Audition for Soprano Voice Soloist

Application deadline: July 26th 2022

Posted in OPera | Leave a comment

Premiere of “Sacco and Vanzetti,” opera by Blitzstein and Lehrman on September 10th

After Dinner Opera Company

proudly presents

the New York and Orchestral Staged Premiere



Begun by Marc Blitzstein

Completed & Conducted by Leonard Lehrman

Directed by Benjamin Spierman


Christopher Remkus as Nicolo Sacco

Michael Niemann as Bartolomeo Vanzetti


David Anchel, David Aubrey, Sarah Blaze, Kevin Courtemanche, Jonathan Z. Harris

Aumna Iqbal, Karen Jolicoeur, Andrew Klima, Josh Minkin, Perri Sussman,

Christopher Tefft, Helene Williams

and members of The Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra

Saturday, Sept 10, 2022 at 7 pm

Sunday Sept 11, 2022 at 3 pm

Lehman College Studio Theatre

250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, The Bronx

Admission: Pay What You Can

No One Turned Away

Information & Reservations: 516-825-2939

Painting by Ben Shahn, used by permission
Posted in OPera | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Music, from Richmond County to the World. An exclusive interview with Maestro Alan Aurelia

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena [courtesy of L’Idea Magazine, September 18, 2018]

Based in New York City, one of the most diverse and culturally rich environments for the arts and the many artists it supports, Maestro Alan Aurelia has distinguished himself as a conductor, an arts advocate, educator, and administrator. He is currently the music director of the Richmond County Orchestra, New American Youth Ballet, and artistic director/conductor of the Riverside Opera Company.
He received full scholarships and fellowships to study at the Hartt School in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Conductors Institute at the University of South Carolina and Columbia. He has served on the music faculties of Wagner College, the College of Staten Island, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Describing Maestro Aurelia’s virtuosity, composer and conductor Lukas Foss stated that “He conducts very naturally, effortlessly, and clearly enabling all in the orchestra to follow every musical nuance and inflection quite easily”.

At the conclusion of a concert that Maestro Aurelia conducted in Italy, Joel Cohen of the Staten Island Advance wrote that “he was called back five times for bows by a standing ovation audience” and Michael Fressola, also from the Advance, noted that “The concert strikes a multicultural chord with the audience”.
Under his baton, the Richmond County Orchestra was selected to perform at the Guggenheim Museum’s NY.2022, a multi-media creation by Parisian visual artist Dominique Gonzalez-Forester with music by the Berlin-based composer, Ari Benjamin Meyers, which received a rave review from the New York Times. Maestro Aurelia has also performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and he has been asked to conduct in Carnegie Hall as well as in Miami, Florida, and Mexico. He has been a guest conductor for the Bacau Philharmonic from Romania during Tuscany’s “Festival Sinfonico di Massa” and for the Kiev Strings in Montegnioso.
In addition to performing the standard symphonic orchestral literature, Maestro Aurelia conducts the opera, ballet, premiers of new compositions as well as the music of Broadway. As a consequence of his versatility, he is comfortable in an array of different genres and creates interesting and exciting programs that appeal to a broad audience.
Maestro Aurelia’s Side-by-Side program for students stands out as a significant marker of his dedication to music education, which is also reflected in the establishment of the RCO Musicians Contest and the Instrument Petting Zoo, programs that he initiated as music director of the Richmond County Orchestra that actively support music education for young students in the New York metropolitan area.
He has received several awards and honors for excellence in performance, education, and community relations. He has appeared on many local radio and TV programs inNew York and serves as chairman of the Board for Tribeca Music and Art in Manhattan.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are the Music Director of the Richmond County Orchestra and the New American Youth Ballet Orchestra. How different is being the Music Director of an orchestra and of a Ballet group?
Alan Aurelia: It is easier to conduct the RCO when we are doing symphonic music together because
there are just two variables orchestra and me. Together we try to make the composer’s music sound its
best. When dancers are added to the mix the challenge becomes making the music “fit” the dancers’
movements, jumps, and gestures. The music has to be in the right tempo, in time with the dancer(s). It’s
akin to, the buzzer has to go off when your finger touches the doorbell, not before. The good thing
about conducting ballet music with dancers is you don’t have to worry about playing too loud.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are also Artistic Director/Conductor for the Riverside Opera Company. What does this entail versus the positions that I refer to in the preceding question?
Alan Aurelia: Accompanying singers, with orchestra, especially opera is the most challenging
conducting. Voices are very delicate instruments and as such, singers need to take liberties with tempos
because of breathing, and a good opera conductor must never allow the orchestra to drown out the

