Wednesday, April 1, 2020

OPERAWISE: BEL CANTO MELODRAMA

In this series of podcasts, Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean gives listeners a taste of nine different types of traditional opera. Bel Canto Melodrama refers to for serious Italian opera from the first part of the nineteenth century, when opera singing was about dazzling trapeze acts and opera plots tended toward the wild, far-fetched, and grotesque. Inspired by their newfound obsession with Shakespeare, Europe’s Romantic generation created some of opera’s most enduringly popular works, including Verdi’s Rigoletto and Bellini’s Norma.

Musical examples on the podcast include:
  • •Scene from L’assedio di Corinto, Marilyn Horne and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Henry Lewis (Decca, 1973)
  • •Cabaletta and orchestral introduction from “Caro nome” from Rigoletto, Harolyn Blackwell and the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Phil Kelsey, 1995
  • •Various moments from Rigoletto, Giuseppe Altomare (baritone) and Yongzhao Yu (tenor), chorus, and orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Carlo Montanaro, 2019
  • •”Casta diva” from Norma; Sally Wolf and the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Edoardo Mueller, 2003
  • •Conclusion of Norma, Jane Eaglen, Craig Sirianni, and the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Edoardo Mueller, 1994
Stay tuned for another podcast introducing another kind of opera next week!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

OPERAWISE: Grand Opera

In this series of podcasts, Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean gives listeners a taste of nine different types of traditional opera. Grand opera developed in the mid-19th century and centered on performances at the Opéra in Paris. The roots of the genre stretch back to the opulent court of France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, and continue to influence how opera is presented to this day. Verdi’s Aida (1871) is probably the world’s favorite grand opera (although it’s not necessarily a textbook example of the genre, since it wasn’t written for the Opéra, is sung in Italian, and is briefer and more straightforward than most grand operas). Another beloved masterpiece is Wagner’s Tannhäuser (1845), a work retro-fitted in 1861 for performance at the Opéra.

Musical examples on the podcast include:
  • •Entrance of Philip II, Act 2 Scene 1 of Don Carlos, Vienna Staatsoper performance conducted by Bertrand De Billy, (Premiere Opera Ltd. 2004)
  • •“Le divertissement royal – Danse de Neptune” from Lully: l’Orchestre du Roi Soleil, Le Concert des Nations led by Jordi Savall (Alia Vox Spain 1999)
  • •Conclusion of Don Carlos, soloists, chorus, and orchestra of La Scala conducted by Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Gramophon, 1984)
  • •Seattle Opera’s 2018 Aida; Alexandra LoBianco, David Pomeroy, Elena Gabouri, chorus and orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by John Fiore
  • •Venusberg Ballet, Tannhäuser, Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim (Teldec 2002)
Stay tuned for another podcast introducing another kind of opera next week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

OPERAWISE: Opera Seria

In this series of podcasts, Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean gives listeners a taste of nine different types of traditional opera. Opera seria, traditional Italian serious opera, developed in the mid-1600s and lasted into the early 1800s. Handel’s Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), an opera from 1724, is a great masterpiece and an examplar of the genre; another is Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (aka Orphée et Eurydice, aka Orpheus and Euridice, 1762/1774).

Musical examples on the podcast include:
  • Prelude from Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Mark Minkowski (Archiv 1999)
  • “Cantiam, Lucano” from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Della Jones and Mark Tucker with the City of London Baroque Sinfonia conducted by Richard Hickox (Virgin Classics 1988) 
  • “L'angue offeso” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Anne Sofie von Otter and Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Mark Minkowski (Archiv 2002) 
  • “Ombre, larve” from Gluck’s Alceste, Kirsten Flagstad and Geraint Jones Orchestra conducted by Geraint Jones (Decca 1956) 
  • Recitative example from Vivaldi’s Ercole sul Termodonte, Topi Lehtipuu and Rolando Villazón conducted by Fabio Biondi (Virgin Classics 2009) 
  • Overture from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Mark Minkowski (Archiv 2002) 
  • “Prest’omai” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Marijana Mijanović and Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Mark Minkowski (Archiv 2002)
  • “Domerò” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Derek Lee Ragin and Concerto Köln conducted by René Jacbos (Harmonia Mundi 1991)
  • "V’adoro, pupille” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Magdalena Kožená and Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Mark Minkowski (Archiv 2002)
  • "J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” from Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, Maria Callas and Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française, 1961
  • Seattle Opera’s 2015 production of Semele conducted by Gary Thor Wedow. 
Stay tuned for another podcast introducing another kind of opera next week!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Listen now to the La bohème podcast

Seattle Opera presents La bohème starring Angel Blue as Mimì. Philip Newton photo
With many people staying at home, now is the perfect time for a new podcast episode. Enjoy La bohème 101, a deep dive into opera’s quintessential love story with Seattle Opera dramaturg Jonathan Dean. Learn about Puccini’s music, the history of the opera, and more, all from the comfort of your home.

