The Russian maestro speaks with Fred Plotkin about a range of topics, including concert hall construction in St. Petersburg, Russia, the stigma around Shostakovich and the benefits of constant touring.
Spells, potions, black cats, tarot cards and incantations are the stuff of great opera plots. Fred Plotkin considers some of the great scary characters in the opera canon.
Baritone Thomas Allen emphasizes how both the music of Mozart and the words of da Ponte express a duality that must be captured by singers as both musicians and actors, writes Fred Plotkin
If your father is famous or accomplished in his field of endeavor, it creates particular difficulties in forging your own path in the same profession. Blogger Fred Plotkin considers some famed singing families.
Despite the enormous economic crisis that's crippling Spain, Valencia, its third-largest city, remains a destination for opera. Blogger Fred Plotkin was just there and shares his impressions.
"There are a still some very old singers who walk among us, heads only slightly bowed, and seem like messengers from that lost world of opera in the 1920s and 1930s," writes Fred Plotkin. "They actually did know Puccini."
For almost her entire life, when Mirella Freni sang, all people could do was stop and listen. Fred Plotkin considers why.
At the time that Verdi's daughter was born, the composer was deep into the composition of Il Trovatore, his strange and compelling story about babies who are switched, abandoned, even burned in a fire.
"While there are some singers who still are engaged by opera companies and presented as stars whom audiences flock to see, there are fewer of these all the time," writes Fred Plotkin.
This hilly, leafy city above the Ohio River grew in the 19th century with waves of German immigrants who brought values of hard work, love of music and of hearty food, writes Fred Plotkin.
Smoking used to be commonplace among opera singers, as it was the general public. These days, there remain a few hold-outs, despite its obvious dangers. Fred Plotkin considers the practice.
"More than a few stage directors seem to think that the overture is theirs to play with, creating stage business that happens while the overture is being performed," complains Fred Plotkin.
In tough financial times, "we, as audiences, need to express faith and solidarity with our opera companies, encouraging them to be daring and creative and supporting them in their efforts," writes Fred Plotkin.
There are many singers, especially young ones, who go beyond their physical and mental limits because they feel they must do so to please a conductor or manager, writes Fred Plotkin in this cautionary tale.
Master classes are one of the most fascinating aspects of the process of taking talented young singers and trying to polish and mold them while allowing them to retain what makes them special, writes Fred Plotkin.
Pop music has addressed the concept of freedom in many different ways, writes Fred Plotkin. "In opera, freedom is described in ways that are more indirect but also more profound."
"There are singers who touch audience members very deeply for any number of reasons," writes Fred Plotkin. "For me, one of those was the Austrian soprano Leonie Rysanek."
In operas, the moon has come to signal lunacy in mad scenes, represent expressions of love and suggest the darker forces within characters. Blogger Fred Plotkin considers why the moon is such a force.
In a few days, if customary schedules are upheld, we will learn the names of the recipients of the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. Blogger Fred Plotkin names artists who have been overlooked or deserve recognition.