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Author Topic:   Opera
jpgordo
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posted June 05, 2004 05:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jpgordo   Click Here to Email jpgordo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
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jpgordo
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posted July 19, 2004 07:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jpgordo   Click Here to Email jpgordo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Perfectionist Conductor Kleiber Dies

By PANOS KAKAVIATOS, Associated Press Writer

FRANKFURT, Germany - Carlos Kleiber, the celebrated perfectionist conductor whose mystique grew partly out of the rarity of his performances, has died. He was 74.

Kleiber died last Tuesday after a long illness and was buried Saturday at Konjsica, Slovenia, the Slovenian news agency STA said. A relative, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Kleiber had died and said the conductor wanted to be buried next to his wife, who was Slovenian and died in December.

"The greatest living conductor has left us," Ioan Holender, director of the Vienna State Opera, told the Austria Press Agency.

The son of famed conductor Erich Kleiber, Carlos Kleiber was an independent who refused to accept positions with companies, instead preferring to guest conduct wherever and whenever he pleased.

He was considered one of the great conductors of the late 20th century along with Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan and Georg Solti. Kleiber was a mysterious figure in the music world, refusing all interviews, but he repeatedly left orchestra players notes filled with instructions, which became known as "Kleibergrams."

"Carlos Kleiber was a musical genius beyond words," Luciano Pavarotti (news - web sites) said in a statement released through his spokeswoman, Terri Robson. "Music-loving audiences the world over were deprived of the privilege of experiencing him in public in more recent years, but he was a unique conductor and an extraordinary interpreter and the music world has suffered a tragic loss."

Kleiber's performances were electric, filled with precise tempi and unusual color. The tenor Placido Domingo, himself a conductor, called Kleiber the consummate conductor. Asked what attributes he would want from every living conductor, Domingo was quoted in Helen Matheopoulos' 1982 book "Maestro" as saying he would want "the cheering of Jimmy Levine, Claudio Abbado's special way of indicating a legato, Zubin Mehta's incredible facility.

"But from Carlos Kleiber, I would want ... everything."

Kleiber largely retired after 1994, conducting only a pair of concerts each in 1996 and 1997 before his final public performances, five concerts of Beethoven's Fourth and Seventh Symphonies followed by the overture to Johann Strauss Jr. "Die Fledermaus" with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Spain and Italy in January and February 1999.

When encountered by an AP reporter in his hotel's rooftop restaurant after the opening performance on Grand Canary Island and asked whether he had plans to conduct again in New York, he replied, "Maybe next year," sounding more like he was trying to end the conversation quickly than give an accurate answer.

Kleiber made his U.S. debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 12, 1978, conducting the overture to Weber's "Der Freischutz," Schubert's Third Symphony and Beethoven's Fifth. He returned to Orchestra Hall in June 1983 for Butterworth's English Idylls No. 1, Mozart's Symphony No. 33 and Brahms' Symphony No. 2.

His only other American performances were at the Metropolitan Opera (news - web sites), where he made his debut on Jan. 22, 1988, in a revival of Puccini's "La Boheme."

"Puccini's bittersweet tale of bohemian lovers in Paris had been heard 639 times at the Metropolitan Opera before Friday night's performance, but it's doubtful it ever sounded better," AP critic Mike Silverman wrote.

Kleiber conducted 19 performances in all at the Met over a two-year period, also leading the company in a new production of Verdi's "La Traviata" and revivals of Verdi's "Otello" and Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier." After that, he refused all overtures to return to the United States.

Carlos Kleiber was born in Berlin on July 3, 1930. His father had performed for the first time in the United States in 1930-31 with the New York Philharmonic and after the family fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the young Kleiber grew up in Argentina.

After the war, he studied chemistry in Switzerland, but his love for music led him to a 1954 conducting debut in Potsdam, East Germany, in Karl Milloecker's operetta "Gasparone." Instead of conducting under his own name, Kleiber conducted that night under the name Karl Keller, Matheopoulos wrote.

There was no immediate information on survivors.

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posted October 25, 2004 08:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Opera Star Robert Merrill Dies at 85

By ELIZABETH LeSURE, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - Acclaimed singer Robert Merrill, the opera baritone who felt equally comfortable on opening night at the Metropolitan Opera (news - web sites) House or opening day at Yankee Stadium, has died. He was 85.