“It almost seems unnecessary to introduce this work. La bohème has been one of the world’s most beloved operas since 1896. Its music is both familiar and extremely easy on the ear. And the opera is virtually indestructible. The only time I’ve ever seen Bohème NOT work was before an audience consisting entirely of middle-school students, who really didn’t appreciate all its lovey-dovey, romantic stuff. They’ll figure it out someday.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Praise for Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Joshua Stewart (Charlie Parker) and Shelly Traverse (Chan Parker) in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird. Photo by Sunny Martini.
“A well-organized progression of scenes and music that take the listener on a lively, thought-provoking journey through the life of a brilliant, erratic innovator who was a major influence in transforming 20th century American music.” —Bachtrack

“There’s no doubting the talent at work in Seattle Opera’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.” —The Seattle Times

“I was transfixed. Gloriously done. From staging, to lighting, to choreography to the score and libretto, I’d see and hear it again immediately.” —Lucy Ann L. via Facebook

“Telling the story of a jazz legend on stage through opera and classical music is an ambitious, and unexpected, undertaking. Yet with a talented cast, an intriguing premise, a composer—Daniel Schnyder—with a strong background in both jazz and classical music, and a librettist [Bridgette A. Wimberly] who has a family connection to Parker and a background as a poet, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is certainly poised to deliver on its ambition.” —The Seattle Times

“Simply amazing. Wonderful tribute to a man of extraordinary talent... One of the best experiences at the Opera. A must experience.” —Margaret B. via Facebook

Friday, February 14, 2020

A Bird’s Life

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is an opera told in 21 scenes, told from the story of the women in his life. Here are some of the events in his life that are helpful to know before heading into the opera.


1920, Kansas City

Charlie Parker is born on August 29. He teaches himself to play saxophone. Listening from nightclub backdoors and alleys, he hears musicians performing the music he will later master.


1936, rural Missouri

A serious accident fractures Charlie’s spine and breaks three ribs. Bedridden for three months, he is prescribed heroin and is soon addicted. For the rest of his life, Parker struggles with narcotics and alcohol addiction.

Monday, February 10, 2020

5 Reasons to see Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2017 © Todd Rosenberg

1. Clocking in at just 90 minutes, this short opera pairs well with nice dinner and a stop at a swanky cocktail bar for a chic night out.

2. The score blends bebop, jazz, and American classical music, perfect for musical historians or anyone who wants to know more about this jazz great. You might recognize the influences of bebop and classical artists throughout. Plus, join on Friday or Saturday night, grab a drink and stay late for a live jazz combo performing the music of Charlie Parker in the lobby.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Quick History Lesson: Charlie Parker and Jazz 101


A few pieces of Charlie Parker and jazz history that you might want to acquaint yourself with before attending Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.

Charlie Parker as a teenager. Photographer unknown. Frank Driggs Collection, Jazz at Lincoln Center.

It takes a lot of work to make it sound effortless. After facing rejection for the first time as a teenager, Charlie Parker resolved to practice incessantly until he could play any other musician under the table. Parker would later reminisce: “I put quite a bit of study into the horn. …In fact, the neighbors threatened to ask my mother to move once when I was living out west. They said I was driving them crazy with the horn. I used to put in at least from eleven to fifteen hours a day. I did that over a period of three to four years.”

Monday, February 3, 2020

Q&A with Freddie Ballentine and Chrystal E. Williams

Mezzo Chrystal E. Williams and tenor Freddie Ballentine attended the same performing arts high school in Virginia. Their paths have crossed a few times since graduating from Governor’s School for the Arts. They celebrate years of friendship and have a school reunion here in Seattle while performing in our production of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.

How well did you know each other at the Governor’s School?

Chrystal E. Williams: I was a senior.

Freddie Ballentine: I was a little freshman boy soprano. We didn’t actually have much of a chance to get to know each other in school because of the age difference. But it was a very small performing arts school, so we still knew each other a lot better than we knew most of our normal school classmates. Chrystal was more of a mentor to me. I remember a summer boot camp we had together. She was introduced as our section leader. I was immediately intimidated because Chrystal was a serious and smart woman even then. I was a clumsily little chubby boy. She sat next to me during our rehearsal of Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio. She had to teach me how to follow along in the music. She was so focused and capable. I remember thinking that there was no way I deserved to be at this school if people like her were there.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Listen now: On race, Beyoncé, and bringing new people to the opera house

Seattle Opera Director of Programs and Partnerships recently sat down with Seattle Opera Scholar in Residence, Naomi André for a podcast covering topics ranging from Beyoncé to opera in South Africa. Listen in to hear about Dr. André’s thoughts on how the opera industry can push beyond what we're currently doing to be more inclusive of our society today while also holding up and honoring these traditional works. She talks about loving opera from a young age and how she considers the artform after a career understanding more about its relationship to race and gender.