Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year

  First of all happy 2013 to everyone!  I hope everyone has a great and prosperous year.  My 2012 was pretty good in general although the second half of the year flew by insanely fast.  I feel like that happens with every year.  September-December, where did it go?  I was too busy to really notice it.  Too busy with work, getting in my own way, performances, and all that jazz.  Life goes by and we miss it.  I know that goes for me personally.  I need to have a little gratitude, which I do at the moment. I am a live, well, doing what I love to do, and on a good path if I allow it to unfold.  I learn more and more each day, even though some days are like, what happened to that day?  When time flies by it is important to remember that any day we are a live is a gift.  I will repeat that, if we are a live, it is a gift.  I was in a deli buying some water yesterday, and the man behind the desk said that to me.
   All of these shootings and hate crimes, which have been contagious lately for some reason, are prime examples of why each day is a gift.  We never know what might happen, and regretfully, that is even more the case than ever right now, and that is a bit of a shame.  The shooting took place in Connecticut, now things like that are happening more.  The question of why they happen in the first place is one I cannot really answer.  We need love versus hate in the world.  Only love really is worthwhile.  When I have any type of hate I feel terrible inside and out.  It is not a healthy emotion to have.  Problems are not really solved by hate.  Hate causes death and all sorts of other problems.  Plus when people walk around with hate, it comes out of their every pore, and it noticeable.  If I am walking down the street, and projecting hate, people look uncomfortable, and I do not even know them.
   So, I am hoping that there is more love and less hate in 2013.   That includes me sometimes, especially towards myself.  Hate is such a waste of time.  I am not talking about myself as an artist when I say that.  If I play Iago, I have to have hate for the character.  Real life is not the same thing, and I do not think people realize that when they go on shooting sprees or whatever it may be.  Life is too short for anger and hate.  Love goes a lot further, and accomplishes a lot more with more effective results.  If I express anger and hate towards someone, I am going to get it back, or shut the other person down, whereas, the opposite is also true.  I guess this is a bunch of random philosophy type jargon, but I want all the hate and anger to stop, including my own.  I always include myself when I write these kind of things, so as not to be a hypocrite.
   My resolutions for 2013 are to not live in fear, take some risks with my craft, be as kind to others as I can, and keep making positive changes.  Life is a life time journey, and all I can do is my best.  But, it is worth changing for the positive, or why bother.  Life is such a precious gift, which is more precious than ever at this point in time.  I just need to not try too hard to figure life out, or it will just go by like the wind, which it does already.  I am not really into the I'm going to go to the gym everyday.  I need to exercise, but I do not do the I'm going to lose 40 pounds by March 1st kind of talk.  It does not work for me.  I state goals in a more general sense, and I do not put the timeline pressure on myself.  So, happy 2013, and lets make the most of the time we have on earth.

The People That Walked in Darkness, from Handel's "Messiah" by nickbass78

The People That Walked in Darkness, from Handel's "Messiah" by nickbass78

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Post

It's been nearly a month since my last posting.  Busy, busy, busy equals exhausting, but it is good to be busy.  Those shootings sure were disturbing last Friday.  I went on facebook, my current addiction of choice, and people wrote about these shootings.  I google searched it in disbelief and alas it really happened.   So much for a normal day at school for a bunch of innocent adults and children, right?  Schools should be the safest and most nurturing places on the face of the earth.  Well, so much for that idea, and this has been occuring numerous times I might add.  What causes these shooters to open fire is something I am not qualified to answer.  The kid who was the gunman's mother shouldn't have had a gun in the house, that's for sure.  There are so many accidents and uintentional, and intentional problems with guns, need I say more?  Plus if someone is angry, escaping with a kick in the nuts beats a gun shot wound, right?  I don't mean to offend anyone with that remark, but I am putting home the issue at hand here.  Just, the plain fact is that the mother of the shooter owned a gun.  These things are complicated, but I have no idea why she owned a freaking gun.  I really don't know what the answer is.  Not owning a gun would help though.  There are many tragic events in the world each day, and this one hit me really hard, as it did many people.  Seeing the video of that sweet little girl playing the piano and singing is heart breaking.  We lost a potentially great musician and human being there.  She was just having fun and being a kid.  Many people with careers, marriages, and children of their own in the future were lost.  These children were part of our great hope for future generations.    One or many of these children could have made a huge difference in the world, and they have been stripped of that chance.  The main thing is they were innocent people partaking in normal school activities.  Imagine being a family member or friend of the victims and trying to accept the situation.  Isn't acceptance a bitch sometimes?  It sure is here.
   I'm pretty lucky, as are a lot of us to have our lives and health.  I have a choice of whether to enjoy life or not in this very moment in time.  Since events continually occur that prove how precious life is, enjoying life is a good idea.  Life can be flat out exhausting and what not, but hey I'll take it.  The blessings in my own life out weigh the problems by a million pounds.


Thursday, November 22, 2012


     I feel like it is has been ages since I have written a blog about anything.  I have been short on things to write about.  Anyway, here goes something I suppose.  I have been able to do some pretty good performances over the last month.  One of the highlights was singing in "Nevsky" with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stephane Deneve.  He is a good conductor to watch out for, and I hope he is in Philly for other concerts.  Another highlight of last weekend was singing under British conductor and composer Phillip Stopford.  He is a very smart musician, who got over 200 people to sing pretty damn well together, and he did it with grace, dignity, and good humor.  There will be plenty of performing to come at Christmas time including a midnight mass, and Christmas morning mass.  Also, I am doing a recital at Solley Theatre in the Paul Robeson Center in Princeton on December 9th, a Philadelphia Singers Concert, and the Messiah with the Philadelphia Singers chorale.  I am performing the recital for performance practice, and also to give people pleasure with music.  Donations are appreciated, but it is really about the music.  I will not be singing the Grinch, so sorry.  I am also auditioning for the Met Chorus on December 11.  My goals are to sing well and not get lost in the building.  When in doubt, do those two things at auditions, and you cannot lose.  It is an experience, what else can I say?  It sure is a lot of stuff coming up.  Sleep has been sporadic because of commuting, anticipation, and my diva cat.  The diva likes to talk to me when I get home late at night, but hey, I will take it.  She saved me more than I saved her is how I look at it.  So, what am I thankful for?
     The list is quite long when I think about it logically.  Logic, what's that?  I have a roof over my head, a nice family and friends, a pet, food, music etc...  Gratitude and attitude rhyme for a reason.  It is important to have gratitude everyday, not just today.  Today is a day off, so there is more time to think about gratitude, and what I am grateful for.  There is really no excuse for not being grateful for me personally.  As I write about gratitude, I gain it.  Anyway, I wish everyone a happy rest of Thanksgiving.  Also, I vote not to go too crazy with the whole Black Friday thing.  I am being opinionated, and proud of it.  Remember, who and what you have in your lives, versus going insane with shopping.  I am all for thinking of other people, and for the phrase "it's the thought that count."  The thought most certainly does count, but so does safety.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The dark is flat out depressing when it is for a continued period of time.  I feel very lethargic and tired at the moment.  It could be slowing down on a crazy schedule combined with the dark.  Sandy you were a bitch and a half.  This lack of power thing is depressing, but also helps me keep in perspective that I could be less fortunate all the time, not just temporarily.   I am a very lucky person, as are a lot of us.  It is so easy to take the basic essentials such as electricity for granted.        Well, now it's night time and candles are lite.  It almost feels like a little meditation retreat.  Hopefully it will not be too long until things are restored.  That was one nasty storm.  One of the nastiest I have witnessed.  A lack of power is a mere inconvenience.  People lost their homes, have flooded neighborhoods, some people are dead, trapped, stuck in shelters etc..  The purpose of this posting is perspective, perspective,  perspective.  Perspective is really important in something like this.  I hope all my friends and the like are safe.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Good sayings for not taking life too seriously

This my sound kind of silly, but don't take the small stuff too seriously. It's pretty tiring to do so, believe me. I'm better at handling the big stuff, versus the crap that is virtually meaningless. Simply put, life is too short. Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today. James Dean "Enjoy yourself - it's later than you think." Socrates And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln Enjoy life! This is not a rehearsal. Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. Elbert Hubbard "Every minute should be enjoyed and savored." Earl Nightingale "The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it, therefore, while it lasts, and not spend it to no purpose." Plutarch "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." Marcus Aurelius My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right? Charles Schulz To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. Emily Dickinson Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed. Corita Kent There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming – "WOW – What a Ride!" Unknown "I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." Diane Ackerman Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. Hans Christian Andersen "The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live." Joan Borysenko I mean, there's little enough in this life, really, and you only find it worth living for the odd moments, and if you think you're going to have those odd moments again, then it makes life wonderful and have a meaning. Anthony Burgess "Live to the point of tears." Albert Camus "The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it." W. M. Lewis

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Write This Blog?

I've been asking myself lately why I continue to write entries to this blog. Someone laughed at me once when I told him I have a blog.  I was interested in sharing it with him, and that's the response I got.  Well, I'll explain why I write this blog.     First of all, writing helps me to create.  Writing is an awesome form of expression which can invoke new and interesting thoughts.  Second, I might write about something that not only helps me, but helps other people as well.  If I am down in the dumps, or down and out, I can discuss what I do to get back on track.  Someone who is going through the same thing may think they are the only one.  I can help reassure them that they're not.  Next, I can share about my love of music.  Music saves lives.  I like to share about my favorite singers, recordings, and review performances I've been to.  If I share my love of music it might inspire them and change their life.  Music is beneficial to humanity.  I like to share wisdom I've read or been taught.  Sometimes, I hear something or read something that serves as an ah hah moment, and I like to share it with other people.  When tragedies strike, and people need comfort, I like to write about it to comfort myself and others.  If something I say in these blog postings makes someone laugh, have a new hobby, or whatever, I'm serving a purpose.  So, if I get asked why I have a blog, those are some of my reasons.   I'm not writing this to moan about someone finding it amusing that I have a blog. Well, I do like bitching sometimes, I won't lie to all of you. If someone laughs at something you're doing, I highly suggest not falling victim to it. Keep doing it if it's something you love. Only I can discourage myself, no one else can unless I give them permission. We only live once, and people are going to laugh at us sometimes. Who cares? If I care, that's my problem. If they laugh, that's their problem.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

