

"Cavalleria Rusticana" / "I Pagliacci" - Gruber, Alagna / Cura, Taylor, Focile, Alagna / Cura, Mastromarino / Maestri, Maltman / Ladyuk; Rizzo.

"La Cenerentola" - Garanca, Brownlee, Alberghini, Corbelli, Relyea; Benini.

"La Damnation de Faust" - Graham, Giordani, Relyea; Levine.

Daniel Barenboim Recital - For this special solo recital, the renowned maestro has chosen an all-Liszt program, including transcriptions of three beloved Verdi operas.

"Doctor Atomic" - Cooke, Arwady, Finley, Fink, Owens; Gilbert.

"Don Giovanni" - Stoyanova, Graham, Leonard, Polenzani, Schrott, D'Arcangelo, Bloom, Ens; Langrée | Iveri, Schnitzer, Leonard, Polenzani, Schrott, D'Arcangelo, Bloom, Youn; Koenigs | Frittoli, Isokoski, Bayrakdarian, Breslik, Mattei, Ramey, Shenyang, Aceto; Langrée.

"L'Elisir d'Amore" - Gheorghiu / Cabell, Villazón, Vassallo, Terfel; Benini.

"Eugene Onegin" - Mattila, Semenchuk, Beczala, Hampson, Morris; Belohlávek.

"La Gioconda" - Voigt, Borodina, Podles, Machado, Guelfi, Morris; Callegari.

"Götterdämmerung" - The Ring’s final chapter is a saga of passion and vengeance, culminating in an act of self-sacrifice and redemption.

"Lucia di Lammermoor" - Damrau / Netrebko, Beczala / Villazón, Stoyanov / Kwiecien, Abdrazakov; Armiliato.

"Madama Butterfly" - Racette / Gallardo-Domâs, Zifchak, Aronica / Giordani, Croft; Summers.

"The Magic Flute" - Cabell, Sieden, Pittas, Pogossov, Owens; Fisch.

"La Rondine" (New Year's Eve Gala) - Gheorghiu, Alagna; Joël.

Opening Night Gala - For the season-opening gala starring Renée Fleming on September 22, James Levine and Marco Armiliato will conduct fully staged performances of the second act of Verdi’s La Traviata, the third act of Massenet’s Manon, and the final scene from Richard Strauss’s Capriccio. Ramón Vargas, Thomas Hampson and Dwayne Croft join the soprano for this season-opener.

"Orfeo ed Euridice" - de Niese, Murphy / Huang, Blythe; Levine.

"The Queen of Spades" - Guleghina, Domashenko, Palmer, Heppner, Delavan, Stoyanov; Ozawa.

"Das Rheingold" - Harmer, Naef, Grove, Begley, Siegel, Morris, Fink, Selig, Tomlinson; Levine.

"Rigoletto" - Kurzak, Vizin, Filianoti / Beczala, Lucic, Petrenko; Frizza | Damrau, Mumford / Vizin, Calleja, Frontali, Aceto; Frizza.

"Rusalka" - Fleming, Goerke, Blythe, Antonenko, Sigmundsson; Belohlávek.

"Salome" - Mattila, Komlósi, Begley, Kaiser, Uusitalo; Franck.

"Siegfried" - Gods and monsters vanish before the greater power of human love as the young hero Siegfried, played by Christian Franz, pursues his destiny to unite with Brünnhilde.

"La Sonnambula" - Dessay, Flórez, Pertusi; Pidò.

"Thaïs" - Fleming, Schade, Hampson; López-Cobos.

"La Traviata" - Harteros, Giordano, Dobber / Lucic; Carignani.

"Tristan und Isolde" - Dalayman, DeYoung, Seiffert, Grochowski, Pape / Youn; Barenboim.

"Il Trovatore" - Radvanovsky, Zajick / D'Intino, Licitra, Hvorostovsky, Youn; Noseda | Papian, D'Intino, Berti, Lucic, Flores; Frizza.

