Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays from Dr. von Lyric

"Okay...what can I say.... now I'm in a holiday mode...

   Two of my favorite carols sung by the sublime choir of Kings College

    ....and has there ever been a more heartbreaking child actress than Margaret O'Brian?" - Dr. von Lyric

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes... - a student weighs in on Madama Butterfly

BLO welcomes the next generation of opera-goers to the Shubert Theatre by inviting high school classrooms and college students the opportunity to attend the Final Dress Rehearsal of each production for free.  On October 31, 178 students and teachers attended the Final Dress Rehearsal of Madama Butterfly.  In exchange for the dress rehearsal passes, students were asked to write short reviews of their night at the opera.  This year we received a number of insightful, inventive, and candid responses from students across the Boston area.  One of these reviews, written by Megan Dineen, is highlighted below.   
I enjoyed [Madama Butterfly] because it was the first [opera] I have ever seen.  It was interesting how there was not just spoken words, but everything was sung in Italian.  Even though the story was sung in a different language it was very clear and easy to understand.  Without reading the subtitles you could easily see that it was about a woman with a lot of struggles who fell in love.  You could feel their pain and emotion through their tones and through the music.  I was really able to connect to the characters and understand her even though it was in a different language.  The live music was something different and something I really enjoyed.  The music played a big role in the tone of the opera.  Since the tone was constantly changing I got to hear many different tempos of music.  I even liked hearing and seeing the last and final changes being made to the opera.  It was almost like a backstage pass into how they put on that type of production.  Overall this opera was a very interesting and educating experience.  I do plan on going to more operas in the future because of this one.
We want to thank teachers for their continued interest and participation in our educational programming and for sharing these important artistic experiences with their students!
In the wise words of a recent 5th grade opera attendee, “Every opera tells a story.”  Storytelling is at the heart of opera, and BLO works hard to share the greatest classic and contemporary opera tales with its audiences.  We hope that you will take a moment to share with us YOUR stories about your favorite BLO moments.  Visit to read others’ stories and to submit your own. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dr. von Lyric is in the Holiday Spirit!

"Okay...just what you need....more Christmas music (and twelve days of it at that)  But hang on...these are goofy and pretty a kind of idiotically charming way" - Santa  Dr. von Lyric


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BLO and Wheelock Family Theatre: Theatre-Opera Teen Intensive weekend workshop

Boston Lyric Opera is proud to have opera fans of all ages, and throughout the school year  students from the Boston area gather at Wheelock Family Theatre to participate in BLO’s Vacation Week Institutes.  BLO held its first theatre-opera workshop of the season this month with teens from Cambridge, Natick, and Newton.  During the workshop, students worked with teaching artists Grace Napier and Brendan Buckley, and pianist Christina Chao to learn traditional and contemporary performance techniques for Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular characters from Ruddigore, Patience, and Pirates of Penzance.  From lessons on the fundamentals of opera and  the history of Gilbert & Sullivan  to how to perform with a British accent and frilly costumes, these students had an action-packed weekend!
In just two short days, this first group of young artists prepared eight different scenes, solos, and ensemble pieces for their final performance for friends and family.   The students’ hard work paid off because the progress they made from Day One to Day Two was remarkable!   They  impressed the audience with their dynamic acting skills, beautiful solos, and most of all the collaborative spirit they demonstrated as a cast. 
If you have any young performers in your life who would be interested in joining one of BLO’s upcoming Vacation Week Institutes, check out Wheelock Family Theatre’s website to register or to learn more.  Our next workshop, Exploring Characters Through Movement & Music, will introduce students to well-known characters and storylines across the genres of jazz, musical theatre, pop, African drumming, and opera.  The workshop runs from December 26-29, so be sure to sign up soon!

Monday, December 17, 2012

BLO Exposed - Madama Butterfly

Boston Lyric Opera is in its second season, of presenting BLO Exposed. This intermission conversation series gives audience members a behind-the-scenes look into each production invites YOU, its audience, to ask questions through social media during our Wednesday night productions at the Shubert Theatre .  For BLO’s recent production of Madama Butterfly, the curtain rose to reveal the transformation of the set between Acts 1 and 2.  Megan Cooper, Manager of Community Engagement, interviewed BLO’s Technical Production Manager, Scott Levine, who offered his expertise to answer a number of our audience members’ questions about the production.  Here, Scott continues the conversation with a response to Lise Olney’s Facebook question about the special effects used in the opening action taking place under the overture  of Madama Butterfly:
Boston Lyric Opera chose to add a unique opening scene to the original written piece of Madama Butterfly in order to provide a glimpse into the background of Butterfly’s father’s death. In this scene, a performer in traditional Kabuki mask portrays the act of seppuku, a Japanese tradition of ritual suicide reserved for Samurai.  The performer uses a Kabuki fan to represent a knife, and upon completion of the act,  opens the fan to reveal bright red fabric, signifying death.  Through his mask, the performer was able to see the conductor for his cue to match his action to the orchestra. The visual elements of the scene included dramatic lighting, a blue scrim in front of the artist, and a split black drop of overlapping curtains behind him for his exit. The blue scrim was used to convey depth, or a foggy look, as if to suggest a memory. This was the intention for later scenes as well, such as the flash forward to Sorrow’s birthday in Chicago.
A scrim is often used in the theater for a variety of effects, and the fabric is an open weave, which appears translucent or opaque depending on which side it is lit from. For Butterfly we took advantage of both options: translucent for the opening scene and flash forward, and opaque during the interlude between the written Act II and III when the audience watched a sunrise on the front of the scrim. There are a few types of scrim which are classified by the openness or tightness of the weave and are known as Sharkstooth, Filled Sharkstooth, Bobbinette, and Gauze.
BLO would like to thank everyone who participated in this BLO Exposed event and for continuing the conversation with us post-performance here and on our social media pages!  To have your questions featured here in the future, join us at a Wednesday night performance of Così Fan Tutte or The Flying Dutchman for BLO Exposed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mae West, Sophia Loren and opera? - Dr. von Lyric

