Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Boston Lyric Opera's staff and cast of Tosca wishes you a most happy holiday and very joyful New Year!


- The BLO Bunch

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crimal Underworld meets corrupt opera house?

Don't worry, the corrupt exists in the fictional world of Bradley Garvin's novel, With the Voice of Angels (he sang the role of Scarpia BLO's Tosca!)

Our friends over at Candid Culture wrote a candid, but positive review of the singer's writing debut. KER writes:

In With the Voice of Angels opera singer Bradley Garvin crafts a murder mystery within the text of an opera house. Contrasting the elaborate and often absurdly high drama/high stakes of the opera with the life and death stakes of organized crime, Garvin creates a world in which the good guys are truly good and the bad guys are exceptionally bad.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Agrippina - what's it all about?

The first opera this season, Tosca, was written at the very end of the so-called Romantic age in 1900. Giacomo Puccini used every effect he knew of to create the most dramatic opera he could. The music especially contains a great amount of orchestral writing that plays with your emotions.

For the next opera at the Shubert, BLO has decided to stage George Frideric Handel’s second (and last) opera Agrippina, with a libretto by Vincenzo Grimani. It was premiered in Venice almost two centuries earlier then Tosca, on December 26, 1709. This period of music, the so-called Baroque period (1600--1750) is completely different as far as music goes. The orchestra is much smaller, other instruments are used (such as the harpsichord), and tonally, the music is much different. You can tell these two operas are on the polar opposites of the spectrum, and that is a good thing. Yet, they are subtly connected too, making them all the more appropriate in the same season.

Agrippina is set in Rome, and although the story is fictional, it does involve historical characters and touches on real events that happened around 50 AD.

Act 1
On hearing the news that her husband, the Emperor Claudius, has died in a storm at sea, Agrippina plots to secure the throne for Nero, her son by a previous marriage. Nero is unenthusiastic about this project, but goes along with his mother's wishes. Agrippina obtains the support of her two freedmen, Pallas and Narcissus, who hail Nero as the new Emperor before the Senate.

With the Senate's blessing, Agrippina and Nero begin to ascend the throne, but the ceremony is interrupted by the entrance of Claudius's servant Lesbus. He announces that his master is alive, saved from death by Otho, the commander of the army. Otho himself confirms the story, and reveals that Claudius has promised him the throne as a mark of gratitude. Agrippina is confounded, until Otho secretly confides to her that he loves the beautiful Poppaea more than he desires the throne. Agrippina, aware that Claudius also loves Poppaea, sees a new opportunity of furthering her ambitions for Nero. She goes to Poppaea and tells her, falsely, that Otho has struck a bargain with Claudius whereby he, Otho, gains the throne but gives Poppaea to Claudius. Agrippina advises Poppaea to turn the tables on Otho by telling the Emperor that Otho has ordered her to refuse Claudius's attentions. This, Agrippina believes, will make Claudius revoke his promise to Otho of the throne.

Poppaea believes Agrippina. When Claudius arrives at Poppaea's house she reveals what she believes is Otho's treachery. Claudius departs in fury, while Agrippina cynically consoles Poppaea by declaring that their friendship will never be broken by deceit.

Act 2
Pallas and Narcissus realize that Agrippina has tricked them into supporting Nero, and decide to have no more to do with her. Otho arrives, nervous about his forthcoming coronation, followed by Agrippina, Nero and Poppaea, who have come to greet Claudius. Each in turns pays tribute to the Emperor, but Otho is coldly rebuffed as Claudius denounces him as a traitor. Otho is devastated, and he appeals to Agrippina, Poppaea, and Nero for support; they all reject him. This leaves him in bewilderment and despair.
Poppaea is, however, touched by her former beloved's grief and wonders if he might not be innocent. She devises a plan, which involves pretended sleep and, when Otho approaches her, sleep-talking what Agrippina has told her earlier. Otho, as intended, overhears her and fiercely protests his innocence. He convinces Poppaea that Agrippina has deceived her. Poppaea swears revenge, but she is distracted when Nero comes forward and declares his love for her. Meanwhile, Agrippina has lost the support of Pallas and Narcissus but manages to convince Claudius that Otho is still plotting to take the throne. She advises him that he should end Otho's ambitions once and for all by abdicating in favor of Nero. Claudius, eager to be with Poppaea again, agrees.