"Die Walküre" - Brewer, Meier, Naef, Botha, Morris, Tomlinson; Levine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Opera & Pornography

It would not take long for Opera and Porn to have more aspects in common. As it was expected, regiseurs, current owners of the opera business, do nothing but astonish us with their mises en scène, which rather than transgress could be taking out of style a spectacle in order to introduce it into another context.

Many things have change in Geneva, but certainly not so many to avoid a great shaking of the most strict puritanism basis for the appearance of a porn actor in the new production of Wagner's "Tannhäuser". Not so much for the character himself but for the fact that the scene director, Olivier Py, had shamelessly exhibit him, and without the minimum decency, in a full erection.

Having passed his forties, Olivier Py is still a sort of enfant terrible. Eventhough he made good collaborations in the Opera of Geneva, "La damnation de Faust", "Les contes d'Hoffmann", "Tristan und Isolde", this time his production of "Tannhäuser" went beyond any limit. Set in a red and black cabaret, where fluorescent lights abound, the presence of the french porn actor Hervi Pierre Gustave seems to fit quite badly in the meaning and true sense of the opera.

"I just wanted to give a sign that sexuality governs the abduction of Europe, and for that, the most explicit symbol is, whithout any doubt, an erection", in the words of Py himself to a local newspaper, and adding that to avoid any surprises he called a "professional", thus in the scene of Venusberg, the actor walks aout on stage with a full erection. The scandal, then, is served.

Nevertheless, the critics to Py do not go in detriment of the musical quality of the opera, most of all, regarding the female voices such as Nina Stemme as Elizabeth and the American Jeanne Michele Charbonnet as Venus.

Anyway, many questions are raised. Is this any form of art at all? Do we have to tolerate these spoilings? Moreover, do the artists and singers who put all their effort, technique and truthful art have to surrender to the despotic directions of some wannabe's regiseurs? Would Wagner himself agree with these kind of deviations?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rolando Villazón, the new production of Latin America

Rolando Villazón was born in 1972 in Mexico City, Mexico. He is the new star opera tenor of Latin America, together with many other great opera singers such as the also Mexicans Francisco Araiza and Ramón Vargas, the Argentinian Marcelo Álvarez and the Peruvians Juan Diego Flórez and Luis Alva.

At the age of 11, he began studying music, acting, contemporary dancing and ballet at the Espacios Academy for the Performing Arts. It was the baritone Arutro Nieto, his first voice teacher, who introduced Villazón in the world of opera in 1990. He continued his vocal preparation at the National Conservatory of Music in 1992, under the guidance of Enrique Jaso. There, he sang Dorvil from "La Scala di Sieta", Florville from "Il Signor Bruschino", and Alessandro from "Il Re Pastore". After winning two national contests in Mexico City and Guanajuato, Villazón became a student of baritone Gabriel Mijares, with whom he continued his studies before launching an international career.

He became a member of the Pittsburgh Opera's Young Artists Program in 1998 where he appeared in productions of "I Capuleti ed i Montecchi", "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Samuel Barber's "Vanessa". He subsequently entered the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera where he performed the role of Alfredo in "La Traviata" and also participated in master classes with Joan Sutherland. Rolando Villazón won the second prize in Plácido Domingo's 1999 Operalia competition as well as the first prize for Zarzuela and the Prize of the Public.

He made his European debut as Des Grieux in Massenet's "Manon" at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, and immediately after came his first appearance in France, appearing as Rodolfo for the Opéra de Lyon in December of 1999, the role of his subsequent debut in Rome. He made then his debut at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste in "La Traviata" and was then invited to replace an ailing colleague in the same work at the Opera Bastille in Paris. These performances in May 2000 brought the artist to international attention.

Rolando Villazón is internationally recognized as one of the leading lyric tenors of our day and has been acclaimed for performances at leading theatres across the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Berlin State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Hamburg State Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Opéra de Nice, Berlin State Opera, New York City Opera and many others. Some call him, and fairly, "the heir of Plácido Domingo".

