Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just A Look - Christiane Karg

Christiane Karg, the young Bavarian lyric operatic soprano, was Opernwelt Magazine's 2009 Young Performer of the Year and 2010 ECHO Klassik's Young Artist of the Year. I first encountered her as Melia on the M22 DVD of Mozart's Apollo et Hyacinthus/Die Schuldigkeit der Ersten Gebotes and was mightily impressed with the then little-known singer's performance. Alas, like most of the singers I really admire, she sings mostly in Europe, so I still haven't had the pleasure of experiencing her in person yet. From the distance, though, she is one really nice gal!


Now, how in the world does she keep in such a good figure growing up around cakes and scones?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Get Well Soon, Salvatore Licitra!

Salvatore Licitra, the Italian - Swiss tenor had a bad crash on his scooter in Sicily over the weekend and is still in very serious condition (he didn't have a helmet on) at the hospital.

As you can see, aside from being a bloody good opera singer, the man also has a heart of gold. Obviously he won't now be able to sing in the Teatro Communal di Bologna's tour of Japan that was planned for next month (September). Let's all hope for his complete and speedy recovery. We need good people like him around!

Edited 5 Sept 2011: Sadly, Salvatore Licitra passed away after 9 days in a coma at the Garibaldi Hospital in Catania. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

(Un)holy Sunday

You know, I'm supposed to be in church right now. Don't get me wrong, I'm still as areligious as ever, but I had actually been looking forward to accompanying a couple of cute Mormon gals to their church this Sunday just to see what a Mormon service is like. It sort of fell through because of an unexpected schedule conflict.

And the tally is: 3 Christians, 2 Mormons, 2 Jehovah's Witnesses, 1 Muslim, and 1 Catholic.
I still don't believe in the god as described and ascribed by the religions, but I do get curious about those who do every now and then. Lately I seem to run into many more religious ads on television and even on the internet than ever before. Practically every couple of videos I view on Youtube are now preceded by an 'I'm a Mormon!' ads, and every time I go out on the town I come home with at least one Christian evangelical pamphlet. The photo above shows the religious pamphlets handed to me in the period of 2 weeks. I must look like a prime target or something! Smiley

On a more serious note (since it's Sunday after all and a very hot one at that), I do admire the genuine goodwill behind the evangelization attempts -- with the caveat in that the attempts aren't too persistent or done in poor taste. The folks that handed me those pamphlets above were quite decent and were fine with taking 'No, thanks,' for an answer. But then there also are other types of evangelicals evangelizing today who aren't as harmless to have around. You know, the type that wear 'Jesus Died For You!' (you sh*tty ungrateful bast@#$*!) t-shirt who barricade the entrance of non-religious events and shout their pitch at other people from their speakerphone.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, it ain't fun having to walk past stuff like this while going to a concert. They were blocking the only way in and out of the venue!
Jesus didn't die for me. He probably didn't even want to die in the first place. He got executed! To be honest, had he managed to not get executed after being condemned to death by the Roman procurator, that would have made this story of him being supernatural a lot more convincing. And even if I were to take it as fact that he thought he was dying for me, I'm still not grateful because; first off the act was misguided in a very megalomaniacal manner; and secondly, any god worth worshiping wouldn't allow any innocent to be blamed for the crime that someone else committed in the first place. None of us are guilty of the sin of Adam & Eve (which, basically, is the sin of being). And there is no justice in allowing people to get away with murder and other crimes simply because they claim that an innocent man is willing to take the blame for them. That sort of thinking is injustice in disguise as a sheep.

That said of the religious, there are also some wacky 'militant atheists' out there who can't seem to find more constructive things to do in life than to go around trash-talking at any religious people they can get in the face of. I can understand getting frustrated by the organized churches' attempt to turn countries into theocracies and the unending attempts by a couple of religions to misrepresent their faith as something that ought to be taught in science classroom at our school, but a few of these militant atheists are actually going around baiting religious people who are just minding their own business. Fervor isn't natural to atheism or skepticism. You've better take care and remember how attachment to fixed idea can warp even atheism into something as religious as religions themselves. Remember the Soviet Union??? That place was as bad as any theocracy there ever was. 