Alan Aurelia with some of the performers of the Riverside Opera Company

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What is the operatic program of the Riverside Opera Company and where do they operate?
Alan Aurelia: The Riverside Opera Company is celebrating its 22nd season! Although based on Staten Island it has performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Washington Square Park for Garibaldi’s
bicentennial. They have performed all the major operas with full orchestra and continue to perform
the popular opera numbers many times combining popular pieces as well as Broadway numbers.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: When did you realize you wanted to be a music conductor?
Alan Aurelia: I was student director of my High School Symphonic Band and conducted many
community orchestras and bands, then having a successful career as an instrumentalist, I was offered
my first professional conducting position in 1993 for a local NYC ballet company orchestra and have
been conducting professionally ever since.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Are you still teaching in college? Did you also teach instrumentation?
Alan Aurelia: I was on the Music Faculty of three colleges and universities in NYC, now retired, I have
private students and teach at a local Music Conservatory.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Which one is the opera you feel is the most rewarding for you as a conductor and why? And the most challenging one?
Alan Aurelia: All operas are equally challenging. depending on the singers, production staff, directors
you are working with because all affect the music-making.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What characteristics do you feel make a better orchestra conductor?
Alan Aurelia: Know the music well before the first rehearsal and with a minimal gesture from one’s baton or hand, convey the composer’s musical ideas clearly, enabling the musicians to perform at their optimum ability. A good conductor is a good teacher as well as a learner and must show compassion for the orchestra and vocal musicians as well as dancers. Years and years of conducting help to make better
conductors. It took me ten years before I felt comfortable in front of an orchestra. Many orchestra
boards today make the mistake of hiring the young “wunderkind” conductor and problems generally

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You directed orchestras from different nations. Have you found a different attitude among the orchestra members, as music interpretation goes? Do you feel that music is so universal as to flatten out ethnic and racial differences?
Alan Aurelia: My experience has been, whether conducting in the US or abroad, that if the conductor is
sensitive to the musicians’ needs, mostly musical ones, they will perform well.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Are there any new projects you are working on?
Alan Aurelia: I am always seeking to do more concerts for the public, as a guest conductor or taking the award-winning Richmond County Orchestra on tour.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you could meet anyone from the past or the present, who would he or she be? What would you like to ask them? What would you like to tell them?
Alan Aurelia: Wow, this is a hard one because there are so many people. But if I had to choose one it
would be the conductor Arturo Toscanini and I’d ask him if he truly had a photographic memory.

Ride of the Valkyries – Amazing Performance by the Richmond County Orchestra!!
Posted in Interview | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Positions are open for the Company, Limón2, and Guest Artists.
Image item
Photo by Christopher Jones
FOR FEMALE AND NON-BINARY IDENTIFYING DANCERSMon. June 13Tues. June 14FOR MALE AND NON-BINARY IDENTIFYING DANCERSTues. June 14Wed. June 15CALL BACKSThurs. June 16 & Fri. June 17LOCATIONEverett Center for the Performing Arts466 West 152nd Street, 2nd Floor NYC 10031
What is Limón2?
The 75th Anniversary of the Limón Dance Company brings a new legacy for the José Limón Dance Foundation: Limón2  – The Foundation’s second Company
Learn More
Positions available for The Company, Limón2, and guest artists beginning August 3, 2022Repertory includes Limón masterworks and new commissions Domestic/International Touring and annual New York SeasonsStrong Modern and Ballet Technique RequiredFamiliarity with Limón Technique preferableCOVID-19 Vaccination is required to audition and as a condition of employmentU.S. Citizen, Green Card, or Valid Work Visa only
Auditions are BY INVITATION ONLY To be considered, please fill out the application form and submit your video or enroll in the upcoming summer intensive for the week of June 6. Space is limited.
APPLY BY 6PM EST ON MAY 31 to be considered
If invited, we will contact you with audition details by Mon. June 6, 2022
APPLY FOR Dancers Summer Intensive
Posted in Ballet | Leave a comment