Merrill died Saturday at his home in suburban New York City, family friend Barry Tucker said Monday.


Merrill, once described in Time magazine as "one of the Met's best baritones," became as well-known to New York Yankees fans for his season-opening rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" — a tradition that began in 1969.


In his 31 consecutive seasons with the Metropolitan Opera, Merrill performed virtually every baritone role in the operatic repertoire.


He earned admiration for his interpretations of dozens of roles, including Escamillo in "Carmen" and Figaro in "The Barber of Seville," reportedly his favorite opera.


Merrill once said opera "is the toughest art of all."


"It's a human instrument," he said. "Your voice, so many words, so much music. ... There's a lot of emotion."


Merrill was known for a velvet-smooth voice. Critics wrote that Merrill "worked hard to polish his natural rich baritone" and that he "noticeably improved each season."


Merrill retired from the Met in 1976 but returned to its stage in 1983, when the company marked its centennial.


"Few leading singers have graced the company with so many performances," Opera News said in 1996. "None have served it with more honor."


Throughout his career, Merrill sang with popular stars ranging from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong, appeared worldwide at music festivals and made numerous recordings. Merrill performed as a soloist with many of the world's great conductors, including Leonard Bernstein. He also appeared for several presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.


He also was a well-established radio and television soloist, beginning his television career on NBC's "Saturday Night Revue" in 1949.


Merrill's lifelong enthusiasm for baseball led to his long tenure at Yankee Stadium, where he sang the national anthem on opening day for three decades.


Merrill, who often appeared in a pinstriped shirt and tattered Yankees necktie, performed the same duty for the Yankees during the World Series (news - web sites), the playoffs and at Old-timers Day.


He took the job seriously and once said he didn't appreciate when singers tried to ad lib with "distortions."


"When you do the anthem, there's a legitimacy to it," Merrill told Newsday in 2000. "I'm bothered by these different interpretations of it."


Merrill made his operatic debut in 1944, singing Amonasro in "Aida" on a Trenton, N.J., stage. He signed on with the Metropolitan Opera in 1945 and debuted there that year as the elder Germont in "La Traviata."


"Mr. Merrill displayed a rich, vigorous baritone, ample in volume, effortlessly and surely produced," critic Robert A. Hague wrote at the time.

Merrill was born June 4, 1919, the son of shoe salesman Abraham Merrill and Lillian Balaban. His mother had an operatic and concert career in Poland before her marriage and guided her son through his early musical training.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Merrill was first inspired by music as a teenager when he saw a Metropolitan Opera performance of "Il Trovatore." The young baritone paid for singing lessons with extra money he earned as a semipro pitcher.

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posted October 27, 2004 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jerry Springer: The Irony

In a case of compounded irony, the hit London musical Jerry Springer: The Opera may be forced to close any day now because of the legal costs of bringing a defamation lawsuit against a London newspaper that published a gossip item last year saying that the show was in trouble and may be forced to close. Playbill, citing an unnamed source close to the show, reported in its online edition Tuesday that it "is on a knife-edge." Moreover, the publication noted, the producers of the show are at odds over the lawsuit against the London Daily Mail, which acknowledged that its original article was incorrect and printed a full apology. One group of producers insisted that it was not a party to the lawsuit and insisted that the costs of the action should be borne by the other group of producers and not charged to the production. Meanwhile, Playbill said that plans to bring the musical to Broadway are on hold, noting that one of its writers recently said that potential backers regarded it as "too commercially risky."

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indiedan
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posted December 03, 2004 10:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is LONDON

F***! BBC to air Springer musical
By Tara Conlan, Daily Mail

The BBC is to screen the most expletive-strewn programme in TV history.

More than 8,000 obscenities will be broadcast when BBC2 shows a screen version of the musical Jerry Springer The Opera in January.

The figure dwarfs the previous swearing record of 246 when Channel 4 aired the film Reservoir Dogs last year.

Even foul-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay pales in comparison - with 111 swear words in a single episode of his Channel 4 show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

Jerry Springer The Opera also risks offending religious groups because it contains blasphemous scenes.

The show has caused controversy since it opened in 2001. It contains 3,168 mentions of the f-word and 297 of the c-word - recognised by television watchdogs as the most offensive word to viewers.

