Bo Skovhus, baritone, talks about the the voice, the soul, the physicality of singing. Brilliant peek into a singer’s head.
Bo Skovhus, baritone, talks about the the voice, the soul, the physicality of singing. Brilliant peek into a singer’s head.
Yeah, about this opera. I should clarify for everyone reading that I am not a fan of Richard Strauss’ operas. Not at all. I don’t understand them musically, can’t seem to find an entry point into them; in other words, what he was trying to do with opera, trying to say, the point he was trying to make, simply eludes me.
Last weekend, the Met’s Saturday broadcast was a recording of a Fall 2013 (I believe) performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten. I tried to like it. Really, I did. The singing was expertly done. The Met Orchestra was alert and alive. The problem was me. Or, I should say, the problem was R. Strauss and me.
From Der Rosenkavalier to Ariadne auf Naxos to Capriccio to Elektra to Die Frau, R. Strauss and I don’t speak each other’s musical language.
I really felt frustrated by my lack of musical understanding of Die Frau last Saturday, so I undertook to listen to another recording of Die Frau this week, while recovering,at home, from the flu. I will admit that this recording of Die Frau, conducted by Solti, was more to my taste. Then again, I’m of the opinion that Solti could have conducted an orchestral arrangement of the phone book, and I would be happy to listen. So, it may have something to do with interpretation and my ears. Still, the opera’s core essence escapes me; and I find this frustrating.
Usually … typically … opera’s meaning comes easily to me. I get it. R. Strauss, not so much. I can’t get past the noise he wrote (forgive me, R. Strauss enthusiasts) to discover where he was going with the noise.
What opera(s) frustrates you?
At the moment, it looks as if I live in a wonderland of ice. No, really. Everything that can be covered in ice is covered in ice. The trees are wearing their best icy dresses; the houses look like they’ve been attacked by a toddler with a bedazzler; and we won’t even start to discuss the automobiles. Yowzers.
So, the first contemplation: LA Opera’s Billy Budd, happening this month. I really want to be there, listening to Liam Bonner, Richard Croft, and Greer Grimsley as Budd, Vere, and Claggert, respectively. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but a girl can dream.
And the second contemplation I owe to my local classical radio station. Yesterday, I heard the most delightful piece of music, and I chased it down today. Catrin Finch’s Celtic Concerto, as found on the recording, Blessing, with John Rutter and Finch. I listened to the entire album today, thanks to Spotify; and nothing disappoints. It is a stellar album, but Celtic Concerto is something extra special.
The third contemplation: Debussy’s Trois Nocturnes. The link above takes you to “Nuages,”but there are two more, should you be interested enough to seek them out. I also have to thank the radio station for the Nocturnes. Both Finch’s and Debussy’s music were in yesterday’s superb line-up.
The contrast between the Celtic Concerto and Debussy’s Nocturnes yesterday seemed quite ideal for the winter day that it was. And the music suited my mood to perfection.
What has you in a contemplative mood during these oh, so chilly winter days?
Last Saturday, the Met’s broadcast was Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in English. It was truly The Magic Flute, not Die Zauberflöte.
Granted, the Met did this for a reason. The Magic Flute was produced particularly for families, to give children an introduction to the world of opera, in a venue that is very much an adult space. I can’t fault the plan. I love the idea of introducing children to opera, classical music, etc.
I can’t fault the production, either. The broadcast was very good, with excellent singing and diction! I understood the English text via radio, and THAT is an accomplishment!!!!
Last Saturday’s broadcast was pleasant—the opera clocked in right at 2 hours; and the live audience really seemed to enjoy themselves. I could hear laughter coming over the speakers. Live audience participation is always something I enjoy hearing as an auditory-only participant in the Met’s Saturday operas.
Well done, Met. Well done!
The Met radio broadcast season is well underway, and we all shout, “hurrah!” In the midst of a bleak and cold late autumn and what promises to be a very cold winter, the Met’s radio broadcasts brighten my Saturdays immensely.
In other news, I’ve got an amazing friend who blesses me with the gift of connections and opportunities to do what I love—write about opera. A few months back, he made an introduction; and I ended up writing an article about a local opera singer making good in Europe right now.
And now, he’s pointed me in another direction, with another introduction. I have no idea how this opportunity will work out, but the sample has been submitted.
In one’s life, there are friends, and then there are friends. He is one of those friends who really makes me believe in my own abilities and prompts me to stretch wings I wasn’t sure I had. Friends like him are priceless. He blesses me. How can I ever return the blessing?
The Met’s radio broadcast season began last Saturday, and we all say, “hooray!” If you have no idea to what I’m referring, look here.
As much as I love the HD transmissions from the Met, I love the radio broadcasts! The winter is a much happier time because of the Saturday broadcasts.
This past Saturday, the Met was broadcasting the new production of Rigoletto with Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title character and Matthew Polenzani as the Duke.
Rigoletto at the Met is NOT Hvorostovsky’s first outing in this role; he has sung Rigoletto around the world. To be perfectly honest, I heard the other voices, but I focused mostly on Hvorostovsky. The man sings Verdi brilliantly. He is one of the true, modern-day “bosses” of Verdi, and for me, this broadcast was all about him. Hvorostovsky does such an admirable job of straddling that vocal line between baritone fullness and basso profundity. I’m always in awe of not only the depth of his voice, but also its breadth. As a baritone, he sings with remarkable fluidity and beauty; and his breath control is world-renowned. Supposedly, he can hold his breath like an Olympic swimmer …
Hvorostovksy made me believe in Rigoletto as a character. I felt his pain and his anguish, through the radio. That’s not easily done! A singing actor in complete control of his voice’s coloring and inflection can break my heart through the radio, and Hvorostovsky is a masterful technician.