Act 3
Poppaea now plans some deceit of her own, in an effort to divert Claudius's wrath from Otho with whom she is now reconciled. She hides Otho in her bedroom with instructions to listen carefully. Nero arrives to press his love on her, but she tricks him into hiding as well. Claudius then enters; Poppaea tells him that he had earlier misunderstood her: it was not Otho but Nero who had ordered her to reject Claudius. To prove her point she asks Claudius to pretend to leave, then she summons Nero who, thinking Claudius has gone, resumes his passionate wooing of Poppaea. Claudius suddenly reappears, and angrily dismisses the crestfallen Nero. After Claudius departs, Poppaea brings Otho out of hiding and the two express their everlasting love in separate arias.

At the palace, Nero tells Agrippina of his troubles, and decides to renounce love for political ambition. By now, Pallas and Narcissus have revealed Agrippina's original plot to Claudius, so that when Agrippina urges the Emperor to yield the throne to Nero, he accuses her of treachery. She then claims that her efforts to secure the throne for Nero had all along been a ruse to safeguard the throne for Claudius. He believes her; nevertheless, when Poppaea, Otho, and Nero arrive, Claudius announces that Nero and Poppaea will marry, and that Otho shall have the throne. No one is satisfied with this arrangement, as their desires have all changed, so Claudius in a spirit of reconciliation reverses his judgement, giving Poppaea to Otho and the throne to Nero. He then summons the goddess Juno, who descends to pronounce a general blessing.

This is the type of opera that can be widely entertaining and have a double meaning to it as well (lying, honesty, betrayal), these are but a few things that happen in this opera. It is an opera not to be missed!

- Rob Tedesco, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Va, Tosca!

So. Tosca…

It was incredible. Hope you didn’t miss it.

I’m still star struck from the performance. Between the unearthly talent, the wonderful orchestra, and the unbelievable set design (I seriously felt like I was in Rome guys…especially in the 3rd act), I really don’t know where to begin.

So, I’ll just break it down for you:

The Plot: This whole video is funny, but to see the bit on Tosca, click here.

The Main Players:

Floria Tosca, played by the lovely Jill Gardner.  Mrs. Gardner was such a gem. She played up Tosca’s diva side so well, and added much needed moments of laughter. In a story so dark, it was nice to see some humor. The fact that she is not only a fantastic soprano, but also an amazing actress, made her performance one to remember.

Mario Cavaradossi, played by Diego Torre. Ah, romantic! Mr. Torre was so full of passion. “E lucevan le stelle” was absolutely arresting with its beauty. Rebellious, and full of love for the woman of his dreams, you cannot help but to feel for Cavaradossi as he approaches his cruel fate at the end.

Baron Scarpia, played by Bradley Garvin. Mr.Garvin: what a deliciously evil treat. When Scarpia made his first entrance in the church, it was striking (and so full of doom and gooey evil). His presence was imposing, only emphasized by his strong vocal abilities, stature, shiny boots, and all black fascist uniform. He, too, combined his vocal prowess with a natural acting ability, making the character so diabolical and lecherous that you could not wait to see him get his just desserts. I think we are going to see Mr. Garvin go places. Incredible!

The Place: Rome

A church, a fascist office (apparently they package them with torture chambers as well), and the Castel Sant’Angelo (which included an EXACT replica of the statue of Archangel Michael) were our specific locations.

Ladies, gentlemen …I’m not kidding: I felt like I was in Rome the entire time. The careful detail to every set piece was unbelievable, and how they seamlessly made transitions between acts was remarkable.

Fantastic acting? Check.

Glorious singing? Check.

Villains you love to hate? Check.

Suck-you-into-another-world set? Check.

Your tickets? You better get hope you can get some to the remainder of the season, because this stunning production of Tosca closed last night!

- Jessica Trainor, Boston College

A Fantastic Night of Festivities

Kara says:

As most of you already know, (and for those of you who don’t you missed out) Wednesday night was our night at the opera. Yes, I was there and I brought a friend, who is now an opera lover. We saw BLO’s first show of the season Tosca by my favorite composer Puccini. The opera was filled with talented singers and of course Puccini’s romantic and dramatic musical line.

After the wonderful performance the BLO Bunch headed over to Jacob Wirth for a small reception of about 50 BLO Bunch members. With delicious appetizers, good conversation and of course some drinks. This was a nice time to talk to other opera lovers about the performance and make new friends. There was a broad range of students from undergrads to grad students all together enjoying each other’s company.

I hope to see everyone again for Agrippina in the spring!