At BBC2's launch of its winter schedule, the station's controller Roly Keating said the show would 'push back the boundaries of taste and decency'.

He said it will be shown after the 9pm watershed.

'It will be filmed as it is on stage,' he added. 'There will be warnings but we don't intend to cut it. Our audience will expect it to be broadcast uncut.'

But John Beyer, of TV lobby group Mediawatch said: 'The BBC is supposed to be cleaning up its act as it prepare for its Royal Charter to be renewed in 2006.

'Does this programme represent that? Research shows such bad language does alienate viewers.'

There is also bound to be controversy over the nature of some of the scenes, which include tap- dancing Ku Klux Klan members and a slanging match between Jesus and Satan.

Song titles also include Pregnant by a Transsexual, Talk To The Ass and Here Come the Hookers.

The West End show stars former Starsky and Hutch actor David Soul in the lead role of U.S. talk show host Springer and he will appear in the TV version.

The musical - which is based on Springer's confessional TV chat show - began life at South London's Battersea Arts in 2001

but moved on to open at the National Theatre in 2003.

It opened in the West End later that year and the producers hope to take it to Broadway next year.

Despite its controversial content it has won four best musical awards, including an Olivier award. When it opened in the West End it had advance box office sales of £2million.

It has also had productions in 60 cities and is watched by an average of 12,000 theatregoers a night. Springer himself has no connection with the musical. It was dreamed up by comedian Stewart Lee and his co-writer Richard Thomas.

Springer's programme, which has ceased production, was itself mired in controversy and was often reprimanded by watchdogs for its sordid content and fights.

The programme's host is now hoping to pursue a political career. BBC2's other highlights next year include a fly- on-the-wall documentary following Tory leader Michael Howard and his former rival Ann Widdecombe turns agony aunt for a trouble-shooting series called The Ann Widdecombe Project.

The Office star Martin Freeman returns in a new sitcom, The Robinsons, playing the black sheep of a London family while Pakistani Nights is a series of documentaries about what it means to be Pakistani in modern Britain.

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indiedan
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posted December 07, 2004 07:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Opera singer recovering after stabbing
Doctors 'hopeful' about Giuseppe Di Stefano

ROME, Italy (AP) -- Italian tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano was being taken off sedatives and doctors were hopeful about his recovery from injuries sustained in an attack at his home in Kenya last week, an official of the Italian Consulate said Tuesday.

Doctors at the hospital in Mombasa, where the 83-year-old Di Stefano is being treated, first operated on the retired opera star last Wednesday, a day after the attack, Tommaso Castellano, Italy's honorary consul, said by telephone from Mombasa.

He said Di Stefano, who was struck in the head during the attack, had been unconscious and fed on an intravenous drip since the operation, which had to be repeated Saturday. They plan to carry out a scan this week to check Di Stefano's condition once taken off sedatives, Castellano said.

"The doctors are hopeful that the first and second operations went well," Castellano said. "But since the patient has been unconscious, doctors have no way of checking yet whether the situation has improved, and by how much it might have improved."

Unidentified assailants carried out the attack at Di Stefano's house in Diani, about 270 miles southeast of Nairobi.

Castellano said Di Stefano received a blow to the head while trying to defend his wife as the assailants tried to steal her necklace. His wife received 16 stitches to her head at the hospital in Diani.

Di Stefano was considered one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, with a powerful and handsome voice. He is also remembered for ties with Maria Callas, who sang with him several times in the 1950s through her final tour in 1973.

Di Stefano sang at the world's top opera houses including Milan's La Scala, New York's Metropolitan, and in Vienna and Berlin. His last performance was in Rome in 1992.

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posted December 22, 2004 12:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Musicologist Gets $1.5M to Study Opera


CHICAGO - University of Chicago musicologist Philip Gossett has been awarded $1.5 million to continue his study of 19th-century Italian opera.

Gossett was named Friday as one of the recipients of this year's Distinguished Achievement Awards by the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


The foundation started handing out the annual awards in the humanities in 2001, and Gossett is the fourth UC scholar to win one.


Gossett, who spent 10 years as dean of the humanities division, is also a faculty member at the University of Rome. He is a specialist in the works of Italian composers Giuseppe Verdi and Gioacchino Rossini, and editor of critical editions of their scores. He is also past president of the American Musicological Society.