In August 2005, he sang a highly regarded Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata" at the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Carlo Rizzi and directed by Willy Decker, with Anna Netrebko, his frequent singing partner, as Violetta Valéry. They have also appeared together in a video version of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'amore", available on DVD. For the rest of the 2007 season Villazón cancelled all his performances, including his debut recital at the Carnegie Hall and "Roméo et Juliette" at the Metropolitan Opera House, due to controversial health problems.

After a compulsory five months-rest prescripted by his personal physician, this year Rolando Villazón is back onto the stages full of energy and will to face all kinds of challenges.
"All the odds and hard moments are welcome. That's what makes us complete human beings. These five months have been really important and came when they had to come"
He felt terribly for canceling all his commitments, moreover, he didn't know wether he was facing the end of a successful career or not. Despite all odds, Villazón assures he had full support of two good friends of him, Plácido Domingo and Daniel Baremboin.

The good news is that Rolando Villazón is back, with his voice fully recovered and willing to delight us with his extraordinary talent.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Anecdotes about Puccini

I thought it would be interesting to know some of Puccini's anecdotes and "backstage" stuff:

  • Puccini is fond of female voices, especialy the ones with high register. This is clearly exposed in his opera "Suor Angelica", an opera in which not a single male character appears.
  • The only aria for Bass in his entire production is Vecchia Zimarra from "La Bohème" sung by Colline. Puccini always considered this aria as part of his autobiographical youth. According to what the composer confessed, when he was a poor student in Milano, he had to pawn his own coat in orderto take out for dinner a young ballerina of the theatre, dispte the freezing cold of that day.
  • At the beginning of "Tosca", the bells of the churches of the town that toll with different notes at dawn can be heard from faraway. Such notes are specified by the composer in the score. As he said, for several days he went up the mount Pincio in order to take accurate notes of the bell's sounds at Rome at dawn. In first term, the big bell of San Pietro that gives a low E.
  • The manuscript of "La Bohème" score is full of all kind of indications, possible and impossible ones. For example, according to the original score, the chord for the god's decline in B minor announcing Mimì's death has seven p (ppppppp). When Ricordi saw this, he wrote horrified to Puccini: "This is a forest of p-pp-pppppp and f-ff-fff-ffff". Puccini answered: "If I have ever exagerated the pp and ff it is only because, according to Verdi, one has to write ppp if a real pianisimo is intended".
  • Puccini forgot to eliminate the name of Toscanini form the list before giving the order of sending the panetone for Christmass (this is a tradition among friends for Christmass in Italy) in times when they were in bad relations (1920 - 1922). When the composer noticed that the panetone had already been sent, he wrote to the director: "Panetone sent by mistake". The funniest thing is that Toscanini answered: "Panetone eaten by mistake".
  • It is said that Puccini needed a rival to compete with in order to work with the atmost concentration. In "Manon Lescaut" it was the case of Massenet's opera, in "La Bohème" with Leoncavallo, in "Tosca" the struggle for the rights on the libretto with Franchetti, and in "Turandot" his teacher Bazzini (he had an opera called "Turanda", based on the story by Gozzi).
  • When Puccini was finishing his "Manon Lescaut", he rented a house in Vacallo, Switzerland, in order to finish his opera in better conditions than in Milano. There he found neighbour that had hanged a cloth with the silouhete of a clown on the door, due to the fact that the owner was another musician that was working on an opera called "I Pagliacci". Puccini answered the welcome of his friend Leoncavallo by hanging a towell on the balcony on which he had drawn a huge hand (Manon in Tuscan dialect).
  • The première of "Madama Butterfly" was an unespected utter failure, but maybe not so much. Some days after this memorable première, a father went to the Civil Register's office to announce his daughter's birth and name her Butterfly, though there was no Saint with such name in the calendar. When Puccini heard of this, he offered himself to be the child's Godfather.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Addio caro Pippo!