L'elisir d'amore at the Metropolitan Opera

The first run or Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" is now over. I got to see it live this past Wednesday night, and really enjoyed the show. This production stared Anna Netrebko as Adina, Matthew Polenzani as Nemerino, Mariusz Kwiecień as Belcore and Ambrogio Maestri as Dulcamara. The Met Orchestra was conducted by Maurizio Benini. The set was simple, not distracting, pleasant to look at and therefore effective. This production was not modernized like most Met productions have been lately. I honestly found that to be a relief. I cannot see this opera being modernized, but maybe I am wrong. The orchestra an chorus were solid musically, but a little behind the beat because Benini's tempos were on the fast side. Sometimes they were too much on the fast side for me, especially in Dulcamara's entrance aria. Anna Netrebko was a good Adina on stage, but her voice is too heavy for the role in my opinion. Therefore, the vowels were not as clear as I would have liked them to be. Her voice is impressive in terms of size. Diana Damrau sang Adina in the Met's last production. I think she is a better casting choice for Adina. Matthew Polenzani was a great Nemorino not only vocally, but with regard to his portrayal of the character. His soft pianissimo singing in "Una Furtiva Lagrima" reminded me of Tito Schipa. Polenzani is an exceptional lieder singer, and that showed with his great musicianship. Mariusz Kwiecień was a fantastic Belcore. He interpolated a great high G at the end of his entrance aria. In addition, he looked the part of an arrogant Sargent and played it very well. He's ideal for Donzetti's baritone roles. Ambrogio Maestri was a questionable choice for Dulcamara for me before I actually saw the show. He played Scarpia in a production of "Tosca" I was a part of in Switzerland. He proved me wrong, and was a great Dulcamara. His whistling between notes was really skillful and funny. All that being said, I would cast someone like Alessandro Corbelli, who sang Dulcamara in last year's Met production. Maestri ie a huge man, and a very intimidating opera villain. On the whole I really liked this production of L'elisir d'amore. Basically the story of the opera is that Nemorino is in love with Adina, and she won't give him the time of day. She at first buys into Sergant Belcore's arrogance, but then ends up liking Nemorino for who he is. In the meantime, Nemorino buys a "love potion" from the hack Doctor Dulcamra. This supposed elixir is really bordeaux. Nemorino still believes he has won Adina because of that potion at the end. Is he stupid for believing that? Yes. But, still I really like the fact that Adina ends up liking Nemorino for who he is. So, basically this is a spoof of Tristan and Isolde. This production will continue with the same cast in a few months, with the exception of Erwin Schrott taking over the role of Dulcamara.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Animal Violence Has Nothing to do with Politics

This is not intended to be a politically based blog posting.  I don't  address politics in my blog postings mainly because the hostility with the whole subject is way out of whack.  So, I search online for cats for Obama memorabilia for a little humor.  I found a picture of a hanged cat on top of an Obama/Biden sign.  By the way, yes that is a true story.  That's just plain sick.  I don't care what side the person's on, but I looked for the opposite on the Internet of a cat hanged on a Romney sign and didn't find it.  But, no matter, the point is animals don't understand politics the last time I checked.  So this is more amount humanity than politics. If anything, that innocent cat was creating peace between all this bullshit.  This is not the only story I've heard which is like this.   My point of all this is that it's someone's pet no matter what side they are on.  I guarantee everyone that if I discussed my views with my cat she would meow because of the sound of my voice, not because she understands what I'm saying.  Finally, killing someone's pet is not going to change their vote.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Doing The Right Thing

    It was still dark when I woke up this morning.  That's just not cool.  Even my cat was like what the fuck is this. So I rode the NJ transit to Trenton, and got on the SEPTA.  This guy behind me got on, and asked about the train in an insanely loud tenor voice.  I almost made a sarcastic remark like they can hear you  in Washington.  But no, I didn't do that.  He was obviously confused.  So, he said I think I'm on the wrong train.  It turns out he was completely on the wrong train.  So, I did what was right, and I got him onto the right train by carrying his bag and everything.  Doing the right thing felt really good. I don't care what people think about this, I just know it makes me feel good.     Doing the wrong thing just feels bad.  If I had told that guy to shut up, I would have felt bad all day long.  My behavior effects other people and animals.  We are all human.  Of course we make mistakes with regard to how we treat people.  I always have to try to forgive myself when I make mistakes.  I am my own worst critic.  But, I was glad I knew what the right thing was this morning.  It taught me a valuable lesson.  I've been taking the train to and from Philly, and New York for over a decade, so I tend to take it for granted because I know what to do.  This man was clearly confused, and nearly missed his train, so I was glad I could be of help.  Helping like that should be a natural instinct.  I think that for most people it is underneath.    It's a normal thing to do, but I still enjoy writing about these things regardless.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Recitals Coming Up

I am performing two recital programs with pianist Stefanie Watson.  One will be at the Solley Theatre at the Arts Council of Princeton located at Robeson Performing Arts Center on 12/9/12 at 230, and the other will be at the Highland Park Public Library on 1/10/13 at 7 PM.      The programs for both days will the same.  We will be performing songs and arias signifying summons, prayers, pardoning, various animals, humility, lifes challenges and resolutions, and a fat guy singing a drinking song.  Genres will range from opera to art song to show tunes.      We are putting on these recitals because we both love performing.  I like to share my love of singing with people, and also practice my craft since I learn from every performance.    The program is "Arise Ye Subterranean Winds" by Henry Purcell, "Si la Rigueur" from "La Juive", O Isis und Osiris from "The Magic Flute", Grenzen der Menscheit, Wanderers Nachtlied 1 and Wanderers Nachtlied 2 by Schubert , "Le Bestiares"by Poulenc, Songs my mother taught me, Charlie Rutlage, Romanzo di Central Park by Ives, Als Bublein Klein from the Merry Wives of Windsor, and a few show tunes which I will announce.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Next Level

I have had writers block lately, and still have it now, but I am going to attempt to write now to get out of it. Here goes. I feel a strong desire to take the next level as a human being and musician. That's scary stuff, because it involves taking risks which get me out of my comfort zone. It really involves putting myself out there both musically and socially. If I isolate in both respects, where does that get me? Well, no where essentially except in the same zone. There's power in me to take the next level of that's if I tap into it. I am an ironed will kind of guy. If I use that iron will properly, great things await. Of course bad things happen, and life isn't one sided. However, I can become a better person and musician throughout my life if I use spiritual power, which is proper use of the will. Now, here's the other side of the coin. There are negative behaviors engrained in me which will keep me on the same level or take me down levels. Smoke me is an even clearer way of putting it. If I continually shame myself, judge myself, tell myself I can't do things, then I'm toast. What I need to do to take the next level is take risks. Perform, take auditions, be more social and what not. Of course I say need objectively, because I am an adult and don't have to do anything. Not doing things which result in positive growth is just a poor choice. Making the right choices which involve risk of criticism is tough because or fear (fuck everything and run). Well ffire(fuck fear in its rear end), and fear (face everything and roar)it's better that way despite the initial fear. How many times do we live? So live.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Giving up Control

It is astounding how we cannot control certain things which are going on around us no matter how hard we try.  The idea of giving up control is a really hard lesson to learn.   I was in traffic galore this morning on US 1.  It was un-bleeping believable.  I got all ticked off because I was late for something very important to me.  The powers that be were fucking me over, dammit!  I had to be there at 930 and left at 8 to go 18 miles.  It took me until 1015, and I was pissed as a lion.  Of course this kind of scenario is annoying, but I didn't successfully control it.  Throwing fits like a toddler in my car didn't work, nor did trying another road.   Trying another road got me lost for five minutes, and making a circle back onto route 1.  Then I started laughing, because I wasted time instead of making up time.      Anyway, my voice lesson was the best fifteen minute lesson I've ever had, because it was the first one I ever had.  I learned a lesson during it which helped my support, so awesome!  My shit fits didn't make the traffic move faster.  Not a big shocker there, right? It is a learned behavior for me to get peaved in traffic.  I hate traffic with a passion.  Anger releases  endorphins, but toxic ones.  I do not honestly know if toxic endorphins is the correct term, but I do know that anger releases endorphins.  These endorphins create a temporary energy, but don't you know it the problem doesn't go away.  Instead energy and precious time are wasted.    Thinking about what is good in my life, and in the world, and listening to good music would have been a better alternative to anger.  There still would have been traffic, but the time would have been used much more wisely.  Anger is ok, I am not saying its not.  I have made this point before, but it is worth driving it home again.  Anger is fine when used properly.  If someone steps on someone's toes, they can say I love you, but I don't like what you did.  Rabbi Abraham Twerski nails this point when he talks about parenting and says that when he did something bad his father would tell him that the act was beneath his dignity.  Having toddler fits in traffic is beneath my dignity, I know that much.  Now, thinking that is much better than beating myself up for wasting time, and yada yada yada.  This is because that was this morning, and that is the past.  Regretting the past is just bleh.   The present is now.  I can react differently right now.  I can't control other people, things, and situations.  I can only control how I react right now.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Arias I Perform and/or Audition With

This is one of the arias I use for auditions and performances. Others include "Vecchia Zimarra" from La Boheme, "La Vendetta" from Le Nozze di Figaro, "Si la Rigueur" from "La Juive", "Bottom's Dream" from Midsummer, "Gremin's Aria" from Eugene Onegin, and Varlaam's song from Boris Godunov. Arias I Perform and/or Audition With

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Tribute to John Shirley-Quirk

This post is a tribute to the lengendary John Shirley-Quirk, also known as the great hyphen. I just found out that Mr. Shirley-Quirk is retiring from the Peabody faculty. I was fortunate to have the privilege of working with this icon of an artist. He is on well over a hundred recordings and sang repertoire from Bach to Schoenberg, and repertoire in several languages. I remember the beauty and power of both his speaking voice and his singing voice. I have fond memories of his insanely wide range in his singing and speaking voice. He would often say nope in a high pitched voice. He had a great sense of humor as well. I remember complaining that something was too high in his German Lieder class. His response was "get the dime in the butt and sing the damn thing." His repertoire class was a lot of fun to crash when I was pursuing my Masters at Peabody. He was so much fun and supportive to sing for, while he would enjoy his non alcoholic beer. However, on certain days he could really put people in their place. I sang in front of him on one of those days. I was coming down with the flu, and unwisely sang anyway, and he let me have it. That was horrible was said multiple times because I was singing penultimate syllables too long in a recitative. However, first and foremost, he was trying to make me better which he did. Anyway, I am writing this so I can share a little bit about the impressions John Shirley-Quirk left on me. He had a long and very successful singing career, after starting out as a chemist. His voice was extraordinary, like I mentioned. I remember hearing him sing "Wintereisse", "Beethoven 9", songs by Brahms, and the "Mozart Requiem" in remembrance of 9/11. The winner however, was hearing him sing parts of Britten's "War Requiem" in his workshop on the great work by Britten. Mr. Shirley-Quirk premiered several of Britten's works and is on several recordings with Britten conducting his own works, and other works such as "Sea Drift" by Delius. He rode on boats with Britten himself. Swallow that for a second. In this workshop I mentioned above, he sang some of the baritone solos in the "War Requiem" without the score! I have never heard Wilfred Owen's poetry recited with such terror, and bitterness. Everyone in the room realized that something really special was going on. In addition, I have also enjoyed many of his recordings, including his definitive recording of "The Songs of Travel" by Ralph Vaughan Williams. He recorded under practically all the lengendary conductors of the second half of the twentieth century including, Solti, Giulini, Davis, and Monteux to name a few. Like I said, his career was hugely successful, as was his teaching career at Peabody. Despite Mr. Shirley-Quirk's great successes, his life has also been struck by several personal tragedies. I believe he has lost two wives and a daughter. I cannot even comprehend what that must be like, because I have not experienced it. Although, I was glad to be of some support at his daughter's funeral. I admire Mr. Shirley-Quirk's grace during these tragedies. He loved teaching so much that he went right back into it after his daughter's death. When I first interacted with him, I saw him giving a masterclass, and being pretty tough. I was a freshman, so I was intimidated. However, I got to know a great man. I sure was lucky to get to I interact with him as much as I did. His years at Peabody meant a lot to many people.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Unique Conception of "Carmen"