University spokeswoman Jennifer Carnig said the award will go to the university and Gossett will decide how it will be spent.


When he came to the university in 1968, Italian opera was still viewed by some musical scholars as a middlebrow taste unworthy of academic study.


"It was considered sort of below the kind of interests you were supposed to have," Gossett said recently. "In the field of musicology now, I and a number of my colleagues have succeeded in transforming music attitudes."

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indiedan
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posted January 06, 2005 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jerry Springer Opera, featuring 'gay Jesus', sparks record 5,500 complaints

LONDON (AFP) - Plans to broadcast a London musical that features a nappy-wearing Jesus who admits he is "a bit gay", have sparked a record 5,500 complaints, a television watchdog said.

The BBC nevertheless vowed to go ahead with its plan to show "Jerry Springer The Opera", based on the controversial US talk show and which is still playing to packed houses in the West End of London.


The opera contains a total of 3,168 "f"-words and 297 "c"-words. The expletive-laden songs include Pregnant By A Transsexual and Here Come The Hookers.


British media regulator Ofcom said it had received 5,500 complaints about the plan to broadcast the show, which is due to be screened on Saturday as the centrepiece of Jerry Springer Night on BBC2.


That figure is three times as many as the previous record holder, Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ," which sparked 1,554 complaints when it was shown on television here in 1995, it said.


The BBC added that it has received more than 15,000 calls from viewers concerned about the programme.


But the National Secular Society urged the national broadcaster to stand firm against "religious bullies".


"This organised attack is the latest of a series of attempts by religious interests to control what we can see or say in this country," said the group's vice-president Terry Sanderson.


The furore follows a Sikh protest in Birmingham over the staging of a controversial play "Behzti" (Dishonour), which depicts murder and rape in a fictional Sikh temple.


Violent protests led the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to cancel the production.

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posted January 10, 2005 02:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Springer Opera a Big Draw in the U.K.

Demonstrating yet again that the best promotion for a controversial show may be produced by those seeking to have it canceled, the BBC's production of Jerry Springer: The Opera Saturday night attracted 1.8 million viewers -- representing 20 percent more viewers than ordinarily tune into the channel during the 10:00 p.m. time period on Saturdays. In advance of the show, the BBC received nearly 50,000 complaints about it and the TV watchdog OFCOM, another 7,500, mostly from members of Christian groups who primarily objected to its use of four-letter obscenities and who called it blasphemous. One BBC exec went into hiding after receiving death threats when his home address and telephone number were posted on the website of the group Christian Voice. Veteran British talk-show host and commentator Joan Bakewell told the London Sunday Times: "The Christian right is seeing what's happened in the U.S. and copying it."

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posted January 27, 2005 02:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New Stamp Honors Singer Marian Anderson

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Marian Anderson returned to DAR Constitution Hall for one more triumph on Thursday. Famed for her contralto voice, Anderson was honored on a U.S. postage stamp with first-day-of-issue ceremonies at the Washington venue where the singer was once denied a chance to perform because of her skin color.

"There is no one more richly deserving of such an honor," commented James DePreist, director of conducting at The Juilliard School in New York and Anderson's nephew.


"I hope that it will give an opportunity for there to be a focus of attention on her, particularly her artistry," he said.


DePreist likened Anderson's success to that of Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player.


"When history collides with what you just want to do, your career, then what happens depends on how much grace resides within you," he said. "It was the combination of talent and grace that enabled both Jackie and, in the case of my aunt, not only to be able to handle obstacles, but to be able to handle them in such a way they became inspirations.


"The power of my aunt resided in the power or her art," DePreist concluded.


The initial snub in 1939 caused first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to resign from the Daughters of the American Revolution and to arrange for Anderson to perform before thousands at the Lincoln Memorial.


In later years Anderson did perform at Constitution Hall, including a 1942 concert to aid World War II relief efforts, and she began her farewell tour there in 1964.


The 37-cent stamp shows an oil painting of Anderson by Albert Slark of Ajax, Ontario, Canada, based on a black-and-white photograph believed to have been made by Moise Benkow in Stockholm in the mid-1930s.


Deputy Postmaster General John M. Nolan called the stamp "a powerful reminder of her unprecedented contribution to music and to her great sacrifice for justice."


