Tag Archives: Verdi

Lucky Us

It’s a big weekend for my hometown and my beloved University of Kentucky.

  • The football team won and still has a chance to play for something big.
  • Ditto for the basketball teams – male and female.
  • Ditto for two singers from our nationally-ranked opera theatre program.

Please notice especially that last item.

The District Auditions for the Metropolitan Opera were held in Lexington this afternoon in a lovely room; the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church.

I attended. Let me tell you about my day.

This lovely room is located in downtown Lexington, a few doors down from Henry Clay’s law office, a few blocks away from Mary Todd Lincoln’s home, and about two blocks away from Gratz Park (the heart of old Lexington) and the home of Thomas Hunt Morgan, Nobel Prize-winning brilliant Lexingtonian. The room is wood, and stained glass, and wood, and soaring ceilings, and wood, and memories of the funerals of personally-remembered brilliant Lexingtonians, and wood.

Today, it was all that filled with beautiful young singers singing humanity’s most beautiful songs beautifully all afternoon long…for free.

I watched and heard my friend Cynthia Lawrence, Metropolitan Opera star (I don’t believe anyone has sung with Luciano Pavarotti as often as Ms. Lawrence) lead a large audience in a seismic rendition of the National Anthem. Now we can all say we’ve sung at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

I watched and heard Jessica Bayne mesmerize the room with her Bellini number.

I watched and heard Taylor Comstock remind everyone of his recent stratospheric performance in LA TRAVIATA.

I watched and heard my friend Thabang Masango simultaneously charm and inspire the room with his Donizetti.

I watched and heard my friend Zachary Morris stir the room with his “New York Lights” from A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE.

I watched and heard Rebecca Farley force me to resist the urge to warn her of her fate if she believed the blandishments of the Duke in RIGOLETTO.

I watched and heard Mary Catherine Wright break the hearts of the male half of the room with her Handel piece.

Some of these singers were proclaimed “winners” by day’s end and will go on to compete in the Regional Auditions in Chicago in January, but the real winners were those of us in the wooden pews of the lovely room to watch and hear.

The ultimate winner is Lexington which, for a while, gets to be home for these remarkable young people as they mature before leaving to populate the planet with singers.

Lucky us.

Vipers vs. Verdi

Vipers vs Verdi

After my weekend immersion in Verdi with LA TRAVIATA, it might be good to “cleanse my palate” with some pure cultural junk.

I’m thinkin’ the 1976 made-for-TV-when-made-for-TV-was-NOT-a-recommendation “piéce de reptilian”; RATTLERS might be just the ticket.

Whatta film!

We’re talkin’ ludicrously poor child acting getting killed by the critics and the chemically-altered snakes in the first scene. This flick’s got nowhere to go but up from here. I can’t wait.

But first, a last few thoughts about LA TRAVIATA…

It was a beautiful production – beautiful to look at and beautiful to hear. It featured evenings of high C’s, crashing curtains (intentional), flying cutlery (intentional), and sexy flamenco dancing (damned intentional).

BUT…

I have a serious quibble with the second scene.

Yer tellin’ me, Mr. Verdi, that Violetta is gonna give up her bucolic “piéd a terrific” with her lover (with servants, no less) and return to the city to be exploited sexually and subsequently die because her lover’s daddy TELLS her to? This old hippie (look it up if you don’t know the term) is thinkin’ “that dog will NEVER hunt.”

Maybe…

…just maybe…

…if there were chemically-altered snakes in the country…

…but even then, I don’t know.

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of something wonderful and BAM! It suddenly dawns on me I’m in the middle of something wonderful.

This can often happen in a theatre rehearsal, occasionally several times in one evening.

It’s always jarring, sometimes scary, and always to sought again and again.

Today, it happened at lunch

I attended a preview luncheon for UKOT’s production of Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

  • Portofino’s served a fine meal – check.
  • I got to chat with one of the best actors in the area; Tom Phillips – check.
  • The room was packed – check.
  • Everett McCorvey gave an update on UKOT’s activities;
    • LA TRAVIATA opening next week.
    • BOUNCE the basketball opera opening with a world premiere in Lexington in November (opera/basketball/Lexington – talk about the “best of all possible worlds”).
    • SHOWBOAT in the spring.
    • The opera outreach program has booked two shows (schoolchildren K-8) in over 50 venues throughout the state.
    • Singers being recruited to Lexington from all over the planet and accomplished singers and citizens being exported all over the planet. We are infesting the planet with remarkable young people.
  • Check, check, check, check, and CHECK!

Then three of those young performers blew the luncheon-ers and the walls of the room away with excerpts from LA TRAVIATA. Thabang Masongo was confident and polished. Jessica Bayne was passionate and vulnerable. Michael Preacely was gigantic and……Michael Preacely!

And the music of Verdi is sublime and emotional and important on a cellular level.

All of these delights and miracles were expected.

What was unexpected was a question from one of my tablemates, a first-time attendee of these luncheons; “Obviously, these singers come to UK with a gift. What does the opera program do to enhance that gift?”

Everett answered with an impressive description of the instruction and coaching that each student receives. Michael spoke of being taught to apply the facts of instruction to the acts of performance. Jessica spoke of the variety of instructors and the nurturing ambiance of the UK opera community.

I thought of two things I have watched Everett instill in students for 26 years.

  • “Participation” means more than signing the guest book. It means coming to class/rehearsal/performance having practiced and being prepared to share that practice/improvement immediately and eagerly.
  • Our students believe they belong in every room and have a contribution to make in every room. The room may or may not be about them, but they are prepared and confident and competent to make any room better.

BAM!

Something wonderful.

And I’m living in the middle of it in my home town.