Anyhow, hopefully I'll get another church date with the Mormon gals in a few weeks (I'm out of town so much this summer my bed hardly even recognizes me anymore). They were quite good about discussing what their doctrine is about and didn't seem to mind my many questions. I'm afraid they haven't been able to analyze their religious positions from outside the box yet (and I'm easily tired by circular reasoning, being impatient and always wanting to get somewhere before the ice-cream is all melted), so our conversations go a bit awkward after a while. I'm not trying to turn these gals from their religion. I'm the one being evangelized to, remember? I just wish that people would do more theological homework before going out trying to convert someone else to their way of thinking. But then I did that and that quite resulted in me not believing in any religion anymore... So there you go. smiley #8886

Seeing Isn't Quite Believing Anymore (I Hope)...

Man, you can't turn the brain off even for a second these days...

Seems like a lot of work to have to pay so much attention when watching or reading (or even listening) to news and other programs, but if the alternative is to be taken in by tricks like these, I say that's quite worth it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bubbly Pigoletto

Having just finished reading her memoir, Bubbles: A Self Portrait, I have lately been binging on the late Beverly Sills on Youtube. What a wonderful artist she was! After repeated listening to her recording of the Egyptian queen's mesmerizing aria (V'adoro pupille), I wish there is a video of her first Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt).

No wonder they called her Bubbles, ay? Now opera fans, can you identify all the operas parodied in this clip?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where In The World Is L'ubica Orgonášová?

The Slovak operatic soprano Luba Orgonasova is one elusive singer! A lot of people wonder out loud about her and her career (such an alluring voice and positively splendid singer, but where the heck did she go???).

I only know her from a few recordings. Lately I had been listening to the Verdi Requiem from 1998 Montreux Festival again since I had to fix my previous upload of the soprano solo (Libera me) section. While waiting for the new clip (shown above) to load -- it's almost 15 min long so it was a long wait -- I went Googling and only found a few commercial bios and an interview in the Slovak language magazine Slovenka.... and a few upcoming concerts listed below for others who would love to hear her live one of these days:
Luba Orgonasova (Photo: Peter Brenkus)
5, 6 : Vienna, AUS - Haydn concert with N Harnoncourt & Wiener Hofmusikkapelle. Musikverein (Grosser Saal).
18  : Dresden, GER - Verdi Requiem with Jun Märkl & MDR Sinfonieorchester & Rundfunkchor. Dresden Frauenkirche.
20  : Leipzig, GER - Verdi Requiem with Jun Märkl & MDR Sinfonieorchester & Rundfunkchor. Leipziger Gewandhaus.


9  : Luxemburg - Concert with Riccardo Chailly, Helene Grimaud & Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Philharmonie Luxembourg Grand Auditorium.
10 : Hamburg, GER- Concert with R Chailly & Helene Grimaud. Laeiszhalle Musikhalle Grosser Saal.
15, 16 : Athens, GRE - Concert with R Chailly & Helen Grimaud. Megaron Concert Hall.
20 : Madrid, SPA - Concert with R Chailly & Helene Grimaud. Auditorio Nacional de Musica.

28, 30 : Graz, AUS: Dvorak's Stabat Mater (N Harnoncourt & Chamber Orchestra of Europe). Styriarte.

1    : Graz, AUS: Dvorak's Stabat Mater. Styriarte.

8, 9, 10:  Berlin, GER: Concert with Simon Rattle & Berlin Philharmonic (Rachmaninov's Kolokola). This concert is available on the Digital Concert Hall.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kasarova Watch & Schedule

It's been a while since I last posted about Vesselina Kasarova, but that doesn't mean that she hasn't been busy! After rebounding from a nasty bout of pneumonia that wiped out her initial run in the new production of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi in March the White Shirt Republic's favorite muse bounced back in style with her long awaited role debut as Dalila in Saint Saëns' Samson et Dalila at Deutsche Oper Berlin a bit over a month later. She understandably wasn't in top form, but from many first hand reports she gave her usual all and was as unique and committed as usual.