Come see a cool approach to Bizet's "Carmen" tonight and Saturday night at 8, at the East 13th Street Theatre in New York City. You know what is cool about this theatre, and production? It is a black box theatre, and therefore, and intimate performance experience for us performers and the audience. The performance is being put on by dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, an opera company in NYC commited to very high level performances. For more information, and ticket information, check out Please help support the Arts by attending two great performances with us singers and crew who have worked hard on this show.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Verdi/Wagner Rivalry Part II (The Music)

It is surprising that Verdi and Wagner were both born in the same year, but it is not surprising that they were musical rivals.  The music of these two Romantic geniuses could not be more different from one another.  The musical language of Verdi versus Wagner is basically like the difference between night and day when compared side by side.  Both composers were melodic, but entirely different as far as text setting.  It is fair to say that Wagner was more into the text, Verdi more into the melody.  That is not to say that Verdi was not interested in the text.  It is just a matter of what had priority.  The same comparison can be made with the lieder or Brahms versus Wolf.  Brahms was first about the melody, Wolf was about the text.     The use of the orchestra in the drama could not be more different with Verdi versus Wagner.  A Wagner opera could be one big symphony if the voices were not included.  The voices tell the story over the symphony in Wagner's operas.  Mahler's 8th symphony is like a condensed version of a Wagner opera.  Verdi's orchestration is almost strictly an accompanying device.  Verdi's overtures are excerpted in concert, because they are written for the orchestra to introduce the action and mood of the opera.  Wagner was perfectly capable of writing an Italian melody with the orchestra serving as an accompanying device.  Wolfram's famous song of the evening star from "Tannhauser" is a prime example of that.  So is Wintersturme from "Die Walkure." An aria normally has a beginning, a middle and a end, and there is applause at the end of the aria.  Verdi sets things up in exactly that way.  Wagner keeps the music going after "Wintersturme", right into Sieglinde's continuation of the scene.  Wagner did not write arias as big show pieces from 1843, the year that "The Flying Dutchman" was premiered until the end of his composition career with "Parsifal", with the exception of the Tannhauser aria I mentioned.  The character of Wolfram is a lyric baritone.  A lot of Italian baritones used to record that aria in Italian.      As far as vocal writing, both composers were extremely demanding of their singers.  I would imagine pitch was lower in their life times.  Verdi liked to write very high tessitura for singers, especially baritones and mezzo-sopranos.  Wagner did not write as high, but his roles can be extremely long.  Wotan is the longest role in all operatic repertoire.  Both composers are voice killers for singers who are not cut out to sing their operas.  A tenor that is too light for "Siegfried" will have vocal problems pretty fast.  Same for a light tenor who tries to sing Verdi's title role in "Otello." Verdi constantly challenges the singer's upper range.  Pitch is very important in Verdi's music, and that is why he wrote so high for singers. When I am looking at a Verdi aria, or listening to one, I notice that most high notes are on words that are adjectives or nouns.  The climax is the high note in Verdi's arias and ensembles.  With Wagner's vocal writing this is not necessarily the case.  Occasionally it is, but not often.  That is not to say that Wagner did not write high tessitura, because he certainly did, but he did not confine singers up there like Verdi did.   Wagner's use of the leitmotif in his Ring Cycle is unbelievable.  Verdi very rarely used leitmotifs.  He used one for Amneris  in "Aida" but does not vary it in totality or invert it like Wagner.  Verdi wrote great music to set up arias or scenes, but did not use identification tags for characters or ideas like Wagner did.  Verdi wrote a great clarinet solo which proceeds the tenor aria in Act II.  That solo is describing how the character of Don Alvaro is feeling.  Or, better yet tells the audience that he's sad or whatever.  Wagner's leitmotifs introduce characters and ideas, and foreshadow future events, or reflect on the past and present.     Both Verdi and Wagner were tremendously influential on later composers.  Both Verdi and Wagner influenced Puccini.  Puccini uses leitmotifs in "Tosca." Scarpia's leitmotif is right smack at the beginning of the show.  Verdi's use of the chorus strongly influenced a number of composers after him, such as Puccini, Mascagni, and Britten to name a few.  Wagner's influence carries into movies.  Movies such as "Psycho", "Vertigo", and "Star Wars" use leitmotifs.  It is abundantly clear with the Imperial March in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." John Williams uses leitmotifs a lot in his music.  Luke Skywalker has a theme, and there is also a force theme.  Verdi's influence was instrumental in defining the baritone and mezzo soprano voices are their own separate categories.  Both composers wrote music that could not be more different.  The one thing they did have in common was their incredible influence on other composers.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Erwin Schrott Impresses In Latest CD Release

I walked into Princeton Record Exchange and started browsing the classical cd section, and found this latest cd release from bass-baritone Erwin Schrott.  After seeing him and hearing him in "Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008, I was wondering what happened to this handsome guy with tremendous potential.  Fortunately this latest recital of arias from the bass-baritone repertoire represents Schrott living up to his potential.   Schrott opens with "Scintille Diamant" from "Les Contes des Hoffman." Vocally, he is very impressive, singing both optional high G sharps.  This aria is even high for a lyric baritone, so it is quite impressive that Schrott recorded it in the original key.  However, his French is not good at all.   He stresses wrong syllables and songs e instead of schwa sounds.  The Toreador song which follows is solid from bottom to top, but also has bad French.  Schrott is well cut out for the bull fighter Escamillo in voice and stature.  Like most singers who record Don Quichotte's death scene from Massenet's score, Schrott sings both Sancho and Don Quichotte in the recording.  It is a very moving performance with a nice contribution from Rinat Shaham.  Schrott's performance of "The Song of the Golden Calf" from Gounod's "Faust" is good vocally, but I found myself looking for a darker voice like Samuel Ramey.       Recording early Verdi on this recital was a wise choice for Schrott.  He fits the excerpts from "I Lombardi" and "Atilla" very well.  Both of these early Verdi operas represent Verdi continuing in the style of Bellini and Donizetti, but increasing the size of the orchestra and raising the tessitura in the vocal line.  Schrott's voice has traces of the baritone and bass voices, which is the definition of the bass-baritone fach.  Schrott sounds very at home in this repertoire because of his impressive vocalism and legato in Italian.  There are some bizarre key modulations in the excerpts from "I Lombardi" from A major to C major.  The role of Atilla works surprisingly well in Schrott's voice. My surprise is based on the fact that although, Atilla is high, usually true basses sing the role. Bass-baritones and lyric basses are slightly different.  Great dark color at the beginning of the aria, representing the fear behind it.  I also enjoyed all the excerpts from Boito's "Mefistofele", including the chorus "Ave Signor." Schrott's voice is very powerful in these excerpts, but I am looking for more of a real bass voice for this role.  There is no such thing as a bass-baritone in Italy, but some of the repertoire fits the bass-baritone voice quite well.  The early Verdi excerpts fit Schrott's instrument extremely well, whereas, he sounds a little too much like a baritone in the "Mefistophele" excerpts.       The best performance on this CD is "Di Sposo di Padre" from "Salvator Rosa." I am not familiar with this work by Gomez at all, but love this aria, and the passion Schrott puts into his rendition.  Schrott sounds like he would be a convincing Scarpia based on his performance of the "Te Deum" here.  Certain people at the Met need to retire the role of Scarpia, and let younger people take over.  I think Schrott could do it, if he sings to his potential, like he does on this CD.  I have seen other excepts of Schrott on YouTube which do not impress me very much at all, but this CD is quite impressive indeed.  I recommend it. The complete track listing is as follows:  1 Scintille, diamant (from Les contes d'Hoffmann)  2 Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre (from Carmen)  3 Le veau d'or (from Faust)  4 2nd Interlude (from Don Quichotte)  5 O mon maître, o mon grand! (from Don Quichotte)  6 A te nell'ora infausta (from I Lombardi)  7 Sciagurata (from I Lombardi)  8 Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima (from Attila)  9 Ave Signor (Chorus) (from Mefistofele)  10 Ave Signor (from Mefistofele)  11 Son lo spirito che nega (from Mefistofele)  12 Ecco il mondo (from Mefistofele)  13 Di sposo, di padre (from Salvator Rosa)  14 No te acerques no me persigas (from La Tabernera del Puerto)  15 Despierta negro (from La Tabernera del Puerto)  16 Tre sbirri, una carozza... (Te Deum) (from Tosca)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Learning To Say No

It's funny how the word no has two letters in it, yet it is scary to say sometimes. But, sometimes it is necessary to say no. When I am potentially overworking myself, or giving too much of my time to something, I need to say no so I can have some breathing room and be human. Why is it so hard to say no sometimes? Well, I want people to like me. The only way they will have a real issue with me is if I say yes, and then do not follow through. If I say no in the first place, I am in the clear despite the other person's reaction. They may not be thrilled at first, but will respect my assertiveness. Assertiveness is another big word. What does being assertive mean? Well it means several times. Asserting myself is making my opinions or ideas heard without getting dominated by another person. It also means standing up for myself. Saying no is very assertive. Saying yes to be nice is not assertive, plus it results in passive aggression, which is also unassertive. The problem with the inability to say no is that it hurts me. I have to take care of me, not please other people. People pleasing is a sorry attempt to get to manage the way people see me. If I say no it doesn't mean that people have to like me for it. Saying no is indeed better then making a commitment and backing out of it. That certainly upsets people, but it happens all the time. There have been times where I have agreed to do something with a self seeking motive of pleasing others. OIt does not feel good to do that. I am talking about things that are not essential to do. Of course I have to do things I do not want to do in life. There is no escape from that. People pleasing is totally different than facing responsibilities. People pleasing is saying yes so the person asking me for the favor will be happy. I like doing favors but sometimes I should not say yes, because I have much going on, or it is something that is toxic for me to do. When I am able to say no, I realize that it is not as hard as it seems. If a person is being used or taken advantage of, saying no is much more effective than people pleasing. People pleasing is answering in the affirmative against my will. People pleasing in harmony with my will and the powers that be is proper use of the will. Again this is not a post against helping others, but it is a post against doing it just simply to get the other person to like me. If I have to even worry about that, what is the point? Friends and loved ones help each other, but the love is not if you do this I'll still be your friend. Bottom line is that if I people please aginSt my will I put myself in a position to be hurt.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts on Falstaff and Gianni Schicchi