Dr. von Lyric has some fun videos to share with us today! Dont forget to leave your comments, maybe Dr.von Lyric will respond!
Mae West

"Mae West? Opera? (and apparently this is her singing) Comments? (what CAN one say?) asked for this - and now I suspect you're ready for anything

Sophia Loren? Opera? (obviously this is NOT her singing) Comments?"

2 more Aidas just for fun

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BLO Signature Series Demystified

Have you ever wondered what the Signature Series was all about? Here Artistic Advisor, John Conklin tells us his vision for the Series, which is a collaboration with the MFA, Boston.
"In 2009 Esther Nelson asked me to come to Boston to develop a series of events in conjunction with The Museum of Fine Arts - I had done similar programs when she was heading the Glimmerglass Opera. We decided that although each of the Sunday afternoons would be based on an opera from that season’s repertory, they would approach it from a varied and wide range of contexts. Rather than an direct analysis of the music and or a discussion of BLO’s specific approach to the piece , we would explore how ideas derived from that opera might stretch out into novels, poetry, theater, painting , cinema, history, popular culture. Also rather than a lecture , we would attempt to create mini-dramas (they are one hour in length) , dramatically conceived programs that would have their own theatrical validity . We are lucky to be able to use the quite elegant Remis Auditorium at the MFA . I personally get great enjoyment in researching , writing( or perhaps better creating a collage of the material) working with the performers and sharing the result with the our audience.

We have witnessed “Charlie Rose” type interviews with Rossini and Richard Strauss, (portrayed by actors I hasten to add rather than ectoplasmic manifestations) We have seen videos of performances of Carmen by Geraldine Farrar and Beyonce and a troupe of flamenco dancers We have heard actors reading poetry by Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson and Ogden Nash and stories by Henry James. We have listened to performances of music of Verdi, Handel, Mozart and Cole Porter. We have looked at images of Greek sculpture, Edward Hopper and Sarah Bernhardt from the MFA collections. Performers have included many from our “emerging artists”program, leading singers from our productions, actors from ART and the Huntington Theater and Boston personalities such as Joyce Kulhawik, Christopher Lydon and David MacNeill.

We at BLO have many ways that we try to bring our audiences closer to the opera they may be going to: background notes and information, relevant video links, rehearsal reports and insights from performers, blog entries on our website, pre-performance lectures at the Shubert Theater, programs at the Boston Public Library, and the BLO Exposed series with on-stage discussions with directors of the production about their specific approach to their BLO work. The Signature Series is another entry in our program to enrich everyone’s (including our own) experience of the excitement and fascinating complexities of that 'delightful madness known as Opera'"

Save the date for the next Signature Series Presentation: Genesis: Explorations on James MacMillan's Clemency.
January 13, 2013 | 2pm

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The "Sitz" according to Dr. von Lyric

"I love to watch opera singers at a sitzprobe - this is a German term ( a "sitting rehearsal" )- used for a run through of the opera with the orchestra and singers. There is no stage movement - or any sets or costumes or lighting. (The same basic set up occurs at a recording session.) The singers usually sit (or stand) in a row at the front of the stage. They almost always have a music stand with the score although by that time in the rehearsal (or recording) process they certainly know the music. They are dressed as they choose - often in very comfortable casual outfits (like athletes exercising); though often oddly formal for such a basically unpublic occasion, (as if loathe to yield any hard won diva status). They seem to carry the music into their bodies - gesturing, weaving back and forth, almost dancing, revealing the essence of the musical line, and often the inner voice of their character - in a way they (correctly) never would in the context of a regular stage performance. It seems very personal, very private and often very revelatory. They are basically singing out front - and how or if or when they choose to look (or react) at each other is fascinating. The banality of the physical world around them and the workaday tools of their trade that aid them (those flimsy music stands in the Gotterdammerung excerpt seem to be barely able to standup under the passion of the singers) only serves to sharply illuminate and focus the uniqueness and complexity of the art of singing and performance in a context we don't often see." - Dr. von Lyric 

Gotterdammerung "Vengence Trio"

with Birgit Nilsson, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau and Gottlieb Frick conducted by Georg Solti

Madama Butterfly - Vogliatemi bene - Jonas Kaufmann + Angela Gheorghiu