The reviews for her concerts with the Kammerphilharmonie Amadé were quite ecstatic. The good gal also even managed to squeeze a benefit concert for the Japanese victims of that horrific earthquake and tsunami into her already well packed schedule. Recently she did successfully reprise Bellini's Romeo at the Bavarian State Opera's summer festival (here is an English language review) and appeared on Annette Dasch's fun Salon. On deck is another go at Berlioz's Marguerite in La damnation de Faust in Weimar.

In the meanwhile, though, after spending 20 years or so with Hilbert Artists Management Frau Kasarova is now represented by Rita Schütz at Artists Management Zurich, an exciting change! I mean, just look at her pages at the AMZ website, dude. It's sleek, clean, organized, informative, and positively spiffy looking! Smiley The only thing missing for now is a well-updated schedule page (but then that'd do away with one of my favorite internet hobbies of Kasarova performance hunting, wouldn't it?). Already that's a cool change from the HAM site where, really, I must have emailed them 3 or 4 times already about how their artists' profile photos were all tipped over... like the one of my dear dear Vivica Genaux here:

It isn't your eyes, it's the foto!!!
And they (the foto's) are all still messed up... many months later. tongue smiley #8919 So... this is looking like a good change so far.

A recent interview (if you can read Bulgarian). Despite of some rumors, she is NOT giving up all her Rossini roles by 2013. She's just hanging up Rosina (in Il barbiere di Siviglia), but will keep on singing Isabella (L'Italiana in Algeri) for as long as possible.

A sad news along the way, the Vesselina Kasarova Fan Blog is now officially inactive. Keeping a current blog while holding a busy full-time job is tiring business. Thanks very much to the VKFB's webmistress Inma for all her work and care there. She brought a lot of VK fans together and fostered a very positive outlook among us (I dare say that VK fans are some of the most respectful and reasonable bunch of opera-goers you'll ever meet. We enjoy loving our favorite artists without feeling the need to belittle anybody else). Muchas gracias mi amiga!

Anyhow! Here is the updated performance schedule for Vesselina Kasarova as compiled from internet searches. If you notice any mistake or know of any schedule change, please don't hesitate to let me (and others) know!
Vesselina Kasarova as Orphee in Gluck's Orphee et Eurydice. Screenshot from Studio Farao DVD of the show.
Last updated 24 Nov 2011.


25 : Vienna, Austria: L'Italiana in Algeri (Isabella). Vienna State Opera


2, 5  : Munich, Germany: Maria Stuarda (Elisabetta). Concert performance at Philharmonie am Gasteig.

Recital in Sofia, Bulgaria in June 2011 (Photo: Vladislav Ninova-Evtimova)
15       : Hanover, Germany: The English Concert. Grosser Sendesaal im NDR.
16       : Berlin, Germany: The English Concert. Konzerthaus Berlin.

26, 28 : Berlin, Germany: Graun's Montezuma. Staatsoper Unter den Linden.

4, 8, 11, 18, 20, 27, 30  : Zurich, Switzerland: Don Carlo (Eboli). Opernhaus Zurich.

9           : Zurich, Switzerland: Don Carlo. Opernhaus Zurich
14, 17, 19, 22 : Vienna, Austria: Werther (Charlotte). Vienna State Opera
30      : Vienna, Austria: Viva Bel Canto concert with Krassimira Stoyanova. Musikverein.

2      : Munich, Germany: Viva Bel Canto joint concert with Krassimira Stoyanova. Philharmonie am Gasteig.
6      : Schwetzingen, Germany: Schwetzinger Festspiele Concert with Charles Spencer. 
12, 16, 19, 23, 26: Munich, Germany:   I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Romeo). Bavarian State Opera (Nationaltheater).

28  : Salzburg, Austria: Berlioz's La mort de Cléopâtre. Felsenreitschule, Salzburger Whitsun Festspiele.

3   : Halle, Germany: Händelfestspiele with Y Kamdzhalov and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra.
4   : Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany: Concert with Y Kamdzhalov and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra. Franziskaner Konzerthaus. 