Giuseppe Verdi and his successor Giacomo Puccini rarely ventured into writing comic operas in their careers. Both composers were very dark composers for the most part in that their operas had very dark plots with lead characters dying at the end. Well, I suppose that is the case with a lot of operas, but Puccini and Verdi really stand out in this regard in that they preceded the verismo period of operas. I should say Verdi did, Puccini crossed into it with "Tosca", "Il Tabarro", and "Suor Angelica" specifically. My point in writing this is that even though "Falstaff", and "Gianni Schicchi" are comic operas, there are a lot of dark elements to both shows. Not only is this the case musically, but also in terms of the various characters. Falstaff and Gianni Schicchi are comical dark characters. They are not good people in my opinion. The subtle darkness of both shows are very apparent musically. When Schicchi is plotting his plan of how to change Buoso's will there is a march in the music similar to when Scarpia lies to Tosca about having a fake execution for Cavaradossi. In both cases the marching drum rolls signify a deception. Buoso's relatives do not know that there is a theft involved in Schicchi's plans. But, if the audience hears that drum roll, they know. Similarly Falstaff's supposed rendevu with Alice Ford has the 12 chimes which are very dark in nature. Both Gianni Schicchi and Falstaff are bums for lack of a better word. Falstaff gets what he deserves, but Schicchi runs free. Schicchi does love his daughter Lauretta. I don't know if Falstaff has any rejuvenating qualities. Schicchi justifies his behavior claiming he did it for his daughter. The end of the operas could not be more different. In "Falstaff" everyone gangs up on Falstaff. In "Gianni Schicchi" the relatives are screwed, and Schicchi gives a big speech. Verdi writes a big fugue in "Falstaff" with a moral. It is almost like the "Cosi fan Tutte" finale and "Don Giovanni" epilogue in that there is a moral. There are noticeable similarities between both operas. They are both dark comedies, they are both strong ensemble operas, and complex ones at that, they both have the lovers singing together, and things pass quickly musically. There are not many arias in either opera. Schicchi relies more on the ensembles than "Faldtaff". Verdi still includes duet scenes, including a large one between Falstaff and Ford. One interesting difference between the two plots is that "Falstaff" involves lack of trust. Ford does not trust his wife Alice. Jealousy is a huge theme in Falstaff. Verdi follows in Mozart's footsteps by using the horn section of the orchestra to signify jealousy. In "Gianni Schicchi" the relatives trust Gianni, and I do not understand why. Both sides are incorrect in both operas. Ford gets taught his lesson, as does the Count in "Le Nozze di Figaro." The relatives in "Gianni Schicchi" are a naive bunch, and they pay for it. Musically there are fast ensembles in both shows. In " Falstaff" the men and the women are singing about entirely different things. In "Gianni Schicchi" the relatives are singing about similar things, a lot of times at the same time. Puccini and Verdi are different musically. Puccini gravitated towards Wagner, whereas Verdi hated Wagner. There is a spot in "Gianni Schicchi" where three of the women are singing as if they are the Rheinmaidens in "Das Rheingold." Puccini's orchestration has more of an individuality to it, in that the orchestra could almost stand alone. Verdi's is strictly accompanying. This difference is much more obvious when comparing Verdi and Wagner, but it shows up in Puccini. Puccini liked Wagner, and sometimes used leitmotifs to identify characters. In Tosca he uses a strong leitmotif for Scarpia's entrance right smack at the beginning of the opera. Scarpia, Falstaff, and Gianni Schicchi all have similarities. They all have selfish motives. Scarpia's is sex, so is Falstaff's, and Schicchi's is materialistic. The ending of "Gianni Schicchi" is not happy like a typical comedy because Gianni Schicchi gets away with theft. Verdi ends "Falstaff" with an upbeat fugue, but Falstaff has only learned his lesson for the time being. There are a lot of dark comic characters in opera. Falstaff and Gianni Schicchi are only two of them. Bartolo, Mustafa, Basilio, Leporello, and Dulcamara are a few examples. It's the demeanor of these characters that make the audience laugh, not what they are all about. Bartolo is vengeful, Dulcamara is a hack job, and Basilio is a sleezy gossip who likes to cause trouble, Leporello is the comic version of Don Juan, but lower class. Most operas are dark, including comic operas.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Trust Yourself

In my opinion singers need to trust themselves as far as their ability and technique, and try not to judge themselves. I think it is a mind body connection, and a long process, which sort of keeps on going. I just found this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which I find really relavant to singing psychologically. He says "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." Once a singer reaches a certain level technically, executing that technique is psychological. As a singer the belief that I can do it has to come from the heart, and the mind follows. If my mind tells me I can't do something, and my heart is out of the equation, my larynx can start raising and causing me problems. If that starts happening, I need to calm my throat down, and keep it nice and quiet. If I sing something that is right for me, I need to have the belief that I can do it. The belief comes from the heart. Other people, can say that they know I can do it, but when I believe it from my heart, then I get the confidence mentally. At first the belief has to come when I'm practicing or having people with ears I trust listen to me. I think I can hear what I sound like sometimes, but that's a laugh. I can't hear what I sound like when I speak either. Trusting my voice in public is an even more difficult task than practice or singing for my voice teacher. The idea of trusting from the heart is even more important when I am performing in public. If I can come to trust my technique, then my mind follows and reminds me that I can trust it. The way I tie in Emerson's quote to singing is that if I believe in my heart that I can trust my technique, then my mind and body convey that confidence to the audience. The iron string is that feeling of confidence people get from showing trust versus showing fear. Trust comes from my heart, then to my mind. Trust is deep down and with in. Performing from a place of trust is an awesome phenomenon. It is not easy to get there. I know that I sometimes sing from my mind, versus my heart. There needs to be a combination of both. There are places where we must think technically in a piece of music. But, that is different than evaluating every note, because evaluating every note is judging, and prevents my heart from being in the music. When my heart is in the moment of a song or aria, the mind follows, and the audience gets pulled in by that iron string.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

John Charles Thomas (Great Historical Singers)

John Charles Thomas was part of the phenomenon called the Verdi baritone which has nearly become extinct these days. The way I define a Verdi baritone is the respective singer can sing in the upper part of his range for long periods of time with great strength or drive. John Charles Thomas had a voice that fit that description during the first half of the twentieth century. He was one of many successful singers who attended the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. There is a picture of Thomas in the George Peabody Library. I remember passing through the library with the late Wayne Conner once, and him saying "not a successful baritone" in a dry and sarcastic type of way.

      I bought a cd of Thomas a number of years a go at a book store in Princeton, New Jersey. It was a singer performing a bunch of popular English songs. I took a chance on it having no clue who this guy was, and it was well worth it. Thomas was trained on Broadway, so he had incredibly clear English diction for an American singer, which is actually a rarity for the most part. Needless to say the cd I bought of Thomas singing American songs blew me away. His rendition or Malotte's song "The Lord's Prayer" is the best version I have ever heard. Thomas's voice was a Verdi baritone with primary strength in the upper range. He sings up to a high A flat at the end of "The Lord's Prayer." Thomas's recordings of "Trees" and the Green Eyed Dragon" have never been topped either in my opinion. My point of all this is Thomas had such a Romantic voice that he could cross over into Musical Theater and popular songs extremely effectively. He had great personality and diction in his singing, not to mention this absolutely extraordinary beauty to his voice. His voice had a very forward Italianate sound which was completely different than his contemporary Lawrence Tibbet's very dark timbre. Thomas sounded like Italian singers such as Titta Ruffo and Apollo Granforte, who were Italian baritones who were trained in the upper range. Thomas was unique because he could sell a song like "Home On The Range" with his voice and personality.

      Thomas led a very adventurous life. He loved golf, yachting, speed boat racing, pig farming and chicken racing. He had a very gentle and generous side, but also a very dark side to his nature. He had strong convictions in his political views, and drank heavily and womanizer. His political convictions were so strong that he parted with an accompanist he had been working with for twelve years. His iron will also paid dividends in that he kept his music in alphabetical order, and studied French very thoroughly. He was a very competitive man, and even took his hobbies extremely seriously. Thomas's unique ability to excell in opera and broadway music was matched by few others. However, his pop singing takes away from his being recognized more as an opera star. He lost out on some opera parts at the Metropolitan Opera to his contemporary Lawrence Tibbett. They were direct contemporaries in that they were born in the same year and died in the same year. Thomas left very few operatic excerpts on record unfortunately. The first time I heard him was on the Prima Voce series of historical singers. There is a cd entitled "Great Baritones" in which he sings "Nemico della Patria" from "Andrea Chenier." This recording represents Thomas at his best. It shows that he was a force to be reckoned with in opera. To find recordings of John Charles Thomas, look him up on YouTube.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Humans Can Make Choices

The power of being able to choose how we live our lives from one moment to the next is pretty empowering isn't it? Animals do not have that power that we human beings tend to take for granted. I can choose how I behave towards myself and others.  Therefore, if I choose to get angry at various situations that are out of my control, I can choose not to be angry the next time.  I can choose to be compliant or defiant.  I can choose to be professional or unprofessional.  I can choose to be stubborn and prideful or humble.  I can choose whether to do something to help myself or others, or something to hurt myself or others.  When it comes to emotional behaviors, I can choose in any given moment how to behave.  I can choose to do the right thing or the wrong thing.      Choices have consequences or benefits.  Good choices, pay dividends, whereas, bad choices kind of suck.  I can make different choices in any given moment.  I can act positive or negative.  I prefer the positive myself.  I have chosen the negative enough times already, and it can hurt others and myself, therefore it has consequences.  Now, by positive  versus negativeI mean that I can take a glass and fill it to the top, or spill the damn thing out.  Spilling it out never feels good in my humble opinion.  There is hope with one choice and hopelessness with the other.   Good choices equal good results  02It is so black and white it blows my mind.  Usually a good choice versus a bad choice is obvious just based on my gut reaction.   However, in cases where it is not obvious just think about it a little.  Think, is this going to help me or hurt me? Will it hurt someone else?   Usually the answer is obvious.  Am I going to exercise or eat an entire pizza if I am trying to lose weight?  If I am unsure if I should say something, should I say it if it may be potentially hurtful?  The answer to that is no, believe me.  Fairly obvious right?      I can get into Mr. Forgetful mode and forget I actually have a choice.  I can start thinking about how I should have done this, should have done that, or think of what I have done, what I can do, and being grateful for what I do have.  When I get into ungrateful mode, I must remember to pause and get back to being grateful.  If I am in the self pity mode, how on earth is it possible to grow?  Life is about growth, and facing one thing after another.  If I don't face things, I am staying in safe mode.  Safe mode feels great for a short time, then sort of stops working on me. For example if I do not challenge myself with my craft, then I am in safe mode, and do not grow in my craft.  Waste of time. Growth mode is getting out of my comfort zone, and it feels good once I get out of that comfort zone.  I can choose which mode I take.  So choice, is a very important concept, and I have the power to make choices that either work  in my favor or backfire.  The choices we make have a very strong impact on our lives and other people's lives.  The end.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Adamo Didur)