Anderson died in 1993.

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posted March 22, 2005 01:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Critics Boo Opera/Video Production

German film producer Bernd Eichinger's effort to combine live opera with video was greeted with what the Berliner Morgenpost reviewer described as "a concert of boos." Another newspaper, the Berliner Zeitung, said that those applauding at the end of the performance dwindled quickly to about 30 people. A critic for yet another German newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, wrote: "Eichinger showed a video for every state of the soul, degrading Wagner's music to the status of a soundtrack." Eichinger is no stranger to controversy. His film, Der Untergang (The Downfall), about the last days of Hitler, although nominated for an Oscar, was attacked by numerous critics for making the Nazi leader appear too sympathetic.

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EmilySachs
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posted April 29, 2005 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for EmilySachs   Click Here to Email EmilySachs     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the New York Times:

April 17, 2005
Why the Starriest of Opera Houses Needs to be More Starstruck
By MATTHEW GUREWITSCH

REALITY changes; myths endure. For more than a century, the Metropolitan Opera has been synonymous with superstardom, so much so that no opera singer's claim on immortality has been secure without seasons of glory at the Met.

Long before there was an MGM, the Met was living the classic studio line, "More stars than the heavens." The Met booked stars, and symbiotically, stars made the Met. But while the company's prestige remains intact, its star quotient has declined steeply, with dire consequences at the box office.

The old-time magic has not disappeared entirely. Proven house favorites like Cecilia Bartoli, Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, Barbara Frittoli, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Karita Mattila, René Pape, Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt are in their prime. But sellinging tickets - 3,800 of them seven times a week for 32 weeks - is becoming harder. Only two singers on the current Met roster guarantee a full house: the multitasking elder statesman Plácido Domingo (tenor, conductor, talent scout and general director of companies in Washington and Los Angeles) and the reigning diva, Renée Fleming.

Reports on Met attendance cite a complex of interrelated troubles: a graying customer base, the disappearance of music education in schools, the staggering price of tickets ($26 to $315; $15 and $25 for standing room) and, of course, the post-9/11 economy. Sold-out houses, long the rule, are now the exception. Sure-fire productions of greatest hits that sustained the house through the 1990's - "Aida," "La Bohème," "Turandot" - play to rows of empty seats. But these are conditions that star-studded casts would instantly reverse.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Met were to set up shop as a star factory along the lines of MGM in the 1930's, leveraging the reputations of its best talents in its own institutional interest. It has already taken a few small steps in this direction. The steady relationship the Met enjoys with Ms. Voigt is paying off with good houses. Even more rewarding artistically is the partnership with the incandescent Ms. Mattila, in new productions of "Queen of Spades," "Jenufa," "Fidelio" and "Salome," as well as in revivals. Next year, she returns in "Lohengrin" and "Fidelio": good news that could be improved only by adding her debut in a new role. Houston and Chicago are giving her one, as Puccini's Manon Lescaut.

But officially the Met disavows efforts to push individual artists. "We only do it," said Sarah Billinghurst, the Met's assistant manager for artistic affairs, "by putting them in operas in which they shine."

Of course, the job of bagging big game is another one that is harder than it used to be. Though stars worthy of the name still exist, there are fewer than press agents would have us believe, and most of them don't last. Financial problems are also a factor.

"Everyone wants to sing here," said Jonathan Friend, the company's artistic administrator. "But for how many performances? Our top fee is $15,000. In Europe, it's generally 18,000 euros, nearly $24,000. Singers who used to come happily for several extended periods in a season will now only come once, for a shorter period. We may ask for 20 performances, but will we get them? Stars who just want to establish a Met presence can do it with five."

Hence all those runs of chestnuts like Rossini's "Barbiere di Siviglia" and Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro" with "ensemble" casts that - good, bad or indifferent - work no box-office magic.

In a recent conversation in Ms. Billinghurst's surprisingly spartan office, stacked high with videos and CD's, she and Mr. Friend noted the audience's warm response to the recent revival, after 13 seasons, of Verdi's sumptuous, rarely performed "Vespri Siciliani," once a Met vehicle for Montserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes and Justino Diaz, and now assigned to singers of lesser stature.