“As a composer myself, I know there is no “one way” to interpret a piece…” Interview with Victor Alexeeff

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

OperaMyLove Magazine: Hello Victor. You were a child prodigy, entering the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto at the age of seven, having your first album at the age of nine, receiving 33 different scholarships, and appearing in many TV and radio programs. How did it all begin? Were you able to have a normal childhood even through all these major events at such an early age? Who was the person or teacher who influenced you the most in those years?
Victor Alexeeff: I guess you don’t think about these things so much when you’re really young. With so many people saying how gifted you are, you feel that is what you’re supposed to do. And yes, it’s not normal. But it was OK. With all the attention, you do feel special. My greatest support came from my grandfather Basil. My greatest influence in music was my piano teacher, Boris Berlin.

OperaMyLove Magazine: So, you studied to become a classical pianist, but turned out to be much more, with interests in many aspects of the music world. What triggered your interest in writing music scores, for example? What movies and TV shows did you write scores for?
Victor Alexeeff: I grew up at an exciting time with the age of synths and computers entering the landscape. Rock ‘n Roll was sweeping across the globe. As much as I loved the classics, it was the rock stars who were the new Beethovens. Exploring new ideas and with total freedom to create whatever you felt. I was 14 when I joined my first band, ‘Scarlett Fever’.

OperaMyLove Magazine: Is your album “Amazing Drones” a collection of your music for films and TV shows?
Victor Alexeeff: That along with a whole bunch of pieces that I upload to the music libraries for creators to use on their projects.

OperaMyLove Magazine:  What is the “Piano Waves” CD about?
Victor Alexeeff: I wanted to hear something really relaxing while rollerblading in Venice Beach and it was something that others wanted to get a copy of after listening, so I decided to release a CD.

OperaMyLove Magazine: You were part of the experimental band NRG. Could you tell us more about this?
Victor Alexeeff: This was a very crazy and experimental rock band. Jeff Boyce (Bass), Adam Little (Drums and tons of “noise things”) and I jammed around Toronto playing weird psychedelic music in clubs after hours. Later we played live music to classic films like “Metropolis’ by Fritz Lang and ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was very cool.

OperaMyLove Magazine: You also acted in “Debussy Has Left the Building” … How did you like that experience?
Victor Alexeeff: Certainly, it is different than being a musician. For sure, if you’re the lead, you get all the attention from everyone and that much ego pumping is pretty awesome. Of course, after the shoot is over, it’s quite lonely. I’ll stick to being a musician.

OperaMyLove Magazine: “Classics Unleased” is an exciting experiment. What inspired you to record this album?
Victor Alexeeff: It started as a thought experiment: If the great composers were alive today, how would they use all this tech?  An inspiration was Wendy Carlos’ ‘Switched-on Bach’, Which was a very cool album at the time. So, I figured with my background, this would be a nice project to do.

OperaMyLove Magazine: What do you mean by “unleashed”?
Victor Alexeeff: Sometimes, it feels that music from the past has been taken over by purists.  I understand it in some way. They are saying that the composer intended it “this way” (and not any other way). However, being a composer myself, I know there is no “one way” to interpret a piece. Beethoven was the ultimate interpreter. They all were. That’s how they came up with such innovative ideas.

OperaMyLove Magazine: What kind of audience do you believe will be interested in this kind of recording?
Victor Alexeeff: I hope everyone….

OperaMyLove Magazine: Do you think you will do more of this type of music recording?
Victor Alexeeff: Yes. In fact, I am working on one now.