Adamo Didur was one of the most unusual operatic basses that I have ever heard on records because of his unusually strong upper range.  His peak was around the turn of the 20th century, but many recordings of his art have survived.  A lot of them are recorded with only piano because they were recorded around 1900.  The voice is so powerful and electrifying that it doesn't really matter though.  Adamo Didur's voice is relatively new to me.  I admit that I am just becoming familiar with him, and I do not know his voice as well as some other famous basses of the past.  The power, richness, and highly unusual upper range of Didur's voice struck me as I was listening to him earlier today.  Adamo Didur should not be neglected by any singer, because he was a very significant figure on the operatic stage for a long time.  He made his professional debut as the bass soloist in Beethoven's 9th symphony, a solo very well suited to his talents.  He sang in places such as La Scala, Covent Garden, Warsaw Opera, Russia, and the Metropolitan Opera, where he would perform for twenty fovea years.  He took part in several important world premieres and American premieres. He sang the American premiere of Boris Godunov, and he created several Puccini roles including Simone in "Gianni Schicchi, Talpa in "Il Tabarro", and Asby in "La Fanciulla del West." He also sang in the premiere of "Konigskinder", which is by Humperdinck, the composer who wrote "Hansel und Gretel." What strikes me about Adamo Didur's voice is the unusually wide upper extension he had.  I would personally call him a bass-baritone instead of a bass, because he could sing both bass and baritone roles.  He had a high A natural above middle C which is well beyond the bass range.  I am not sure if the term bass-baritone was used during Didur's career. Didur's upper range sounds stunning on these old recordings.  It must have been huge live.  He excelled as Mephisto in both Gounod and Boito's version of "Faust." He does his own whistling on the recording of "Son lo Spirito Che Nega" from Botio's "Mefistofele." Didur was mainly famous for his roles in Italian operas, but he also sang roles by Meyerbeer, and the four villains in "Les Contes des Hoffman, so he had a varied repertoire.  Adamo Didur's last performance at the Met came in 1932.  After that, he spent the last years of his life in Poland, where he was from originally.  He died there in 1946 at the age of 72.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Consistency is Key

I am writing about something different today for a change. When I say consistency I am referring to starting things and continuing to do them. I am referring to positive life changes or behaviors, not negative crap. For example if I exercise, eat well, practice, dress nicely, meditate or whatever, I have to do them even when I don't feel like it. I have to keep doing them because they are helpful to me. If I meditate one day, and don't do it the next, what is the point? Each day is a new day, and what I did yesterday carries into today. Each day is a new beginning, but life will be easier tomorrow if I do good things today. There is only one today. Consistency is important in my everyday activities. I need to consistently show up for life, not show up once in a while. We only live once, that is why consistency is key. If I only do good things for myself when I feel like it, what is the point? The point is to keep doing them, so they can pay dividends. I have never earned anything from doing things once and a while. So, I need to get off my ass and do good things everyday. It builds self-esteem and character. Doing positive things consistently is not engrained in me. I am trying to get to the point where that kind of behavior is consistent versus inconsistent. The line of progress goes up versus down or neutral when I am diligent with doing good things. Anyway, I hope this post was helpful to someone. It helps me to write about it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Buffo (Comic) Bass

There are several types of operatic basses including basso-buffo, basso-cantante, and basso-profondo. In addition, there is a term called an octavist, which is a term for very low bassi-profondi who can sing an octave below the bass line in choral music when called for. The art of the buffo bass is a fascinating art form, which requires a lot of skill from the singers in the respective roles. Each one of these categories I mentioned are called vocal fachs or classifications. The term fach is a German term, and it is a classification system which distinguishes which particular roles singers should be singing. For example the basso-buffo singers are given roles such as Don Bartolo in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), and Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Dr. Dulcamara in "L'elisir d'amore", Don Pasquale in "Don Pasquale", Uberto in "La Serva Padrona", Don Magnifico in "La Cenerentola." There are many more, but those are a few solid examples of roles these types of singers are assigned. The characters in the buffo roles are often older men once well respected in society, or complete quacks like Dr. Dulcamara. They also tend to get pushed around a lot, and boast constantly about how important they are. A singer classified as a basso-buffo often sounds more like a baritone than singers of the other two types of basses. Buffo roles sit very high for basses, sometimes going above the normal bass range of approximately the second E on the piano to the forth E on the piano above middle C. Buffo singers do not necessarily possess the greatest voices, but have great pattering skills, and acting skills. Pattering is singing syllables very fast. Often patters are tongue twisters which makes it even more difficult to pull off. The secret is practicing in slowly, speaking it, and on the breath. One of the top buffo basses of today, who is actually a baritone, Alessandro Corbelli said, practice the patter always on the breath. Another important skill for a buffo bass is the ability to be funny on stage. Buffo singers such as Fernando Corena almost always played funny roles on stage, and rarely went into serious roles. Fernando Corena had a great voice compared to most basso-buffo singers, so he did take on some serious roles in his career. Corena was perhaps the greatest buffo bass of the twentieth century because he had the skills of a buffo bass, but was a great singer as well. Most buffo singers who are just considered comic basses do not take on serious roles like Corena did. Fernando Corena's predecessor Salvatore Baccaloni never took on any serious roles to my knowledge. Some singers who took on buffo roles later in their career such as Renato Capecchi, were star operatic baritones before moving into buffo territory. Capeccchi was a Verdi baritone early in his career before moving into comic roles. Capecchi was famous for Melitone in "La Forza del Destino", Bartolo in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia", and Uberto in "La Serva Padrona" later in his career. All of these singers had the ability to be funny actors on stage. Corena was a ham on stage according to sources, whereas, Baccaloni's actions were always planned. Another singer who could be very funny on stage was Enzo Dara. His acting ability, and pattering ability where unreal, but his voice was not suited to serious roles in my opinion. The basso-buffo is a separate vocal classification because singers usually exclusively sing those types of roles, as Dara did. There are two types of buffo roles in Italian comic operas. Stefan Zucker mentions the character buffo, and noble buffo in his article about Fernando Corena. The difference between character and noble buffo roles is that a larger variety of bass singers take on the noble buffo roles. Mustafa is one of them in "L'Italiana in Algeri." One of the most famous basso-cantante singers of all time Samuel Ramey was famous for Mustafa. The quality of the voice in more noble buffo roles is more important, than in character buffo roles, because the music is more noble. Samuel Ramey, Cesare Siepi, Ezio Pinza, and other basso-cantante singers sound more noble than Corena, Dara, and Baccaloni. The most clear distinction between the two types of buffo roles in is "The Barber of Seville', and in "La Cenerentola", with the roles of Bartolo versus Basilio, and Don Magnifico versus Alidoro. Don Magnifico and Bartolo are almost exclusively sung by character buffos. They require great acting skills, and awesome pattering ability. Don Basilio, and Alidoro are comic characters, but the singers need powerful and beautiful voices, and they need to anchor the bottom of the ensembles. Samuel Ramey was very famous for Basilio, and he was not a comic bass, but a lyric and noble bass singing a noble buffo role. I am fascinated by the art of the comic bass. There have been a lot of great comic bass singers, but I pick Fernando Corena as my favorite because he sang so many comic bass roles, and did it for so long. Unlike most comic basses Corena recorded several serious roles such as Rodolfo in "La Sonambula", Schaunard in "La Boheme", and Monterone in "Rigoletto." His portrayals of these roles are not as good as leading singers, but still they certainly work. He also recorded acme Mozart concert arias. This posting is not intended to be about Corena per say. I am using him as the quintessential example of the art of the buffo bass. He had the ability to patter, act well, be funny, and he had the upper extension that went beyond the bass range in order to sing the buffo roles with ease. I hope this is an informative account of the art of the comic bass.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Luciano Pavarotti)

I still hate referring to Luciano Pavarotti in the past tense, because it is still hard to believe he's gone. Pavarotti had the most recognizable singing voice for an opera singer that I can remember. I remember my father playing Pavarotti's recording of "La donna e mobile" from Rigoletto when I was less than two years old. I was told that I was singing along with it. Pavarotti had an exciting sound because his voice had a stunning ring to it. His high notes were like a trumpet in his glory years. Pavarotti used the analogy of blowing into a trumpet for the top voice in a master class. Pavarotti had a great technique when he was in his prime. I am writing this post to share my thoughts on Pavarotti's technique, more than writing a summary of his life. There are plenty of writings about Pavarotti's life all over the Internet. When he was in his prime, Pavarotti's voice was balanced throughout the range, powerful and rich. The remarkable beauty of his voice is what made his voice so recognizable. Even people who are not familiar with opera have heard of Pavarotti. There are several types of tenor voices. They are leggieros, lyric, spinto, dramatic and heldon. Those labels are there in order to classify tenors for appropriate roles. Pavarotti was a lyric tenor, which is considered a light voice that carries, but isn't big. Pavarotti was a very unusual lyric tenor. His voice had an incredible forward resonance in a natural way. I am not saying that he placed the voice to make it sound a certain way. Singing is an exaggerated form of talking. When watching Pavarotti, his tongue was flat as a pancake. When listening to him, the vowels were very clear, and one could hear the transition from chest to head voice clearly. When I say transition from chest to head voice, I am referring to the passagio. That transition results in a mix between chest and head vice in the male voice. The mix between head and chest voice results in high notes being turned over. That whole sensation of turning the voice over can be heard really clearly in Pavarotti's voice, which serves as a good example to singers who are learning. My point in all this is that Pavarotti was really important as a technician, and he knew what he was doing technically. I had the pleasure of hearing Pavarotti in person three times, although he was well past his prime on all of them. The first time he sang in a gala at the Met in 1998. He sang "Quando le sera il placido" from "Luisa Miller." His voice had an incredible resonance to it which was effortless. He was far from 100% when my dad and I heard this. Pavarotti was unable to finish the entire gala because of dizziness. Still, we got to hear that one aria. Pavarotti got healthier for a while, so I got to hear him again in Puccini's "Tosca." Again he was no where near in his prime, but it was very worth hearing. The voice was still there. However, nothing cannlast forever. The last time I heard him, it was historical, because it was his second to last Met performance, but his voice just didn't work. Voices die, just like people die. He tried desperately to make his voice work in that performance, but was unable to do it. When I heard Pavarotti the previous two times, he had the most sound of the three tenors in person. I heard them all live, which is a huge blessing. To say he had more sound than Placido Domingo sounds like a wild statement, because Domingo has a much weightier voice, and sang much heavier roles such as Siegmund in Wagner's Ring Cycle. Pavarotti had the natural forward resonance, or squillo if you will, which was tremendously exciting. I cannot help but wonder if there will ever be another Luciano Pavarotti. There are many great tenors from the past who were also really well known, like Caruso of course, but if someone says the word opera Pavarotti comes to mind.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Regine Crespin)