- Kara Fleishaker, Boston University

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Out and about after the opera

November 10th marked the first outing for The BLO Bunch and with over 100 students attending the evening's performance of Tosca and nearly 50 gathering after the show at Jacob Wirth! Check out the photo slideshow from the evening's festivities. Hear what the students at the reception had to say about the production:


Feel like you missed out? It's not too late to subscribe to The BLO Bunch and take in Handel's comedy Agrippina and Britten's fanciful, operatic take on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Visit for details. 

Thanks for joining us!

- The BLO Bunch

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Night at the Opera

On November 10th members of The BLO Bunch gathered at Jacob Wirth following Boston Lyric Opera's performance of Tosca.

Ying says:

It was so great to meet such wonderful people at the post-performance reception! Having interesting conversations and enjoying the food; it was such a blast. Going to the opera is not just about the opera anymore, but about meeting new people and connect with other opera lovers (that are close to my age!) or in my case, other opera virgins. I look forward to the next student night.
- (not anymore) Opera Virgin

Jess says:
I was completely blown away. The talent was amazing, and the sets were stunning. I honestly felt like I was in Rome.

What did you think?

** Thanks to Ying for taking the photos in the "Night at the Opera" photo gallery! **

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

‘Tosca’ dishes up drama, classic music

Emma Bushnell of the Tufts Daily reviews Boston Lyric Opera's production of Tosca

I will admit, "Tosca" has never been one of my favorite operas. Puccini's music is lovely — and at many points in the opera even achingly beautiful — but the melodramatic, even pulpy plot, along with some questionable compositional choices, has led many critics to dismiss Tosca, as contemporary musicologist Joseph Kerman put it, as a "shabby little shocker."

The Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) has presented a production of "Tosca" that is delightful to watch. The small cast is made up of exceptionally strong singers whose clear and characteristic voices not only do justice to the music, but also add layers of nuance to the plot. Soprano Jill Gardner returns to BLO as the titular diva, Floria Tosca, and her commanding and full voice fits the bill of the jealous, fiery heroine. Her second act aria "Vissi d'arte," arguably the most famous to come out of the opera, was brilliantly sung, and Gardner ably conveyed all the emotions wrapped in the aria without overstepping the bounds of believability.

As wonderful as Gardner's performance was, the standout performance of the evening was Bradley Garvin as the malicious Baron Scarpia. The opera originally took place during the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, but BLO has cleverly updated it to Mussolini's Rome. Garvin appears as a higher ranking member of Mussolini's army, and he looks truly imposing with his tall frame clothed in a dark, sleek uniform.

Garvin was handily the best actor of the bunch. While stage director David Lefkowich allowed some members of the ensemble to wander around the stage distractingly at times and the focus of the singers was often centered more on musicality than believable acting, Garvin appeared ever-comfortable as he strutted around with decisive movements and presented the audience with a complicated and eerie villain, backed with dominating and precise vocals.

Attacks on the other singers' acting may not be entirely fair, though, given that tenor Diego Torre, who normally appears as Tosca's lover, was sick and had to be replaced at the last minute by the Metropolitan Opera's Richard Crawley. Crawley was a wonderful addition to the cast — his third act aria "E lucevan le stele" was a literal showstopper — but some awkwardness must be expected to ripple through a production when an unfamiliar cast member is injected into the production in the eleventh hour.

Aesthetically, the production was a mixed bag. Gorgeous lighting design appropriately enhanced the moods of each individual scene and truly interacted with the plot and the characters on stage. The costumes were rich and also helpful in building the tone of the production — the soldiers' dark, shiny boots and Tosca's luxurious fur stole were visually stimulating and exciting.

BLO may have gotten a little too enthusiastic with their sets, though: An opulent Catholic church, an over-stocked study — with a conveniently placed bed that appeared to exist just to make the attempted rape of Tosca more comfortable for the actors but would normally serve no practical purpose in a military leader's office — and a prison roof equipped with a story-high stone angel all combine to overwhelm the audience.
Levels are always nice to have on stage, but Cavaradossi's painting platform in the church was awkwardly situated such that actors were constantly climbing up and down steps and turning toward and away from the action as they go. With so much drama playing out in the opera, a barer set would have been welcome. Instead, bombarding the performance space with so many unused elements and props made the show come off as trying too hard.

I have been ranting about the dramatic plot of Tosca, but I have to admit that drama is not always a bad thing. This opera will certainly arrest an audience's attention, even if one has seen the show before — a mad cocktail of jealousy, lust, torture, murder, suicide and betrayal, coupled with some truly wonderful music, does tend to go down well. BLO has mishandled some aspects of the play — the sets and some awkward stage direction — but ultimately it isn't the backdrop that matters as much as the sweet, ever-popular music of Puccini, and with that, the production succeeds handsomely.