OperaMyLove Magazine: You stated that you do mostly Art Rock? What does that mean?
Victor Alexeeff: I like a lot of music types, but for me, music is more art than a commodity and with Art Rock you are free to think outside the box.

OperaMyLove Magazine:  You worked on many Special Projects. Could you tell us something about your Detroit International Airport project?
Victor Alexeeff: That was a very interesting and cool project. The idea was to create a Zen atmosphere at the airport with a music and light show to forget the stress of flying for a moment. The tunnel has more than 50 speakers stretching over 700 ft. And a really cool effect is that sounds are traveling up and down the tunnel.

OperaMyLove Magazine: You also composed a musical for the National Museum of the United States Air Force… 
Victor Alexeeff: Correct. That was at Wright Patterson Airport celebrating the Wright Brothers with a special guest, astronaut Senator John Glenn.

OperaMyLove Magazine: Any other projects in the works at this time?
Victor Alexeeff: There’s always something on my mind!

OperaMyLove Magazine:  What musician you worked with left you the biggest mark?
Victor Alexeeff: Too many to mention. They all leave a mark.

OperaMyLove Magazine: If you could talk to anyone, whether from the past or the present, who would that person be? What would be the topic of your conversation?
Victor Alexeeff: Genghis Khan … Are we really related?

OperaMyLove Magazine: A message for our readers?
Victor Alexeeff: When listening to music, close your eyes and lose yourself to the vibrations that move your soul.

Posted in Interview | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

This Man Will Make Your Kids Fall in Love with Opera

With “Treblemaker: The Opera!”, The Little Orchestra Society

Is Back Onstage in New York. Come See How a Piece of Musical Art Is Born

By Elena Frigenti

Who said Opera is just for grownups, and it makes kids get bored? Maybe someone who has never experienced a performance by The Little Orchestra Society. On Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, Professor Treblemaker is going to get on stage for one of his famed brilliant exhibitions. “Treblemaker: The Opera!” is the second appointment of the L.O.S. 2022 season: a kind of contemporary take on the anatomy of an opera.

In this fictional storytelling, L.O.S. has commissioned a brand-new work, and Professor Clifford O. Treblemaker, aka the beloved modern-day version of the “absent-minded” professor and merry mayhem maker, is chosen to deliver the assignment. He ends up enlisting Maestro Miller, (L.O.S. ‘s Artistic Advisor David Alan Miller) and an ensemble of talented young singers to perform a mashup of opera’s greatest hits. With a witty script crafted by Craig Shemin, an award-winning writer and director who wrote for the Muppets of the Jim Henson Company, Professor Treblemaker’s new opera will include songs from famed operas and arias, including “Marriage of Figaro”, “La Bohème”, “Barber of Seville”, and “Rigoletto.” But there’s room for novelty too: a new piece by Molly Joyce, “Whale Song,” will be premiered.

As per L.O.S. tradition, the young audience will be actively involved in the concert, showing how music it’s not just something to listen to, but an inspirational moment that can spark creativity, add meaning and purpose in life, and build life skills in both the aspiring musician and the avid listener. This season is particularly meaningful for L.O.S., celebrating their 75th anniversary.

The concerts will take place at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 695 Park Avenue, New York, on April 2nd and 3rd, 2022, at 11:30 am and 1 pm. Details and tickets at

Posted in OPera | Tagged , | Leave a comment


in the New York Premiere of ‘MUNU MUNU’


Performed by New Chamber Ballet and Variant 6 Vocal Ensemble

Friday & Saturday, February 11 & 12 at 7:30 PM

Mark Morris Dance Center, 3 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn

Tickets: $38

Reservations must be purchased in advance at

Dancers: Anabel Alpert, Megan Foley, Nicole McGinnis, Amber Neff, Rachele Perla

Singers: Variant 6 Vocal Ensemble: Jessica Beebe, soprano; Rebecca Myers, soprano; Elisa Sutherland, mezzo; Steven Bradshaw, tenor; James Reese, tenor; Elijah Blaisdell, baritone; Daniel Schwartz, bass

Costumes: Sarah Thea Craig

Miro Magloire is proud to present his New Chamber Ballet, joined by Philadelphia-based Variant 6 Vocal Ensemble, in the New York premiere of “Munu Munu,” a full-length ballet to both medieval and contemporary vocal music.  Performed by an ensemble of five dancers and seven vocalists, “Munu Munu” received its premiere in March 2020 at The Performance Garage in Philadelphia, Pa.