Regine Crespin was a French soprano who had a career in opera and on the concert stage spanning nearly forty years. I call her the female Jose Van Dam, because she had a unique elegance, and sensitivity in her singing, which was similar to his. Her voice was clearly very large, but she still was very skillful at singing softly. The Decca recording company called her "the French canon" because of the size of her voice. Crespin was a very versatile singer, who sang both operas and recitals very effectively. She was primarily known for her interpretations of Wagner and Strauss heroines on the opera stage, but she sang various repertoire in French, German, Italian, Russian and English throughout her career. Crespin was born in 1927 to parents who owned a shoe store. She had a difficult upbringing partially due to her mother's alcoholism and the fact that it was World War 2. Initially, Crespin intended to be a pharmacist, but failed to pass the baccalaureat, which is a test taken at the end of secondary education. Following that, Crespin began taking singing lessons, and won a competion. She went on to study at the Conseevatorie de Paris where she was very successful. She made her professional debut in 1949 as Charlotte in Massenet's "Werther." She began her career by singing in opera houses in the French provinces, before becoming a star at the Paris opera in the mid 1950s. While at the Paris opera, she took part in the Paris premiere of Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmellites" as Lidoine. Crespin recorded Lidione to great acclaim under Pierre Deveraux at around the same time. She is absolutely stunning in that role, so I highly recommend that recording. In 1958, Crespin was invited to sing the role of Kundry in Wagner's "Parsifal" by Wagner's grandson, Wieland Wagner, which launched Crespin's international career. In 1962, Crespin joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, where she would remain on and off for 27 years. She sang in 129 performances in all at the Met with many international stars. In the 1970s, Crespin began to have some vocal trouble, and therefore, switched to Mezzo roles. Her timbre did not change much when she made this switch, but her low range was very strong. In fact, her low range was atypical for a soprano. There is a video of her singing Schubert's "Der tod und das madchen" in which she sings a low D at the end. While she was at the Met Crespin sang internationally ad opera companies throughout the world, and also she was a top knotch recitalist. She was famous for German lieder, and the songs of Debussy, Berlioz and Poulenc. What made Crespin so great was her beautiful voice, musicality, and versatility. She was a singer who excelled in a lot of different repertoire. She took part in many great recordings, including several different recordings of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen." She recorded both Sieglinde and Brunnhilde to great acclaim under Solti and Karajan. She also recorded the Marschallin in Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" under Solti. She was featured in a video of "The Dialogues of the Carmelittes" in English. Believe me her voice is huge. Regine Crespin was an artist above all else. She could sang Debussy's "Chanson de Billitis" in which the character is a sixteen year old convincingly, and also sing Brunnhilde and Sieglinde. All I can say is wow to that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The German Version of Falstaff

     The most popular musical setting of "Falstaff" to my knowledge has to be Verdi's last opera "Falstaff" premiered in 1893.  Verdi's setting has quick moments of beauty that pass by quickly, and the words are all sung.  The play Verdi's "Falstaff" is based on is Shakespeare's "The Merry Wive's of Windsor."       There are several musical settings of "The Merry Wives of Windsor." I'm sure there are settings I do not know. Antonio Salieri set his own version called "Falstaff." There is a German version by Otto Nicolai, "Die Lustigen Weiber Von Windsor" which is a Singspiel, a German opera with spoken dialogue.  Before each musical number except the overture there is spoken dialogue.  Nicolai's version of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" was his most popular work, and it was premiered in 1849, the year of his death.  The overture is a popular number in concert.  It is a delightful opera, which follows the story in a different sequence than Boito's version for Verdi.  This version has a libretto written by Salomon Hermann Mosenthal (born in Kassel, 14 January 1821; died in Vienna 17 February 1877.  This opera is the best known libretto he wrote.  He also wrote librettos for Anton Rubenstein.     Otto Nicolai wrote five other operas plus, two symphonies, lieder, and some chamber works.  A random interesting fact about Nicolai is that he supposedly hated Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco." Considering that they both set the same play to music, that is kind of a wild fact.  Never the less, Nicolai's life was cut short when he collapsed and died of a stroke at the age of 39.  He was elected as a member of the Prussian Arts Academy on the day of his death.  Verdi and Nicolai could have had a big rivalry, had he lived a normal life span.  It is interesting to have two different settings of "Falstaff" which could not be more different from one another.    The main difference between the two versions is the pacing musically and dramatically.  First of all, Nicolai's version as a long overture, whereas, Verdi goes right into the drama on stage.  Also, Falstaff sings a drinking song, and there are a lot more separate arias and duets in Nicolai's version.  There is spoken dialogue in Nicolai's version, whereas, in Verdi's, the ideas go by very quickly.  There is no overture and Verdi goes from one idea to the next without stopping.  Its brilliance can be overlooked because of the fast pace. Verdi's "Falstaff" is really an ensemble opera, although there are a few arias.  Ford's jealousy is a lot less pronounced in Nicolai's version.  Ford has an aria, but not a rage aria. Also, there are no horns signifying his jealousy, like in Verdi.  My final words for this are to suggest listening to both versions, since they are so different from one another.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Ezio Pinza)

Ezio Pinza was perhaps the most famous basso-cantante of all time.  He was one of few opera giants who also was famous on Broadway.  Pinza was born In 1892 in Rome.  He was the seventh born child to his parents, but only the first to survive.  Pinza's voice was a very natural gift from an early age, and with his father's urging, he studied at Bologna's Conservatorio Martino.  Interestingly, Pinza was never able to read music, but he was excellent at learning music by ear. In 1914 he debuted as Oroveso in Bellni's "Norma", which began his operatic career.    Pinza was very athletic, and he served in the military during World War I, so his career in opera was put on hold for a couple of years.  In 1922, he was engaged by La Scala in Milan under the baton of the great maestro Arturo Toscanini.  He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1926, and was associated with the Met until his operatic retirement in 1948. He was famous for roles such as Figaro in "Le Nozze di Figaro", Boris Godunov in "Boris Godunov", Don Giovanni in "Don Giovanni", and a large number of  roles from operas by Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti.  Aside from singing at the Met which was his main home, he sang in houses such as Covent Garden, Royal Opera House and the Salzburg Festival. The famous conductor Bruno Walter hired Pinza for the Salzburg Festival from 1934-1939.   Pinza's legacy is so remarkable, because he had a successful career on Broadway after he retired from opera.  In 1949, Pinza premiered the role of Emil de Becque in "South Pacific."  Pinza was famous for singing the very popular tune "Some Enchanted Evening" very expressively.  He won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Emil de Becque as a leading actor.  Pinza also stared in the show "Fanny" opposite Florence Henderson a few years later. There are recordings of Pinza singing Broadway songs on record and on film. He was also very famous for his recording of "September Song" by German composer Kurt Weill.    What a voice Pinza had, especially when he was younger. When in doubt about which recordings to get of a particular singer, just check the years on them.  Pinza had one of the most beautiful and Romantic sounding voices throughout his career. His timbre was exquisitely beautiful. He was a true basso-cantante.  The term basso-cantante literally means a singing bass.  It is a lighter and higher bass voice than the deep bass (basso-profondo).  However, it is a bass, not a bass-baritone.  During Pinza's early days he was solid from low D2, the second D on the piano to high F sharp 4, the forth F sharp on the piano.  He had a beautiful mezza-voce which he used to great effect.  Pinza was really revolutionary as a singer.  He set the bar very high for basses who followed him.  In additon he was so unique because he sang opera, songs, starred on Broadway and in movies and TV shows.  He had a wonderful personality on camera.  It can be seen in the video "Six Great Basses." He sings the duet "La ci darem la Mano" from "Don Giovanni", and the French song "Le Cor" by Fleger.  Both are just incredible.  Pinza's voice is one that is very worth listening to.  He was one of the only bass singers I know of who was successful in so many things.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Few Thoughts On The Bullying Incident

 This bullying story about the kids bullying the older lady on the school bus is unreal.  I'm glad the lady is doing okay, and people are really supporting her.  It seems that bullying is being more noticed these days, and that's thanks to technology.  As a child I was bullied.  I even regretfully bullied a few times just to protect myself and make myself feel better.  I did it very few times, and was always quick to apologize, because I just could not go through with it.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do.  But these kids took it to another level, by calling her poor, and poking fun of her because her son committed suicide.  The lady was crying for crying out loud.  Knowing what it feels like to be bullied, I was very disturbed by the video I saw of these kids calling her fat ass and what not. It's a shame bullying has to go on at all.  The person who is the target of bullies is often a person who is not a fighter.  Defenseless, like this elderly lady.    Fortunately, the positive support by people, and outpouring of love has put a positive spin on the story.  Money was raised for her, and she got an expense paid trip to Disney.  The woman found out about that on Anderson Cooper.  I am very glad.  Since she was riding that bus every day, this bullying must have been going on constantly.  The kid who video taped it had a lot of courage.  Now I hear that the kids who were bullying Karen are getting death threats.  That kind of shit will only increase bullying.  Bullying is an unfortunate thing.  I do not know the answer to stopping it.  Despite the taunting and harassment that this woman went through, she is lucky.  So many people are being bullied, and the incidents are not caught on video like this one was. I always wonder how bullying ever started in the first place. It makes no sense to me. The real nature of people is to be good to one another. Babies aren't born bullies, because that is not possible. The way kids are being raised needs attention. Someone is teaching these kids how to bully. I believe that behavior is modeled, and that kids copy their parents. Or, kids may use bullying as a defense mechanism. I am just left with the question of why people get off on hurting another person. This bullying was outrageous. Unfortunately sensitive people have the big target on their backs, which makes even less sense, since they do not bother anyone. I will never understand bullying. People make mistakes and hurt others sometimes. Maybe these kids were making a mistake. I sure as hell hope they do not bully like this again.    

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Look to this day

A cool proverb. I'm sure a lot of people know it, but worth a read for people who do or do not. Look to this day: For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course Lie all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth, The glory of action, The splendour of achievement Are but experiences of time. For yesterday is but a dream And tomorrow is only a vision; And today well-lived, makes Yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day; Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tonality in Mozart's Don Giovanni

