Sunday, January 22, 2012

Van Dam Recital

After ten years or so I finally found this CD while going through boxes. I have yet to see it in print anywhere, so I love the fact that I found it. I do not even see it listed on This disk entitled "Recital" is all French arias from "Don Carlos", "Faust", La Jolie Fille de Perth, Carmen, "Lakme", "Penelope", "Herodiade", "Manon", "Don Quichotte" and a few more. Jose Van Dam in French repertoire is almost always a gem, and that is certainly the case with these selections. The first is King Phillip's monologue from "Don Carlos" in French, and it is a gorgeous and passionate performance. Van Dam's lower register is a little weak for the role itself, but in the French version he has enough benefits to bring to the table anyway such as exquisite diction and phrasing. The second selection "Quand la flamme de l'amour" from Bizet's "La Jolie Fille de Perth" is a perfect fit for Van Dam's voice. It is stunning vocally, with thrilling high notes. The famous Toreador song from "Carmen" with the great shifts from F minor to F major was one of Van Dam's trademarks in his glory days. Escamillo is a core bass-baritone role, and therefore, right up Van Dam's alley. The aria from "Lakme" is the highlight of this CD for me. The aria is practically a baritone aria, and Van Dam sings the high F naturals with ease. Most singers transpose this aria down a step because it sits high vocally. I find the high F naturals difficult in that aria, so I am in awe of how Van Dam sings it. In addition to the great high notes, Van Dam's performance has exquisite diction, passion and phrasing. The next selection "Scintille Diamant" from "Les Contes Hoffman" was another one of Van Dam's signatures in his glory days. This aria is sung by one of the four villains. Van Dam was famous for Hoffman's alter-egos in this opera because of his exquisite French, musicality, and mostly because the four villains are core bass-baritone roles. Van Dam's voice was a true bass-baritone with traits of the baritone and the bass voice in his timbre. Next we turn to Massenet, a composer who Van Dam championed for a long time. The roles of Phanuel, and Comte Des Grieux are roles which he recorded to great effect. His rendition of "Epouse quelque brave fille" from "Manon" is breath support galore. It is the slowest tempo I have heard in the aria, but Van Dam makes it interesting as far as Le Comte giving advice to his son. To my knowledge Van Dam never recorded the baritone role of Athanael in "Thais". However, the aria "Voila donc la terrible cite" is presented here, and it is given a magnificent rendition here which I keep listening to over and over again. I am not sure if Van Dam performed the role of Sancho or not in "Don Quichotte." Sancho's Act III aria where he is defending Don Quichotte is on this compilation, and it is sung gloriously. I highly recommend "Don Quichotte" which is Massenet's last opera. I think some of his best music is in it. This aria which Sancho sings is quite amusing because Don Quixote is crazy and Sancho is defending him and taking it extremely seriously. Van Dam did record the title role of Don Quichotte on EMI for Michel Plasson. I am not familiar with the opera Penelope by Faure, although I am certainly pleased with Van Dam's singing in the aria. The serenade from Gounod's "Faust" is the only set back on this disc because Van Dam sounds too baritonal for the role of Mephistopheles in this version of "Faust". Mephistopheles in Berlioz's "La Damnation de Faust" is another story. In addition the laughs in the serenade are too fast, and too manufactured to really work well. Overall, this disc is sensational, and I am sure glad I found my copy. If you are a singer learning French, listen to the French on this disc. Sometimes Van Dam leaves out the schwa sound, but that is either his dialect or his taste. Some French diction teachers may frown on that, but the vowels are extremely clear, and the consonants rapid, late and clear.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Good Words from Emerson

I really like these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is important to learn from the past for the sake of the present, but it is not useful to regret the past. Regretting is a total waste of time. I could do that all day long, but I choose not to. Each day is a series of new opportunities, so it is important to do the best we can with each day. Doing a few things to raise my self-esteem every day is a good way to spend the time. However, sometimes that does not work out, and that is where Emerson's words come into play. "Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays."