Polenzani was an admirable Duke. Then again, Polenzani is an admirable tenor, who is completely capable in every role he inhabits. Unfortunately for him, and for me, the Duke is not a character that is easy to like, and Polenzani did not particularly move me vocally; but he tried. He did try.
I have a grand confession to make … I didn’t even pay attention to the singing actor playing the role of Gilda. That’s how engrossing Hvorostovsky was.
I remember watching this particular production on PBS earlier this year. The sets and costumes—all with a Las Vegas flair to them—helped me approach Rigoletto very differently. To read my reaction, look here.
I’m looking forward to this Saturday’s broadcast—Falstaff!
I seem to be mourning a loss of elegance tonight. No, I’m not talking about fine china or perfectly polished silverware. I’m not even referring to a cultured whisper or polite conversation.
I simply miss the elegance of certain processes. The way things are done, should be done, are supposed to be done. It’s the difference between hearing a lyric soprano attempt Wagner when there is a true dramatic soprano lurking off-stage who could do a fabulous job of it if someone would just let her come out on stage and sing.
It’s that moment of watching a server crumb a table, simply because it’s the elegant thing to do. Elegance can be something as simple as brewing a pot of tea using leaf tea, not tea bags. I’m not referring to the fancy things of life. I’m just longing for the process of elegance. The pleasure of performing a task well for the sake of well-doing.
I miss elegance.
I’ve decided that the art of losing gracefully may be lost.
It’s tricky, being able to lose and lose gracefully. Being able to maintain composure in the face of defeat.
I was a spectator tonight at an event full of youngsters. Youngsters who have the world by the tail, and they really don’t understand the full implications of their power right now. It was a competition, with winners and losers. As the saying goes, 2nd place is the first loser. It’s true, I guess. I’ve taken 2nd many times and never felt like a loser; but tonight, for lack of better terms, people who lost weren’t displaying a whole lot of grace. The one who took first prize is someone who lives and breathes by grace. It’s just how this person was created.
Grace is something we can either accept for ourselves and pass on to others as a gift freely shared, or it is something that we can deny others and in so denying, reject it for ourselves. When we fail to lose gracefully, we lose stature in the world. Our standing on the ladder of life’s success slips a step or two.
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been publicly humiliated at work, at church, and within my circle of friends and family. I’ve lost track of the times I lost something I really wanted to win. Losing was hard, but each loss was just another lesson to teach me how to lose the next time. Yes, I may have failed at losing at that particular instance, but that moment’s loss prepared for the next loss and the next. We never stop needing to learn and remember how to practice grace. I’m including myself in that statement. Hopefully, I’ve learned a thing or two from my losses, because I know life is preparing another loss for me. Loss is part of life; without loss, the win would not be half as sweet.
So, here’s to losing, and here’s to grace; and here’s to learning and practicing the art of losing gracefully.
What is your definition of luxury?
Today, my definition of luxury equaled a “random day off from work.” You read that right—this lady took a day off from work, just because … Of course, there were a million and one reasons why it was a good day to take off, and each reason was valid; but honestly, it simply felt gorgeous to be away from my desk, away from the library for a day. A free day. And I spent a large portion of the day with dear friends, who enhanced the quality of my luxurious day off immensely.
Perspective matters a lot. Yes, I seem to be in this in-between space right now, and it isn’t a whole lot of fun; but at the same time, incredible days like today happen. Days full of blessing and promise. Days that simply drip with sunshine and laughter, that remind me of cups filled to the brim and spilling over with the joy of life and friendship. If the only thing that had happened today was sharing a cup of incredible tea with a friend, than today mattered in every way that could possible count. And this is where I have to live—in the here, in the daily, in the moment by moment joys that come. If I think too far ahead, if I look at the lack, that opens the door to sorrow and frustration; and who could possibly want that?????
Taking small joys as they come—surprise free days, amazing cups of tea with friends, glorious amounts of sunshine, having the time to quilt by hand, taking time to watch a gorgeous film with an amazing soundtrack that lingers on in the memory for days after, appreciating the quiet of early mornings, the laughter of babies … It’s all here—the pleasures of life are mine if I can remember to look at each moment as it comes and savor it, not hoping for more than what I’m holding at any given moment.
Some of the music from the film, Dear Frankie—absolutely stunning film and stunning soundtrack:
Anyone remember a film by the title of Mahogany, starring Tony Perkins and Diana Ross? Anyone remember the theme song, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”
I’ve got this song looped into a playlist that I listen to occasionally; and today, as this song came up in rotation, the words really got to me.
My life seems to be all about the hamster cage at the moment. I feel a little bit stuck—on a wheel, no less—while everyone else around me moves forward, achieving goals and dreams of which I can only hope, silently, deeply, privately.
I can think of more than one opera with “stuck” characters. Verdi’s Don Carlos—Elisabetta is stuck; Wagner’s Die Walkure—Sieglinde is stuck; Puccini’s Madama Butterly—Butterfly is stuck. Overwhelmingly, in any opera you could choose, at least one character is going to be stuck while all of the other characters move and have fluidity.
I’m feeling stuck; it’s not a permanent condition, I’m sure. The day or time will come for me to move forward or sideways again; but as Diana Ross sings, “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?”
Nope, I don’t know. Not at the moment anyway.