In Mozart’s "Don Giovanni" the use of keys is important in describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the personalities of the characters, and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. First of all the use of keys indicates the characters’ social classes. For example the key of F major is used for lower class characters such as Leporello, Masetto and Zerlina. The noble key of B flat major is Don Giovanni’s key because he is a nobleman, and also because he generates a lot of excitement. The key of B flat major also indicates when the women in the opera are in distress. Donna Anna’s key is d minor because she is mourning her fathers death, and because she is a cold person. Donna Elvira’s key is E flat major which indicates her passion for Don Giovanni. Key changes occur in Don Giovanni to indicate that the emotions of the characters have changed. The use of tonality is important in several of Mozart’s operas which precede "Don Giovanni"; such as "Idomeneo", "Die Entfuhrung aus den Serail", and "Le Nozze di Figaro". As Mozart developed as a composer the use of keys became more and more important as far as describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the characters’ personalities, and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. Mozart’s use of tonality was already evident when he was very young. When Mozart was nine years old he wrote a piece in A major which is a love song. Daniel Heartz says “More within Mozart’s powers, as far as sustaining a piece from beginning to end, was an aria d’affetto, or love song, such as Mandane’s first aria in Metastasio’s Artaserse ‘Conservati fedele,’ for which Mozart chose 2/4 time, Andante grazioso , and the key of A major(K. 23). Already evident is his later preference for this key when it came to amorous outpourings, such as love duets.” This is an important example because the use of A major in love duets is significant in "Le Nozze di Figaro", "Don Giovanni", "Idomeneo" and "Cosi fan Tutte". The key of A major is used for the same reason in all four of these operas to indicate an outpouring of love. Mozart began using keys as a descriptive tool at an early age. As a result his use of keys became more and more significant as he got older. The use of keys is important in Mozart’s opera seria "Idomeneo", which was premiered January 29, 1781 in the Court Theater in Munchen. The use of tonalities is important in "Idomeneo" because of the way it describes the action and the characters. A good example of how the use of keys is significant in Idomeneo is the love duet Principessa "a’ tuoi sguardi affirmi" between Illia and Idamante. In this duet Illia and Idamante are expressing their love for each other, which is is a problem because Illia is not Greek. Idamante is the son of Idomeneo, the King of Crete and Illia is the Princess of Troy. This foreshadows the tragic ending. Another important use of keys in Mozart’s works is the foreshadowing of what is to come. The importance of foreshadowing is especially significant in Don Giovanni. There is an interesting switch to a minor in this duet. Daniel Heartz discusses this in Mozart’s Operas. He says “Particularly effective is Illia’s rejoinder, in which duol and lamenti are rendered by passing from A major to a minor. (The composer has two options when the text says ‘no more grief’- either to paint the grief or to convey its absence. Mozart chose the first.”) This shows how the use of keys indicates an emotional change for the characters. Illia is saying that she had grief. Therefore the change to a minor occurs to describe her grief. In "Idomeneo" the use of tonality describes the personalities of each character. Unlike Don Giovanni each character does not get a specific key for an identification tag. However the keys do indicate the emotions that the characters are feeling at particular moments in the opera. Also the tonal schemes used by Mozart are really effective in describing the plot. Illia’s opening aria Padre, germani, addio! is a good example because it is in g minor. She is upset because she loves Idamante but feels grief for Troy at the same time. The problem she is facing is that Idamante is the son of the King of Crete and she is Trojan. Idamante is a noble character, so therefore he is associated with B flat major. The key of B flat major is associated with noble characters in Mozart’s operas. For example, The Count and Don Giovanni sing in the key of B flat because they are noblemen. The tonic chord in B flat major is significant for Idamante’s character as far as indicating his presence. Daniel Heartz says “Not only does he enter Act I, Scene 2, with a chord on B-flat and sing his first aria, “Non ho colpa” (No. 2), in the same key (which is adumbrated already in the second section of Illia’s ‘Padre, germani’ when she dotes on his image- thus there is a symbolic relationship between them in tonal terms even before he appears in person), but he also enters the scene with his father (act I, Scene 10) to the same chord, and likewise Act 3, Scene 2.” This tonal relationship is an indication of Idamante and Illia’s love for one another. Even when Idamante is not present in the action, the key of B flat indicates his presence and links the two characters together. The key of g minor has the same key signature as the key of B flat major. Therefore, Idamante’s presence can be felt in Illia’s aria when it switches to B flat major. Mozart takes this even further with Tamino and Pamina, and Papageno and Papagena in "Die Zauberflote". In "Die Entfurung aus den Seraglio" the use of keys is also important as far as describing what is going on in the plot and describing the characters and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. One interesting point is the fact that there are two keys that rival each other in this opera. The key of the overture is C major, which is the key in which the opera is centered on. The rival key is D major, which is the key of joy. In this case it is a key of joy for the villain Osmin. Osmin sings in D major when Belmonte, Blonde, Constanze and Pedrillo are captured. This is similar to the Count’s aria "Vedro mentrio sospriro" in "Le Nozze di Figaro" . The use of rival keys is important in "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" as well. In "Die Entfurung aus dem Seraglio" Mozart also begins to use the key of F major to indicate rage. When he uses F major for rage it is often associated with lower voices. In this opera it is associated with Osmin’s rage in Solche hergelaufne Laffen. In this aria he wants Pedrillo put to death. The half step trill between E and F is especially significant in describing his rage. Thomas Bauman says “By sliding down from F at the end of the first coda to the E beginning the second, Osmin echoes the important half-step which had opened the aria.” This half-step can also be hear in arias from Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. The tonal scheme in this opera is important because it begins and ends in C major. Thomas Bauman says “Mozart has clearly organized the opera around the colour of his ‘Turkish’ key, C major, heard in a full third of the opera’s numbers. He deploys it in much the same way he had used D major in Idomeneo. As in all his mature operas, both of these works begin and end in the ‘home’ key, and additionally the first act (comprising thedramatic exposition) also begins and ends in this key.” This is important because it shows how Mozart organized keys. In Mozart’s next opera, Le Nozze di Figaro, this becomes even more significant. There are several similarities between "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" as far as the use of tonality. In "Le Nozze di Figaro" each character does not have a specific key. However the keys serve the same purpose as far as describing the action, the characters personalities, and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. This is because the two operas were premiered within a year of each other. The significant change in "Le Nozze di Figaro" as far as tonality is concerned is the concerted finale. This opera has the first example of the use of the concerted finale. The term concerted finale means that every character is on stage. The tonality in the Act II finale of "Le Nozze di Figaro" is organized in a specific way which is designed to describe the action. The breakdown of the tonality of the Act II finale is as follows: E flat, B flat, G, C, F, B flat and E flat major. In the Act I finale of "Don Giovanni", Mozart’s use of tonality is basically the same. The tonality of the Act I finale is as follows: C, F,(d minor), B flat, E flat and C major. Both finales begin and end in the same tonality for the same reason. Both finales end in the rival keys of the overtures because the characters are rivaling each other in both of these finales. Mozart does this because it shows the listener that there are unresolved conflicts that need to be resolved. Also these two finales are identical to the tonal structure of "Idomeneo" and "Die Entfuhrung aus den Serail" in that they begin and end in the same key. In "Don Giovanni" Mozart’s brilliance becomes more evident as he becomes more complex as far as tonality. Mozart uses tonality brilliantly as far as describing the action and the characters. In "Don Giovanni" the characters have specific keys, which tell the audience about their personalities and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. There are several musical examples that show why the use of keys is so important in "Don Giovanni". The beginning of the opera has several examples of why the use of keys is important in terms of the characters. Following the overture Leporello begins singing Notte e giorno in F major which is his main key. He is complaining about having to serve Don Giovanni. In the orchestra there is a march rhythm which indicates Leporello’s frustration. This march rhythm can be heard in several places throughout the opera. This can be compared to Figaro’s cavatina Se Vuol Ballare in "Le Nozze di Figaro". He also sings in F major and is complaining. Following Leporello’s complaining the tonality changes to B flat major in the trio "Non di Sperar" because Don Giovanni and Donna Anna enter. Don Giovanni is trying to seduce her, therefore B flat major is used. The tonality then changes to g minor when the Commendatore enters in Lasciala indegno. The key of g minor represents Don Giovanni’s anxiety, and it is the relative minor of B flat major. He is feeling anxiety because Donna Anna’s father enters the scene. Don Giovanni and the Commendatore duel and the tonality is constantly moving. The harmony in this passage represents Mozart going ahead because it moves a lot. In the other operas mentioned, the tonality does not move as much. When Don Giovanni stabs the Commendatore there is a b diminished seven chord. The tonality then ends up in f minor to indicate the darkness of the rare trio for three low male voices. For Don Giovanni this indicates regret, Leporello is terrified, and the Commendatore is mortally wounded and dying. The key of f minor is brilliant in describing the action. Charles Gounod says “Here occurs a short Trio of incomparable majesty, a masterpiece of tragic expression, and one of the most imposing pages of musical drama that it is possible to concieve.” This trio not only describes the action effectively. It also foreshadows the death of Don Giovanni. In "Ma qual mai s’offre, o Dei" the tonality is unstable in the recitative. Although there are no flats or sharps in the key signature at this point one can hear the tonality moving by fourths from g minor to c minor to f minor. The duet is in d-minor. In the duet the key switches between d-minor and the relative major. The switch to the relative major occurs when Don Ottavio expresses his love for Donna Anna and promises to be a good husband. The tonality changes to d minor to indicate vengeance. But it also indicates Donna Anna rejecting Don Ottavio. There is no tonality that is shared between Donna Anna and Don Ottavio. This is because he loves her, and she does not love him. The scene ends with the two characters seeking vengeance on Don Giovanni. The aria and trio Ah! chi mi dice mai is the introduction to Donna Elvira’s character. In the orchestral introduction Mozart really tells the listener how Donna Elvira is feeling. Charles Gounod describes this in "Mozart’s Don Giovanni". He says “Indignation, jealousy, rage all of these are expressed by the orchestra from the first bar of the symphony which precedes this marvelous number.” The running string passages are especially effective in describing her attitude. This aria and trio is in E-flat major, which is Donna Elvira’s key. Donna Elvira’s emotions are caused by her passion for Don Giovanni. Leporello’s catalogue aria Madamina closes the scene. To me D major is used here for sarcasm. In different music a lot of composers use D major as a heroic key. In this aria Leporello is telling Donna Elvira how many women Don Giovanni has been with. There are a couple of interesting tonal passages in this aria. Hermann Albert discusses this aria in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He says “As there are no modulations at all in this first section, the sudden move now into A major is all the more stricking. It affects everything; the whole melodic line surges upwards, accompanied by a glittering concertino of flutes and horns against oboes and bassons, until the almost brutal ‘d’ogni forma, d’ogni eta.” This excitement in the music at this point is an indication that Leporello is like Don Giovanni. There is even a B flat chord towards the end of this aria which indicates Don Giovanni’s presence. Hermann Albert says “Already by the eight bar the music has diverged significantly, an interrupted cadence leading to B flat major.” This proves that Leporello is somewhat proud of Don Giovanni’s conquests. The scene changes to where Zerlina and Masetto are celebrating the fact that they are going to get married and the tonality is G major. Mozart often used G major as a key for celebrating. Mozart also does this in Act III of Le Nozze di Figaro when the two couples are getting married. Masetto’s aria Ho Capito is in F major and can be compared to Se Vuol Ballare. In both of these arias the characters are angry, and are peasants. Figaro and Masetto are angry for the same reason. The Count and Don Giovanni both want to seduce their fiancees. The duet La