- Emma Bushnell, Tufts University

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

'Tosca' proves opera is accessible for all

Sujin Shin, of the Brandeis Justice reviews Boston Lyric Opera's production of Tosca

The Shubert almost feels like home now. Some of the greatest opera in Boston is performed here and there is a reassurance that fills each gilded corner: one knows that whatever is being played that night will be exquisite. Tosca goes above and beyond. This particular opera, put on by the Boston Lyric Opera, one of the finest and most beloved operas ever written and countless productions, good and bad, have been put on. But the BLO steps up to the hype and really delivers something that left this little would-be opera connoisseur completely blown away at the end of the night.

The turbulent tale of Tosca and Cavaradossi starts with just as unstable a beginning. An escaped political dissident by the name of Angelotti, played by Anton Belov, rushes nervously through a church, which is currently wrapped in tarps and littered with art supplies as it is being refurbished. He meets the hero of the story, Mario Cavaradossi, played by Richard Crawley, who is the resident painter and an apparent old friend with rebel sympathies. Enter Floria Tosca, played by Jill Gardner, Cavaradossi’s beloved and greatest inspiration.

She is a spirited and feisty woman, truly pious but also jealous, she starts a fight with Cavaradossi the woman he is painting as the Mary Magdalene on one of his canvases. That woman is blonde and blue-eyed, and not her. But he seems rather unfazed by her remarks and jealous quips—he is secure in that Tosca is the only woman who he loves and does not take her jealousy seriously. Then, Cavaradossi exits to help Angelotti hide. The scenes at the start of the opera are lighthearted, the love between the two heroes is as sweet as that of two new paramours, and Tosca’s jealousy is endearing rather than stifling. But then all spirit is splintered with the entrance of Scarpia, the monstrous policeman on the trail of Angelotti, played by BLO debutant Bradley Garvin.

Upon first meeting the captivating and sable-eyed Tosca, Scarpia is immediately overcome. Not with love, but a predatory and lecherous hunger for her. He vows to claim two bodies by the end: Angelotti’s and Tosca’s. He tortures Cavaradossi for information as an anguished Tosca is forced to listen to his screams of pain, while withholding the information that could spare him. She finally gives in and reveals the location of Angelotti. But Scarpia still threatens to kill Cavaradossi if she doesn’t give herself to him. A monumental struggle between Tosca’s immense disgust for Scarpia and her unflappable love for Cavaradossi tears Tosca’s judgment to pieces. The ensuing phenomenon of storytelling by Puccini and his libretto is one that left audiences reeling through the ages from its first performance till the present. To reveal such details would be unfair to the exquisite expositions of the performance itself—such discoveries are best impressed in an audience’s chair, listening to the sounds of true human emotion borne on the slides of trombones and the conductor’s baton.

Though the vocalists were playing without one of their own that night (for their true Cavaradossi, played by Diego Torre, was recovering from a bronchial infection) the chemistry between the actors was still largely unfettered, though there were a few moments that occurred within the love triangle that seemed emotionally reined in where they shouldn’t have been. But each actor shined brilliantly in their respective roles.

Crawley’s robust interpretation of Cavaradossi’s steely moral fortitude as well as tender adoration of Tosca was shrewd with the knowledge of previous experience. With a voice that could pierce straight through the ceiling, his presence was unable to be ignored. Debutant Bradley Garvin’s depiction of the self-possessed and barbaric Scarpia was ruthless but tended to be slightly soft in his physical lechery toward Tosca. However, his voice suited the role of power-hungry savage quite well—his “Te Deum” is a glorious visual and aural barrage. His rich baritone and tightly wound vibrato electrified the air with menacing currents. But it was the resident Tosca that shone the brightest. An exceptional actor who could slip to and from coy to heartbroken convincingly, Jill Gardner was the one to keep an eye on that night. A heavy-hitting soprano, Gardner grabbed the role of Tosca and refused to let go; the role was right in her wheelhouse and she excelled in both her vocalizations and acting.