"Operas that used to be popular, people want to hear again," Ms. Billinghurst said. " 'La Gioconda,' 'Ernani,' 'La Fanciulla del West,' 'Adriana Lecouvreur.' These are operas we can cast. You'll be seeing them again, in the classic productions."

But remember that these faded hits were vehicles in their time for the likes of Renata Tebaldi, Renata Scotto, Regina Resnick, Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli, Richard Tucker and Ezio Pinza. They will require that sort of star power if they are not to sink quickly back to obscurity.

Have the standards of stardom changed? Not at all. What impresarios still dream of are artists whose distinctive gifts - voice, looks, stage presence, dramatic flair and choice of roles - and perhaps some human-interest angle will take even the general audience by storm. But who will spread the word? And is the public still primed to respond?

Birgit Nilsson's Met debut, as Wagner's Isolde in 1959, rose to that standard; it landed her on the front page of The New York Times. Leontyne Price's Met debut, as Leonora in Verdi's "Trovatore" in 1961, rated the cover of Time.

Bryn Terfel, the brawny Welsh baritone whose Met debut in the title role of Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro" in 1994 was reviewed in The Times, was probably the last really to reap the benefits of such exposure. This season, when Angela M. Brown, a standby and second-cast Aida whose break was long in coming made the front page of The Times, the Met management was flabbergasted and delighted. But her remaining performance did not sell out.

Yet perhaps the tide is turning. Gounod's "Faust," the opera with which the Met's history began in 1883, returns on Thursday with a cast worth a major detour, particularly for the mesmerizing Mr. Pape's debut in the showy part of Méphistophelès, which he will surely play to the hilt.

And don't forget how in December the Met triumphed with "Rodelinda," the all-star Handel extravaganza assembled around Ms. Fleming. When all nine performances sold out, the scramble began to bring the show back next season. But at the Met, such pouncing is rare.

Remember Salvatore Licitra's surprise debut in 2002? Pinch-hitting for Luciano Pavarotti in a season-ending "Tosca," he, too, made the front page of The Times and won a raft of instant fans. Last month, finally, the Met welcomed Mr. Licitra back in the performances it contracted him for five years ago. Again, the opera was "Tosca." Why hadn't he appeared there in the meantime?

"We may want to strike while the iron is hot," said Stewart Pearce, the Met's assistant manager for planning and marketing, joining the conversation, "but the artist may be unavailable." Still, since his big break, Mr. Licitra has found time for the New York Choral Society, in concert performances of Verdi's "Forza del Destino" and "Ballo in Maschera," and for the Washington National Opera, where he opened the season as the hero of Giordano's "Andrea Chénier."

The trick to getting the stars you want is to make them offers they can't refuse. But does any opera singer today have carte blanche? Alec C. Treuhaft, senior vice president and director of the vocal division at IMG Artists, has a roster of clients who just might: among them, Ms. Fleming, Susan Graham, Dawn Upshaw and David Daniels. But no.

"I wouldn't say carte blanche," Mr. Treuhaft said recently. "I would say that there are artists who are faced with doors that are wide open for them to come in, sit down and collaborate with theaters on productions that will get them enormous recognition and the career satisfaction they want, while the theaters will come out with tickets sold and reputations polished."

On the evidence, quite a few proven Met favorites are finding those open doors at houses other than the Met.

Met audiences haven't seen much lately of Mr. Terfel. "Bryn has three young boys, and he loves living in Wales," Ms. Billinghurst said. "We take him for everything he'll give us." That means an occasional guest shot in a signature role like Jokanaan, in Strauss's "Salome" or the title role of Verdi's "Falstaff."

Meanwhile, at the Royal Opera in London (an easy commute from Wales), Mr. Terfel is tackling Wotan, chief god, in Wagner's "Ring." Even more galling to a New Yorker was his appearance at Lyric Opera of Chicago in the title role of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd."

And what about the scintillating French soprano Natalie Dessay, who bypassed New York in favor of Chicago for "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Santa Fe for "La Sonnambula"? (She returns next year as the heroine in a new production of Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette.")

Or Cecilia Bartoli, who has been missing for five seasons while performing in Zurich, in varied and engrossing parts from Paisiello's "Nina," Mozart's "Così Fan Tutte," Rossini's "Italiana in Algeri" and, currently, Handel's "Giulio Cesare"?