I could not help it but to break into tears when I heard the news. As I state in the subheading of "Opera Forum", the true nature of this blog is to retrieve the transcendental meaning of opera in the history of man. And if there ever was a person with such gift it was Giuseppe di Stefano who passed away last Monday at his home in Santa Maria Hoe, north of Milan, at the age of 86.

Many things have been written about him, some of them accurate, many others not so accurate. Despite all the infamous critics that are going around out there, Pippo is, in my own personal opinion, together with Beniamino Gigli, the best tenor that opera stages could ever have met. Blessed with a golden voice, an extremely great sense of musicality and a gifted artistic interpretation, Pippo, as he preferred to be called, walked out on stage with the hypnotizing charm and poise that characterized him. He left excellent recordings of several operas, most of them whith his eternal companion and diva Maria Callas. Who could ever forget that immortal diminuendo on the high C in "Salut! Demeure chaste et pure..." in the Met's 1949 - 50 season!

His death resulted from injuries sustained in November 2004, when he was attacked at his family’s villa in Kenya, said his wife, Monica Curth. Unidentified assailants had struck him on the head during the attack. After undergoing surgery twice in Mombasa, he was flown to Milan, where he awakened from a coma but never fully recovered.

It is not my intention to write a biography of Giuseppe di Stefano here, which I will be writing soon, but to pay homage to his memory and everlasting legacy he left to world of opera.

Giuseppe di Stefano (Pippo); Jul 24, 1921 - Mar 03, 2008 | IN MEMORIAM

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"La Bohème" (G. Puccini) - 2nd part: Background & Details

"La Bohème" is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de Bohème by Henri Murger. It was in Turin on February 1, 1896 at the Teatro Regio that the world première performance of "La Bohème" took place conducted by the young Arutro Toscanini. In 1946, fifty years after the opera's première, Toscanini conducted a performance of it on U.S. radio, that was eventually released on records. It is the ony recording of a Puccini opera by its original conductor.

There is another version of "La Bohème" composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo, but with his own libretto. This version, premiered in 1897, focuses more on the Musetta and Marcello relationship, rather than that of Mimì and Rodolfo as in Puccini's version.

Here I give a brief description of the characters involved and the Première Cast on February 1, 1896 conducted by Arturo Toscanini:

Rodolfo, a poet (tenor): Evan Gorgo
Mimì, a seamstress (soprano): Cesira Ferrani
Marcello, a painter (baritone): Tieste Wilmant
Schaunard, a musician (bariton): Antonio Pini-Corsi
Colline, a philosopher (bass): Michele Mazzara
Musetta, a singer (soprano): Camilla Pasini
Benoît, their landlord (bass): Alessandro Polonini
Alcindoro, a state councillor (bass): Alessandro Polonini
Parpignol, a toy vendor (tenor): Dante Zucchi
A customs Sergeant (bass): Felice Fogli

Students, working girls, townsfolk, shopkeepers, street-vendors, soldiers, waiters, children.

Among the enchanting arias and duettos we can highlight:

"Che gelida manina" - Rodolfo, Act I
"Sì, mi chiamano Mimì" - Mimì, Act I
"O soave fanciulla" - Rodolfo & Mimì, Act I
"Quando me n'vo soletta per la via" - Musetta, Act II
"Donde lieta uscì al tuo grido d'amore" - Mimì, Act III
"O Mimì tu più non torni" - Rodolfo & Marcello, Act IV
"Vecchia zimarra" - Colline, Act IV
"Sono andati? Fingevo di dormire" - Mimì, Act IV

The marvelous passages and orchestrations of "La Bohème" are scored for:

Woodwinds: 2 Flutes, Piccolo, 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons.
Brass: 4 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Bass trombone.
Percussion: Timpani, Drum, Triangle, Cymbal, Bass drum, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Campanelle.
Strings: Violins I & II, Viola, Violoncello, Contrabass.