What does munu munu mean??  – it is taken from one of the newer music works, which consists of nonsense syllables sung by the vocalists.   Contemporary music for the ballet is a series of a-cappella songs showing a wide range of influences, composed by Toby Twining.  The medieval music is by vocal composers from the 1300’s: Jacopo Da Bologna, Grimace, and Solage.

Miro remarked: “When creating Munu Munu, i was interested in the relationship of dancing and singing: two sister arts that are intimately connected to the human body and our desire to express feelings with it.  These ideas are the root of the work – dancers and singers performing with and for each other, surrounded by the audience.  The music spans seven centuries and fools our historic expectations – some of the contemporary songs have an ancient, ritual quality while the works from the 1300’s sound almost modern with their multiple layered rhythms.”


TOBY TWINING (b.1958) :
Raised in Texas, with family roots in country-swing and gospel, Toby Twining has traveled musically from playing for rock and jazz bands to composing and performing experimental music for voices with a fresh approach to harmony. He moved to New York in 1987, initially writing for modern dance choreographers who wanted the sounds of a new choral music. In 1991 he started Toby Twining Music, which performed in music halls and festivals across the United States and Europe. His recordings include Shaman (SONY, 1994), The Little Match Girl and Emily Dickinson’s Birthday Pizza on A Prairie Home Companion 20th Anniversary Album (Highbridge, 1996), Chrysalid Requiem and Eurydice (Cantaloupe Music 2002 and 2011). Twining’s instrumental music has been recorded by pianist Margaret Leng Tan and cellist Matt Haimovitz. He was a 2003 Pew Fellow, a co-founder of Arts on the Edge Wolfeboro, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of a 2013 Grants to Artists Award by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.


Variant 6 is a virtuosic vocal sextet that explores and advances the art of chamber music in the twenty-first century. The ensemble’s work includes radically reimagining concert experiences, commissioning substantial new works, collaborating closely with other ensembles, and educating a new generation of singers. In addition to eight world-premieres this season, Variant 6 premieres a new ballet, To Reach the Light with Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami, performs a new concert-length work by Wally Gunn, and releases two commercial albums. 
Variant 6’s artists have performed with internationally recognized ensembles, including The Crossing, Roomful of Teeth, Bang on a Can, American Composers Orchestra, Seraphic Fire, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Bach Project, Tempesta di Mare, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, and more. 

The next New Chamber Ballet performances in New York will take place April 8 & 9.  Included will be a revival of The Night, from 2019, as a tribute to composer Wolfgang Rihm, who turns 70 in March.

Posted in Ballet | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Having Fun with Vivaldi and the Opera

The Little Orchestra Society of New York Starts a New Season on Their 75th Anniversary

by Elena Frigenti

Can classical music appeal to kids even today, when children seem to exclusively belong to the “smart generation”? The answer is yes, especially when the concert incorporates mixed media and animation, and calls the audience to actively participate in the show. The Little Orchestra Society, also known as L.O.S., has been doing a great job for decades, attracting generations of young New Yorkers simply introducing them to quality music – when not inspiring to pursue music studies themselves. It’s exactly 75 years that L.O.S. is one of the most valued cultural institutions in New York City, and they are going to celebrate the anniversary in the best way possible: with a comeback on the stage for a new season, starting at the end of January.

Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, the Opera, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin: the young audience will be led through a universe of amazing sounds, each one reflecting a different artistic and social context, but all made attractive to the little ones thanks to the energy and the ability of conductor David Alan Miller, along with his professional orchestra. Each concert is a one-of-a-kind sensorial experience that mixes music with theater, dance with videos, and original scripts: the result is showing kids how music not only entertains but also sparks creativity, adds meaning and purpose in life, and builds long-lasting personal skills.