ci darem la mano between Don Giovanni and Zerlina has Mozart using A major because it represents a false outpouring of love from Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is trying to seduce Zerlina. Therefore A major represents his urgency to seduce her. In this duet Mozart uses the V key of E major to make Don Giovanni sound even more urgent. Hermann Albert says “Now Don Giovanni follows up his attack in the more intense key of E major, supported by the wind in an expansive, glowing melodic style; her reply is a touching, though brief, thought for poor Masetto.” This duet is similar to Crudel perche finora, which is the duet between the Count and Susanna in Act III of Le Nozze di Figaro. Mozart uses A major as an outpouring of love in both of these examples. Notice the similarity between Susanna and Zerlina, and Don Giovanni and the Count. The scene ends with Don Giovanni’s aria Finch’han dal vino. This is in B flat major to indicate Don Giovanni’s sexual drive. One interesting modulation occurs relatively early in the aria. The modulation is to b flat minor. Hermann Albert says “A fascinating effect is achieved by the appearance of the minor key at ‘Ed io frattanto’: here speaks all the daemonism of a mastermind.” The use of the parallel minor is a brief passage that describes what kind of man Don Giovanni is. It tells the audience that his main intention in having the party is to seduce Zerlina or whoever else might come along. In the finale of Act I the use of keys is important for describing the dramatic situation in the plot. The finale begins in C major with Presto, Presto, pria ch’ei venga. The first fifty bars indicate Masetto’s agitation toward Zerlina. He thinks that Zerlina is going to be unfaithful to him. The key of C major is important because it is the rival key in Don Giovanni. Dramatically at this point Masetto is trying to get Don Giovanni because he has been flirting with Zerlina. Don Giovanni then fasely welcomes the peasant guests who are in the garden. Of course he is having this party in order to seduce women, especially Zerlina. The tonality then changes to a minuet in F major. The key of F major is used to indicate that Don Giovanni is dancing with a peasant and dancing in the peasant style. At this point Masetto is hiding. When Don Giovanni discovers Masetto the key changes briefly to d minor to indicate the surprise. This is not a modulation because the change is so brief. The key quickly changes back to F major, and the three of them go inside. The three maskers enter and the tonality changes to d minor because Donna Anna begins singing about vengeance. Protegga, it giusto Cielo is in B flat major because the three maskers are praying that they will be avenged. Act I ends with Riposate, Vezzoze ragazze in E flat major. Up to this point Mozart has used a specific pattern as far as the use of tonality. He has structured it so that the first key has become the dominant of the second key. For example C major is the dominant of F major. The purpose of this is to make the scene change smooth. When the maskers enter the pattern changes. Julian Rushton says “This progression into flat keys covers the scene change, whose possible disruptiveness is thus minimized (its dramatic signifigance is slight). But when the maskers enter, the pattern changes; the music goes down a third, from E flat to C, which inevidably sounds bright because it involves sharpening the previous key-note to E natural within the new tonic chord.” This indicates the shock of their entrance to Don Giovanni and Leporello. Zerlina sings coloratura passages because she is nervous that Don Giovanni is going to try to seduce her. After the maskers enter the same minuet is heard but it is in G major instead of F major. Don Giovanni then tries to seduce Zerlina, and she screams. At this point the key is still C major but the singing is in b flat minor, c minor, and d minor as a result of Zerlina’s scream. Julian Rushton says “But the asymetry is more important, and is created by the abrupt shift from E flat to C, with its reminder of the tonic sound, and the only passage of tonal instability(13.9), a break in musical decorum exactly matching the action.” This shows Mozart going ahead. It is interesting that Le Nozze di Figaro was premiered just one year earlier. Although the Act II finale of Figaro is better because of the way it flows, the tonality is more complex in Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is then confronted by the guests. In order to escape he threatens Leporello. Act I ends in the rival key of C major, and Don Giovanni barely escapes. At this point all of the other characters except Leporello are confronting Don Giovanni. That is why the rival key is used. The first important musical number in Act II as far as the importance of tonality is concerned is the trio "Ah taci ingiusto core". By this time Don Giovanni has disguised himself as Leporello in order to get rid of Donna Elvira so he can seduce her maid. The key of A major represents urgency for Don Giovanni and Donna Elvira. Donna Elvira thinks that Don Giovanni has come to be with her. It is a false outpouring of love from Don Giovanni. There is a modulation to E major which is similar to La ci darem la mano. This modulation is used to increase the urgency. This duet is also an outpouring of love on Donna Elivira’s part. Hermann Albert says “Now that Elvira believes herself to be alone and undisturbed by the stresses of the outside world, she gives voice to her most intimate emotion: her love for Don Giovanni which, as an immediate witness of his unfaithfulness, she has so far only been able to show in the form of hatred.” Masetto and other peasants then enter the scene with muskets looking for Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni sings Meta di voi qua vadano disguised as Leporello. This is interesting because the aria is in F major. Therefore Don Giovanni and Leporello switch keys. There is an interesting switch to C major in this aria which indicates the fact that Don Giovanni is describing himself. Hermann Albert says “Then, in C major, comes Don Giovanni’s ironic description of himself in which, as throughout the aria, the lion’s share falls to the orchestra.” The half step trill in the passage “e spada al fianco e gli ha” is similar to the E to F passage in Osmin’s rage aria . The Act II sextet "Sola, sola inbuio loco" represents Mozart going ahead in his compositional style, because he explores more complex harmonic areas. Donna Elvira begins the ensemble in her key of E flat major. In the book Mozart’s Operas Daniel Heartz says “Elvira begins the piece in E flat, singing rather simply of her hopes and fears, with well-founded misgivings about the man(the disguised Leporello, whom she takes for Giovanni) who has lead her to the darkened courtyard.” In addition, she is singing in the key of E flat because she still has hope that she will marry the Don. At this point, Leporello is looking for the door so he can escape. The tonality then moves to the dominant which is B flat major while Leporello is singing his lines. When Don Ottavio and Donna Anna enter the key changes to D major because he is singing about his love for her. She interrupts him in d minor because she is mourning the loss of her father and because she is once again rejecting him. Daniel Heartz says “ Anna cuts off Ottavio’s beuatifully delayed cadence. At the same time, she turns the music from D major to d minor, a gesture that already tells us her answer is another refusal.”204 At measure forty nine the key moves to an even darker c-minor. There is a Neapolitan harmony on “il mio pianto.” The switch to c minor can be compared to Electra’s first aria in Idomeneo. Daniel Heartz once again describes the use of tonality effectively. He says “In the course of Anna’s lament the music moves from d-minor down to the darker realm of c minor. At the first ‘il mio pianto’ Mozart resorts to a half bar of neopolitan harmony as Anna works her way up to the melodic peak note, high A-flat.” Masetto and Zerlina enter and C major is used to indicate their arrival. However the key is still c minor and it switches right back. Mozart then uses chromaticism in Donna Elvira’s vocal line because she is pleading for him to be spared. This is foreshadowing Don Giovanni’s death because chromaticism is used at the end of the opera. The tonality moves a lot in the next few passages. There is a cadence to a III chord when they say “morra.” Leporello pleads for mercy in a very dark key of g minor. This passage is about as dark as Mozart ever got musically. Albert Hermann says “Then as Leporello raises his voice, the music moves at last into the key of G minor, prepared long before but delayed again and again by interrupted cadences. And now he too is in such desperate straights that, like Elvira, his inmost nature is revealed.” Remember Don Giovanni and Leporello have switched keys. The sestet ends in E flat major. The focus becomes more on Don Giovanni and less on Leporello at this point. Albert Hermann says “Leporello, who created the whole situation, becomes less and less important, while their sense of disillusionment and impotence in face of this new and uncanny example of Don Giovanni’s scheming breaks through all the more strongly.” There are so many emotions in this number that cause the tonality to change constantly. The finale of "Don Giovanni" begins in D major with "Gia la mensa e preparata". First of all D major is used because it is a celebration. It is also used because it is a comic scene. Hermann Albert says “From the very beginning a glittering D major envelopes us in the festive atmosphere of a grand banquet of the time.” The key switches to B flat major in order to keep the scene comic. At this point Leporello takes some of Don Giovanni’s food. The aria "Non piu andrai" is sung a step lower. This is an inside joke because the person who premiered Figaro also premiered Leporello. Elvira enters in "L’ultima prova dell’amor bio" because she loves Don Giovanni. This changes the tone of the finale. The key of B flat is used to indicate Elvira’s distress. The statue of the Commendatore then knocks at Don Giovanni’s door. Elvira and Leporello both scream when they see the Commendatore. When the Commendatore knocks at the door the b diminished seven chord that was heard when he was mortally wounded can be heard here. Except in this scene there is a G sharp instead of an A flat in the chord. Albert Hermann discusses the Commendatore’s rise from the dead. He says “The death-blow for the Commendatore was a powerful diminished seventh of a B natural, leading to F minor(Ex. 6B). That same diminished seventh chord, but with G sharp for A flat, brings him back from the dead.” The key then changes to F major and in a march rhythm Leporello describes the statue. The statue of the Commendatore then comes in with Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m’invasti. This section is in d minor and echoes the overture. The key of d minor is the vengeance key and the Commendatore has come for vengeance. Don Giovanni’s interjections are in g minor at this point because he is nervous. Leporello is so terrified that he is hiding. There is chromaticism through out this whole scene to show how dark it is. The keys move a lot especially when Don Giovanni takes the statues hand. There are many points of unsteadiness in the tonality of this section. Julian Rushton says “As the statue refuses mortal food his modulation from D to A minor seems to traverse the tonal universe(Ex. 10 A); after going first to G minor(Harmonized), the line takes the simple step to an implied E flat, but treats it as the Neopolitan of D, in which key C sharp stands as dominant.” This finale shows Mozart experimenting with tonality like he never has before. In his previous operas modulations were very straight forward in Don Giovanni they are more obscure. This is especially true in this finale. These musical numbers from "Don Giovanni" show how Mozart’s use of keys is important in describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the characters personalities and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. The operas preceding Don Giovanni show how Mozart developed as far as his use of tonalities in describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the characters personalities and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. The use of keys for the characters indicates the social status of the characters. For example Masetto, Leporello and Zerlina all sing in F major because they are peasants. Don Giovanni sings in B flat major because he is a nobleman and because of his energy. The key of B flat is also used for when the women are in distress. Donna Anna’s key is d minor because she is grieving the death of her father, and because she is a cold person. The key of E flat major is used for Donna Elvira because of her passion for Don Giovanni. In Mozart’s mature operas he centered the action around the keys. Every opera composed in Mozart’s later years begins and ends in the same key. The finales are organized in the same way. Mozart did this intentionally, and as a result stood in a class by himself. Mozart’s use of tonality would influence composers that would follow such as Beethoven, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Weber, Wagner and many more. Therefore, Mozart’s use of tonality in these operas changed the course of Western Music. Daniel Heartz, Mozart’s Operas(London: University of California, 1990), 38-39. Ibid., 48 Ibid., 59-60 Thomas Bauman, W.A. Mozart: Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail.(New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987), 68 Ibid., 73-74 Charles Gounod, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(New York, Da Capo Press, 1895), 8 Ibid., 21 Hermann Albert, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(London, Eulenburg Books, 1976) 73 Ibid., 74 Ibid., 77 Ibid., 84 Julian Rushton, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(London, Cambridge University Press, 1981) 111 Ibid., 111 Hermann Albert, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(London, Eulenburg Books, 1976) 99 Ibid., 103 Daniel Heartz, Mozart’s Operas(London, University of California Press, 1990), 204 Ibid., 204-205 Ibid., 109 Ibid., 109-110 Ibid., 121 Julian Rushton, W.A. Mozart: Don Giovanni( Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981) 119 Ibid., 119-120 PAGE PAGE 5