The subject is touchy. "Conversely," Mr. Friend said, "the total number of performances and the range of parts Renée Fleming gives Milan, Vienna and London over a period of years may be far less than we get at the Met in one season. I hope your colleagues in those cities give our colleagues in those cities grief about that."

Joseph Volpe, the Met's general manager, reflects on these issues with disarming self-effacement.

"The Met didn't develop Renée Fleming's career," Mr. Volpe said. "She did. She's already a star. Now she tells me she wants the Met to be her opera house, and I'm delighted."

But why haven't we seen more of Anna Netrebko, whose doe-eyed Natasha in Prokofiev's epic "War and Peace" enthralled Met audiences? The best the Met has dredged up for her since is Musetta, in "La Bohème," an also-ran role if ever there was one.

The recent announcement of next season's repertory brought better news: a new production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," with Ms. Netrebko partnered by the dashing Mr. Flórez. Still, this is practically musical comedy, and elsewhere Ms. Netrebko is making her mark as a tragedienne.

"Anna is a developing star," Mr. Volpe said. "She's very careful, and she needs to be, about what she sings at the Met. She can choose roles more aggressively with other companies. Our role is not to cast her so as to cause a setback." He was referring, no doubt, to the size of the house as well as its high profile.

But Mr. Volpe's assessment is hard to reconcile with other evidence of Ms. Netrebko's nerve. She set the Salzburg Festival on fire in 2002 as Donna Anna in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," and she is returning for a new "Traviata" in the big house this summer. According to the box office, the Netrebko "Traviata" is proving the hottest ticket since the death of the festival's longtime figurehead Herbert von Karajan 15 years ago.

Salzburg, in its more limited way, is investing in Ms. Netrebko the way the Met once did in Mr. Pavarotti and Mr. Domingo, who have both credited the Met with consolidating their pre-eminence.

"Would it be presumptuous for me to agree with that?" Mr. Volpe asked. "Plácido and Luciano always did more performances here than anywhere else. New York is an important city. The Met is an important house. And there was the relationship with our music director, James Levine, which allowed them to develop."

After three decades at the Met and 15 years as general manager of the Met, with just one season left to go, are there any dreams Mr. Volpe will leave unfulfilled?

"What's needed most today?" he asked by way of reply. "It wouldn't be a project. It's not a question of which opera and which singer. When I started at the Met, in 1990, we did 22 operas a year. Now we're getting close to 30.

"If I could wave a wand, we'd have 37, with a maximum of six performances each, all of them thoroughly rehearsed. No long runs with different casts wandering in and out. Certain artists - Karita, Renée - wouldn't do just one run a season but a couple. That would solve the problems of today as never before."

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jpgordo
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From:Studio City, CA
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posted June 22, 2005 08:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jpgordo   Click Here to Email jpgordo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
bump

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opus_125
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posted August 04, 2005 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for opus_125   Click Here to Email opus_125     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think this is the time for Verdi. I know he's played in opera houses all over the world - but now it's time for some serious attention to be paid!

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NEWSFLASH
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posted August 08, 2005 10:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Opera Singer Helen L. Phillips Dies

Helen L. Phillips, a soprano who broke the color barrier among singers at the Metropolitan Opera seven years before Marian Anderson's historic debut, has died at 86.

Phillips died of heart failure July 27 at New York's Isabella Geriatric Center, her nurse there said.

Although the opera company had no formal policy barring non-whites from appearing on its stage, Phillips became the first black chorister when she was hired as an extra for five performances of Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" from December 1947 through February 1948, said Met archivist Jeff McMillan. In 1933, a troupe of black dancers performed with the Met, he said.

In January 1955, Anderson became the first black singer to perform a major role at the Met, portraying Ulrica in Verdi's "A Masked Ball."

A native of St. Louis who graduated from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Phillips went on to build a career as a soloist in the early 1950s. She sang at Manhattan's Town Hall in 1953, and with orchestras in Madrid, Spain, and St. Louis, where she also sang with the opera company.

In 1954, Phillips sang the part of Queenie in a production of "Show Boat" at New York's City Center.

She also performed more than 500 times as part of a State Department entertainment tour of Austria and West Germany.

Phillips later became a schoolteacher and vocal coach.

The first black singer to sign a full-time contract with the Met chorus was Elinor Harper, who made her debut in 1962.

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