Besides the anniversary, though, The Little Orchestra Society this time also plays a different note. “The season before us is a special one, and not only for our 75th birthday” underlines the new Executive Director Anthony Ball. “Last summer we lost our dear Joanne Bernstein-Cohen, who has been our Executive Director for 15 years. This coming season is a tribute to her. Joanne made L.O.S.  ‘An Orchestra for all New Yorkers,’ and we will honor her legacy of inspiring children in the classroom and welcoming the newest audiences to the concert hall.” Ms. Bernstein-Cohen widely expanded the name of the Orchestra, taking the work of the Orchestra beyond the concert hall, right into classrooms at public schools and community spaces, and directly into the hands of young people.

The season will start with “Vivaldi’s Virtuosas!” (Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 6, 11:30 am and 1 pm), “Treblemaker: The Opera!”) (Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3, 11:30 am and 1 pm), to close with “Ellington & Gershwin: Rhapsodies in Jazz!” (Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15, 11:30 am and 1 pm). All the concerts will be held at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College (695 Park Avenue, NYC) apart from the last one, which will take place at The Kaufmann Concert Hall (1395 Lexington Avenue, NYC). Details and tickets for a single performance or the whole season at


Posted in Article, OPera | Tagged | Leave a comment



The worldwide pandemic of 2020-2021 succeeded  in accomplishing what years of shrinking, progressively less sophisticated audiences, graft laden internal politics, destructive national policies, and sheer administrative incompetence could not; the total shutdown of operatic performance around the world.

There have been a plethora of filmed opera-like events produced for digital distribution of varying artistic and technical qualities, many of which had the whiff of desperation about them to demonstrate the ongoing activity of the producing entities, but they are not opera. I was fascinated to see how small the audiences actually were for these projects. These are videos conceived to be viewed on televisions, and, more often, on smartphones. This is not opera. Perhaps this tragic hiatus from live performance can be used as a moment of reflection, and critical clarity.

“These are videos conceived to be viewed on televisions, and, more often, on smartphones. This is not opera.”

As we apparently seem to begin to emerge from this nightmare of isolation, and we can recommence activity in the opera house, which requires several thousand people in one room, I would propose that we clarify some issues, and attempt to impose some critical criteria on what will be called “opera”.

Let us examine what constitute the fundamental components of an operatic performance. The art form is so wonderfully complex that I think it requires a critical look at each of its ingredients. Let us also agree that there are objective standards of basic technical proficiency that can be applied to many of the components parts that have nothing to do with “taste”, or “preference”.

Let us first address the matter of singing, by definition the primary focus of opera. Singers must be technically proficient. This sounds ridiculously reductionist, but it is not. Merely possessing diplomas, the imprimatur of prestigious young artist training programs, or arriving by whatever path onto the stage does not a priori bestow fundamental technical competence upon a singer put before the public. Singers must sing in tune. We do not promote pianists who miss fistfuls of notes, violinists who play out of tune, or ballet dancers unable to do leaps and turns. But we have increasingly seen the acceptance, rationalization, and apologizing for out of tune singing. Singers must be technically capable of singing all the notes in the role in which they present themselves to the public.

“Singers must be technically proficient. This sounds ridiculously reductionist, but it is not.”

Voices, while variable in the strength of their various registers, must at least possess a mastery of their instrument from top to bottom. A chest voice register may not have the power of the top of the range, but it must be audible. The top portion of a singer’s voice must be easily accessible from whatever precedes it, and should be exciting, and beautiful, and not cringe-worthy or alarming. The singer may not skip over the parts of a role that they can’t really sing. The singer must have the breath control to artistically make phrases without breaking down, and even breathing between syllables of words. The singer must have a mastery of the languages in which they sing in order to render the text comprehensible. They must be proficient not just in the basic mechanics of the language, but have progressed up to a sophisticated understanding of inherent rhythm and of idiomatic nuance. This includes the proper production of consonants, and, more importantly vowels. Each language has a particular color palette of vowels that must be respected. Singers must be technically able to sing coloratura, rapid scales and arpeggios accurately, and in tune. Historically even the largest voices could do this (listen to Chaliapin) as it is a fundamental skill.