6   : Helsinki, Finland: Concert with Y Kamdzhalov & Helsinki Baroque Orchestra. Helsinki Music Centre.
9   : Dresden, Germany: Concert with Yordan Kamdzhalov and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra. Dresden Frauenkirche.
29  : Hannover, Germany: Il barbiere di Siviglia. Staatsoper Hannover.

1-18  :  Tour with Frieder Obstfeld and Kammerphilharmonie Amadé
4       : Zurich, Switzerland: Carmen. Opernhaus Zurich

21, 22 : Salzburg, Austria: Handel's Messiah. Salzburger Festspiele


      : Geneva, Switzerland: Samson et Dalila. Grand Theatre de Geneve.

      : New York, USA: Carmen. Metropolitan Opera.
11-28: Tour with Frieder Obstfeld and Kammerphilharmonie Amadé

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brain Food: Leonard Mlodinow And How We All Walk The Drunkard's Walk

I read too many books at once and end up not retaining as much of each as I would like to. Though some books manage to capture my attention more than others

The Drunkard's Walk

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud: Superheroes Mania

A few weeks ago the City of San Diego was abuzz with its biggest annual convention, ComicCon. Downtown was totally swamped with visitors who spent millions of dollars at our local business. Truth be told, the San Diegans had as much fun sight-seeing their visitors as did the other way around. It's the only week of the year where you can walk past Captain Jack Sparrow, the Joker, the Riddler, Batman, Captain America, Harry Potter, Spiderman, etc all lounging around within a couple of city blocks of each other without causing any explosion or train wreck (though the sheer number of them did sort of wreck our trolley system for a few days).
Capt. Jack in search of lunch
I did read comic marvels in my youth, though my reading list gave way to more serious and less fantastic stuff somewhere in the seriousness of my grade school years. I still enjoy re-reading original classics though usually won't stay with them for long. 

What intrigues me about this current mainstream adoration of comic marvel superheroes (they seem to have taken over much of Hollywood now) is that my fellow adults are as much into it as the kids are. I can understand a child or a young adolescent's fascination with the concept of ordinary people being given fantastic supernatural power (some more dubious than others) so that they can use it to improve the world that they live in. For those who have matured beyond child-/adolescent-hood, however, I wonder if they aren't overindulging in this not very realistic theme a bit. 

Even super-villains need a ride once in a while.
There are a few things that are fundamentally uninspiring in comic heroes. First off, they usually didn't do anything to earn their supernatural power. The thing is given to them either with or without their consent. That they would choose to use it 'for good' is admirable except for the way in which their power is often used 'for good'. 

That brings me to the second, the preference for using force to settle all disputes and the blatant disregard for unintended consequences and collateral damages. It doesn't matter if the hero blows up a sidewalk full of people in his pursuit of one bad guy. The audience/readers are encouraged to cheer brutal beating up and killing of the bad guys, and to not notice the blassé indifference attitude in which the hero treats the life of bystanders (only the hero and the leading lady and/or the president he's trying to save count, everyone else is expendable and expended with). The corpses of the innocent are nearly never shown and all will hail the hero's triumph and forget all about the good dead in the end scene... which almost always ends at the end of the action (who cares about the cleaning up and mourning process after all the mess anyhow?).
Really, doesn't that strike you as the attitude a whole lot of people have these days? Wanting to be given things rather than to work hard to earn them? Only caring about short-term goal with near total disregard for long-term consequences? Copping out of taking the initiative to do their part in fixing their community's problem because, well, they hadn't been given any supernatural power?

Perhaps a lot of people of all the generations that have existed think that way (so ours isn't the worst era that ever was). I'm not condemning the comic movies and books either... I actually don't really know if they are driving the 'let someone else who 'have' do the fixing of things' attitude or if they are merely reflecting/catering to the already pre-existing condition. Lest my liberal readers protest that I'm picking on the 'have not's', I think the riches of today are exhibiting at least as much of the 'entitlement' attitude as those they'd like to call 'socialists' or 'liberals' do. We are all in this icky soup together and nobody is going to come and get us out of it. Everyone has to do their part whether they have or not!

And no, what's happening in London isn't an example of someone doing their part to fix things... And Mr. Cameron's idea about messing with social network sites there isn't either. vomit smiley #7502