The recommended discography for "La Bohème" is, in my opinion:
  • 1946; Jan Peerce, Licia Albanese, Francesco Valentino, George Cehanovsky, Nicola Moscona, Anne McKnight; Arturo Toscanini, MBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Line Music / Cantus Classics.

  • 1956 (rec. date); Giuseppe di Stefano, Maria Callas, Rolando Panerai, Manuel Spatafora, Nicolai Zaccaria, Anna Moffo; Antonino Votto, Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala di Milano; EMI Classics.

  • 1990; Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni, Rolando Panerai, Gianni Maffeo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Elizabeth Harwood; Herber von Karajan, Berlin Philarmonic Orchestra; DECCA.

"La Bohème" (G. Puccini) - 1st part: Synopsis

The story is set in Paris, between 1830 and 1831.

Act I
- In the four bohemians' garret

Marcello is painting while Rodolfo gazes out of the window. In order to keep warm, they burn the manuscript of Rodolfo's drama. Colline, the philosopher, enters shivering and disgruntled at not having been able to pawn some books. Schaunard, the musician of the group, arrives with food, firewood, wine, cigars, and money, and he explains the source of his riches, a job with an eccentric English gentleman. The others hardly listen to his tale as they fall ravenously upon the food. Schaunard interrupts them by whisking the meal away and declaring that they will all celebrate his good fortune by dining at Cafe Momus instead.

While they drink, Benoit, the landlord, arrives to collect the rent. They flatter him and ply him with wine. In his drunkenness, he recites his amorous adventures, but when he also declares he is married, they thrust him from the room--without the rent payment--in comic moral indignation. The rent money is divided for their carousal in the Quartier Latin.

The other Bohemians go out, but Rodolfo remains alone for a moment in order to finish a newspaper article, promising to join his friends soon. There is a knock at the door, and Mimì, a seamstress who lives in a flat below, enters. Her candle has blown out, and she has no matches; she asks Rodolfo to light it. She thanks him, but returns a few seconds later, saying she has lost her key. Both candles are extinguished; the pair stumble in the dark. Rodolfo, eager to spend time with Mimi, finds the key and pockets it, feigning innocence. In two arias (Rodolfo's "Che gelida manina — What a cold little hand" and Mimi's "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì — Yes, they call me Mimì"), they tell each other about their different backgrounds. Impatiently, the waiting friends call Rodolfo, but, while he suggests remaining at home with Mimì, she decides to accompany him. As they leave, they sing of their newfound love. (Duet, Rodolfo and Mimì: "O soave fanciulla — Oh gentle maiden")

Act II
- Quartier Latin

A great crowd has gathered with street sellers announcing their wares.
(Chorus: "Aranci, datteri! Caldi i marroni — Oranges, dates! Hot chestnuts."). The friends appear, flushed with gaiety; Rodolfo buys Mimi a bonnet from a vendor. Parisians gossip with friends and bargain with the vendors; children clamor to see the wares of Parpignol, the toy seller. The friends enter the Cafe Momus.

As the men and Mimi dine at the cafe, Musetta, formerly Marcello's sweetheart, arrives with her rich (and aging) government minister admirer, Alcindoro, to whom she speaks as she might to a lapdog. It is clear she has tired of him. To the delight of the Parisians and the embarrassment of her patron, she sings a risqué song ("Quando me'n vo — When I go along"), hoping to reclaim Marcello's attention. Soon Marcello is burning with jealousy. To be rid of Alcindoro for a bit, she pretends to be suffering from a tight shoe and sends him with it to the shoemaker to be fixed. During the ensemble that follows, Musetta and Marcello fall into each other's arms and reconcile.

The friends are presented with the bill, and to their consternation find that Schaunard's money is not enough to pay it. The sly Musetta has the entire bill charged to Alcindoro. The sound of approaching soldiers is heard, and, picking up Musetta, Marcello and Colline carry her out on their shoulders amid the applause of the spectators. When all have gone, Alcindoro arrives with the repaired shoe seeking Musetta. The waiter hands him the bill, and, horror-stricken at the charge, Alcindoro sinks into a chair.