In second place, we must move on to the conductor and his/her role. There is no Platonically Ideal performance of an opera, or, indeed, any piece of music. A performer brings his particular skill set and applies it to the textual matrix supplied by the composer. The assiduous and honest application of each individual artist to this process guarantees the wonderful variety of interpretations of a given work.

The role of the conductor is to possess total mastery of the basic materials of a piece (the notes, both of the singers and the instrumentalists, the words, the dramatic instructions, the performance style of the piece, the acoustic of the performance venue, the attributes and limitations of the performers), process all of them, and lead an assembled company to produce a carefully crafted, nuanced, intelligent and aesthetically pleasing whole.  The preparation for this job, as you can see, is daunting, and never-ending. He/She must be able to control the internal balances in the orchestra, and make them produce a precise, organized sound.

“The role of the conductor is to possess total mastery of the basic materials of a piece…”

Regarding the relationship with the singers, he/she must possess a thorough understanding of the technique of singing, fluency in the languages involved, and the possibilities and limitations of the human voice. He/She must have a firm conception of the music which he communicates to the singers during the rehearsal process, and understand how to maximize their capabilities to fulfill his vision. It is a collaborative effort. Optimum tempi must be established and maintained. Acoustical balance between the singer and the orchestra must be established and imposed. At the most basic level, if the singer on stage is not coordinated with the orchestra, you cannot hear the singer, or cannot understand the words, the conductor is not doing their job.

Now we discuss the stage director. We must understand that the existence of this job is a relatively recent development in opera. As late as the beginning of the 20th century there was no such animal. The conductor staged the works, as he was often the composer, and knew exactly what he intended. He was the individual in the theater with total mastery of the score. There was a stage manager, who was responsible for organizing the scenery, props, etc., and indicating entrance and exit points for the singers. I would direct you to Harvey Sach’s excellent book “Toscanini: Musician of Conscience” for a detailed description of his work as director of La Scala.

A combination of factors led to the establishment of Stage Director as an actual discreet job. Firstly, the twentieth century saw a development in legitimate theater of more and more naturalistic acting styles, and more stylized entire productions. Then, there was the increase in the volume of opera performances internationally, which inevitably led to a lot of routine, and just bad productions in the traditional style. In the attempt to make something “new” and “attractive”, directors began to create productions based on concepts, and viewing the works through particular social prisms, thereby narrowing their interpretive possibilities instead of broadening them. Many productions became simply visually confusing.

I would propose the following: if you do not understand what you are watching onstage, it is not your fault. The director has failed the work. If singers appear to be doing nonsensical things, they probably are, and the director has not helped the singers to interpret the work. If they are physically placed in parts of the stage where you cannot hear them, that is a simply incorrect, and technically inept. I am reminded of a passage from a letter from Arnold Schoenberg to Vasilij Kandinsky wherein he writes, “I would like that on the stage nothing impede the comprehension of the public, of the listener, because if the public does not understand what it is seeing it distracts from the music.”

“I would propose the following: if you do not understand what you are watching onstage, it is not your fault. The director has failed the work.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, opera requires an actively engaged public of informed listeners. Serious members of the opera going public must cease reading reviews immediately. I do not believe, based upon my reading, that there is currently a single critic, either “professional” or dilettante (and I use the word in the literal and not pejorative sense) who has had the cultural preparation, and is free of some kind of agenda qualified to help form someone else’s opinion. With apologies for the substitution of a single word to the late George Steiner, “It is not criticism that makes music live.” If you go to the opera merely to let soporific waves of sound wash over you (an enjoyable reason, but a severely limited one), that is fine, but you are not prepared to form an educated opinion about the performance. The more you can bring in terms of cultural preparation to experiencing a performance, the richer and deeper your evening will be, and you will have that much more to think about and to which to react. Quite simply, a better public will produce better opera.

Posted in Article | Tagged | Leave a comment

Spring Dance Festival Stage and International Competition in Rome, Italy

Posted in Competition, Courses | Leave a comment