I already wrote a post about dogs, so I am dedicating this one to domestic felines. Of course I say domestic because I do not plan on adopting a bobcat anytime soon. Although, I am sure there are plenty of cats named Bob. There are cats named Oscar, Hermes, Zeus etc... There are all sorts of cat names. I am still deciding what to name the one I am adopting on Saturday. She is a Maine Coon. Male Maine coons can give dogs a run for their money when it comes to fetching because they are kind of dog like. These cats can weigh up to 30 pounds! They follow their owners around the house like dogs do. Cats have those whiskers and all that other shit sticking out of their heads. The shit sticking out of their head works though because they're cute for sure. Cats are very intelligent too. There was a cat featured on Animal Planet which saved their owner from carbon monoxide poisoning because it could detect the smell. Also, there is a cat named Nora who plays the piano. A composer is basing a piece on her as a matter of fact. Whether she is attention seeking, naturally musical or both I do not know. She does not like to travel though, because she is a home diva. The fact that she plays with both hands sometimes is like a cartoon in actually reality. Those Savannah cats are pretty unique aren't they? They have quite a growl and hiss which sounds like a wild cat. They are totally domestic though. One of them got lost and started purring when the person found it. They thought it was a wild animal. Speaking of purring a cat in England was measured at over 90 decibel levels. That is one loud purr. I have never heard of anything like that. I think around 20 decibels in the norm. Quite an anomaly there. Cats are wonderful creatures unless you piss them off. They can handle themselves, that is for sure. A Siberian Husky was trying to interact with a Maine Coon on youtube, and she would not have any of it. Cats have the ability to be independence galore. Dogs certainly do not based on my experience. Both dogs and cats are very different, yet very similar. For the most part they want love and will return it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How We Think is Key

Positive psychology is a really important tool to learn in life. I struggle with the conflict between positive and negative psychology. Negative psychology equals a waste or bull shit if you will, whereas, positive psychology equals constructive, useful or beneficial. I find that when negative psychology overtakes me, I am unable to accomplish things which are normally routine for me. Plus, it has a detrimental effect on my creative abilities. Positive psychology equals a positive vibe. Talent is far from being the whole ball game for success. The way we are thinking actually beats that out in some ways. Of course talent and positive psychology is the ideal combination. Any thought that is not creative is not constructive. I was told that earlier today in my voice lesson. I do not want to give myself credit for something I did not think of. I had never had that said to me quite that way before. Things can be said by one person, and then said by another with a slightly different wording and it can make all the difference in the world. Funny how that works, isn't it? If I am driving and my mind starts thinking negatively, all I am really doing is driving, so nothing is actually wrong. Pretty simple concept for sure. I talk about being positive versus negative a lot in these blogs because I think it is really important. I admit that I have a hard time with it, and that the negative side can completely take me over sometimes. That is because I am human. But, I do realize there is a way out of that once the negative crap slows down. It is a matter of attitude really. Saying I get to do something, or I can do something versus oh shit I have to do something, or I can't do something is a shift in attitude. Saying I can't shuts off all possibility. Positive psychology is really important for well being, self-esteem, relationships, work, and so on and so forth. Negativity is something that people and animals sense quickly, and simply do not want to be around. People sense other people's well being pretty fast whether they are instinctively thinking about it or not. It is just a natural thing that occurs. Negative psychology is just selfish really, and it blocks us off from our true purpose in our lives. Positive psychology actually allows inspiration to guide us to our true purpose.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years

First of all happy new year to everyone. It is hard for me to think of what I did or did not accomplish in any given year without thinking of what I might have done, but did not get to. I am not advocating focusing on that, so please do not misunderstand me. I am very glad that I have my friends, family, and my health, and I am all for the fresh new start thing every year, but I ask myself the question why can't every day or even just simply a moment in time be a new start? That is because it certainly can be. Resolutions are a great thing, but I have trouble sticking to them if I think this year I am going to do this. They're awesome because they are about positive changes, but every single day can be a new year in my book. All we can do is the best we can each day. I like to go into a new year saying it is going to be the best year yet, because it is a good and logical attitude. I do not know what is going to happen though. To make any year good, or day good for that matter the secret is to take good action each day, versus saying I am going to go to the gym more this year or whatever. The new year just is a change in date. Each day is a new day, and a fresh start. Point is if I say my new years resolution is to go to the gym and get into the best shape of my life this year, that is going to be a tough one. If I want to do something like that, it is an awesome idea, but if I think ahead to the whole year, it probably will not happen. In January the gyms are packed, and then by March, they are not anymore. If I make a new years resolution, it is in order to make a positive life change. I can only change one day at a time.