- At the toll gate

Peddlers pass through the barriers and enter the city. Amongst them is Mimì, coughing violently. She tries to find Marcello, who lives in a little tavern nearby where he paints signs for the innkeeper. She tells him of her hard life with Rodolfo, who has abandoned her that night. ("O buon Marcello, aiuto! – Oh, good Marcello, help me!"). Marcello tells her that Rodolfo is asleep inside, but he wakes up and comes out looking for Marcello. Mimì hides and overhears Rodolfo first telling Marcello that he left Mimi because of her coquettishness, but finally confessing that he fears she is slowly being consumed by a deadly illness (most likely tuberculosis, known by the catchall name "consumption" in the nineteenth century). Rodolfo, in his poverty, can do little to help Mimi and hopes that his pretended unkindness will inspire her to seek another, wealthier suitor. Out of kindness towards Mimì, Marcello tries to silence him, but she has already heard all. Her coughing reveals her presence, and Rodolfo and Mimì sing of their lost love. They make plans to separate amicably (Mimì: "Donde lieta uscì – From here she happily left"), but their love for one another is too strong. As a compromise, they agree to remain together until the spring, when the world is coming to life again and no one feels truly alone. Meanwhile, Marcello has joined Musetta, and the couple quarrel fiercely: an antithetical counterpoint to the others' reconciliation. (Quartet: Mimì, Rodolfo, Musetta, Marcello: "Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina! – Goodbye, sweet awakening in the morning!")

Act IV
- Back in the garret

Marcello and Rodolfo are seemingly at work, though they are primarily bemoaning the loss of their respective loves. (Duet: "O Mimì, tu più non torni" – O Mimì, will you not return?).
Schaunard and Colline arrive with a very frugal dinner and all parody eating a plentiful banquet, dance together, and sing. Musetta arrives with news: Mimi, who took up with a wealthy viscount after leaving Rodolfo in the spring, has left her patron. Musetta has found her wandering the streets, severely weakened by her illness, and has brought her back to the garret. Mimi, haggard and pale, is assisted into a chair. Musetta and Marcello leave to sell Musetta's earrings in order to buy medicine, and Colline leaves to pawn his overcoat (Colline: "Vecchia zimarra – Old coat"). Schaunard, urged by Colline, quietly departs to give Mimi and Rodolfo time together. Left alone, they recall their past happiness. (Duet, Mimì and Rodolfo: "Sono andati? – Have they gone?"). They relive their first meeting--the candles, the lost key--and, to Mimi's delight, Rodolfo presents her with the little hat he bought her, which he has kept as a souvenir of their love. The others return, with a gift of a muff to warm Mimi's hands and some medicine, and tell Rodolfo that a doctor has been summoned, but it is too late to help their friend, who lapses into unconsciousness. As Musetta prays, Mimi dies. Schaunard discovers Mimi lifeless. Rodolfo cries out Mimì's name in anguish, and weeps helplessly.

source - Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Juan Diego Flórez, the King of Bel Canto

Juan Diego Flórez was born in Lima, Peru on January 13, 1973 where his father, Rubén Flórez, was a noted guitarist and singer of Peruvian popular and criolla music. In an interview in the Peruvian newspaper Ojo, Flórez recounted his early days when his mother managed a pub with live music and he worked as a replacement singer whenever the main attraction called in sick. "It was a tremendous experience for me, since most of those who were regulars at the pub were of a certain age, so I had to be ready to sing anything from huaynos to Elvis Presley music and, in my mind, that served me a great deal because, in the final analysis, any music that is well structured - whether it is jazz, opera, or pop - is good music".

Initially intending to pursue a career in popular music, he entered the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Lima at the age of 17. His classical voice emerged in the course of his studies there under Maestro Andrés Santa María. During this time, he became a member of the Coro Nacional of Peru and sang as a soloist in Mozart's
“Coronation Mass” and Rossini's “Petite Messe Solennelle”.

He received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where he studied from 1993 to 1996 and began singing in student opera productions in the repertory which is still his specialty today, Rossini and the Bel Canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti. During this period, he also studied with Marilyn Horne at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. In 1994 the Peruvian tenor, Ernesto Palacio invited him to Italy to work on a recording of Vicente Martín y Soler's opera
“Il Tutore Burlato”. He subsequently became Flórez's teacher, mentor and manager and has had a profound influence on his career.

Flórez's first big breakthrough and professional debut came at the Rossini Festival in 1996. At the age of 23, he stepped in to take the leading tenor role in “Matilde di Shabran” when Bruce Ford became ill. He made his debut at La Scala in the same year as the Chevalier danois in Gluck's Armide. His Covent Garden debut followed in 1997 where he sang the role of Count Potoski in the world premiere of Donizetti's “Elisabetta”. Debuts followed at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1999 as Count Almaviva in “Il barbiere di Siviglia” and at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2002, again as Count Almaviva. On February 20, 2007, the opening night of Donizetti's “La Fille du régiment” at La Scala, Flórez broke the theater's 74 year old tradition of no encores when he reprised "Ah! mes amis" with its nine high Cs following an "overwhelming" ovation from the audience.

Flórez is also active on the concert stages of Europe, North America, and South America. Amongst the many venues in which he has given concerts and recitals are the Wigmore Hall in London, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Palau de la Música in Barcelona and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In a departure from his usual repertoire, he sang 'You'll never walk alone' from the Broadway musical, Carousel, at the Berlin Live 8 concert in 2005.

He was signed by Decca in 2001 and since then has released five solo recital CDs on the Decca label: Rossini Arias which won the 2003 Cannes Classical Award; Una furtiva lagrima, which won the 2004 Cannes Classical Award; Great Tenor Arias which won the 2005 Echo Klassik award for the best arias and duets recital; Sentimiento Latino; and most recently, Arias for Rubini. In addition to his official discography, almost all his professionally performed roles have been preserved in radio broadcasts, and many also by television.

Juan Diego Flórez has been recognized by his native country with several awards and distinctions. In May 2004, he received the Orden al Mérito Cultural de Lima, from the Mayor of Lima; the Orden al Mérito por servios distinguidos en el grado de Gran Cruz from President Alejandro Toledo; and was named an Honorary Professor of San Martín de Porres University. On November 29th of that year, he appeared on the 2 sol stamp, part of a series of five stamps honouring contemporary Peruvian musicians. On June 4, 2007, he received his country's highest honor, the Gran Cruz de la Orden El Sol del Perú, from President Alan García.

From the classical music world he has received the Premio Abbiati 2000 (awarded by Italian critics for the best singer of the year); the Rossini d'oro; the Bellini d'oro; the Premio Aureliano Pertile; the Tamagno Prize; and the L'Opera award (Migliore Tenore) for his 2001 performance in
“La Sonnambula” at La Scala.

Flórez is the possessor of a light lyric tenor voice of exceptional beauty which, while not of great size, is nevertheless audible in even the largest houses due to its unusual harmonic structure. Its compass is two octaves, up to and including the high D natural, the higher part of its range being particularly strong and brilliant, with almost no sense of effort, while the lowest notes are comparatively weak. The head and chest registers are perfectly integrated, with no audible break in the passaggio. His breath control is impeccable, allowing the longest phrases to be sustained with apparent ease. The ornaments of bel canto, including the trill, are well executed, and stylistic errors such as intrusive aspirates generally eschewed. Perhaps the most distinctive technical accomplishment is the singer's total mastery of coloratura to a degree probably not matched by any other tenor who has recorded, and to be heard to best effect in his Idreno
(“Semiramide”) and Corradino (“Matilde di Shabran”).