The sets and dress were exquisite. Not one raise of the curtain failed to produce gasps from the audience. The BLO’s production of Tosca deviated from the original setting of Rome in 1800 in which the rebels were Napoleon and his forces. Instead, they chose to set the performance in Nazi-occupied Rome, with Scarpia as the head of the fascist police. With the women clad in 40’s glamour and soldiers in Gestapo uniforms, this production of Tosca feels easier to relate to and the story of love and anguish finds a firm foothold in this interpretation. And Puccini’s music, conducted by Andrew Bisantz, was supportive without being insistent. The chemistry between the voices on the stage and in the pit was always finely balanced, one never overpowering the other.

Tosca is an experience. No other words are necessary to describe it. It is something that everyone should try to see at least once. And though some might be a bit wary of opera, thinking that it’s something too esoteric and daunting, Tosca is the show that can break the stereotype. Opera is just another medium through which a story is told. And with as captivating a story as that of Tosca’s, it’s hard not to enjoy it.

Tosca is playing at the Shubert Theater until Nov. 16th. Students can purchase a subscription to the BLO and receive highly discounted tickets with special seating.

- Sujin Shin, Brandeis University

Are you a student? Did you see Tosca? Send The BLO Bunch YOUR review!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I don't know what to wear to the opera!

Student night at Boston Lyric Opera's production of Tosca is THIS Wednesday. Are you ready? Still not sure what to wear? Here are a few tips from members of The BLO Bunch:

- The BLO Bunch

Friday, November 5, 2010


There are only 5 days remaining until The BLO Bunch takes The Shubert Theatre by storm to enjoy Boston Lyric Opera's production of Puccini's Tosca. Do you have your tickets?

It's not too late to subscribe and join other members of The BLO Bunch in the Twitter Lounge during intermissions and attend the post-performance party at Jacob Wirth.

Email for details.

Can't wait to see you at the opera!

- The BLO Bunch

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The BLO Bunch partners with Jacob Wirth!

After you spend an evening at the opera, 
join The BLO Bunch for
free appetizers at Jacob Wirth for a post-performance reception.

On Wednesday, November 10th all interested students are encouraged to meet up with The BLO Bunch at the Shubert Theatre for the performance of Puccini's Tosca, check out the Twitter Lounge during intermissions and join us for a post-performance reception at Jacob Wirth - it's just a stone's throw from the theatre and the appetizers are FREE, so there is no excuse not to stop by!

Email for details.

~ See you at the opera ~

- The BLO Bunch

Opera and MTV

It wouldn’t ever occur to me to put “opera” and “music video” together in a sentence, but that’s exactly what I found one day while bumming around on YouTube—a soft-focus, staged video of Angela Gheorghiu singing “Un bel di” from Madama Butterfly. I looked around a bit more and found several professionally produced aria music videos, mostly by Angela and Anna Netrebko—it’s an interesting example of how technology impacts opera performance. Most of Netrebko’s videos have been taken down off YouTube because of copyright issues (they’re part of a DVD she sells called “The Woman, The Voice.”) However, “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s Rusalka is still up, featuring Anna in a Marilyn-style white swimsuit, floating on a pool toy. Check it out: Song to the Moon

If this left you scratching your head, you’re not alone. This video weirded me out, primarily because opera singing is so physical, but here Anna is lip-synching to a recording of herself. This is nothing new for pop music—voices are auto-tuned, filtered, and mixed beyond recognition; but in opera, the voice is not messed with or even amplified. It’s real, yo—and it’s not always pretty. In order to get the notes, singers make fairly bizarre faces (Cecilia Bartoli is a great example.) If you’ve ever taken voice lessons, you’ve probably been told to hold your nose, stick out your tongue, and bare your teeth to try and achieve good vocal positioning and tone. Once I was told to “act like a badger,” and it totally did the trick. It’s strange to see Anna on film when her voice is so clearly coming from somewhere else. Also, it’s a bit boring—gorgeous though Anna is, it’s not quite enough for me to watch her splash her hands through rippling water for extended lengths of time.

In another example, Angela Gheorghiu performs “Habanera,” from Carmen


Let’s take it frame by frame.
0:02: A giant red rose floats across the screen. The first of many.
0:07 Angela appears, silhouetted, in a sea of floating (albeit normal-sized) red roses.

0:08: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle… etc. etc. Angela, unlike Anna, at least looks like she’s really singing—she’s breathing properly and focusing energy in the front of her face. However, I still can’t quite take her seriously, and I think it’s because of all the floating flowers.
0:54 Angela’s head of shiny, shiny hair abruptly leaves the field of roses and reappears in front of bright lights.

Stop looking at me like that, Angela! I believe you, I promise. Love is exactly like a rebellious bird.

1:05 A mirror appears, and Angela soulfully inspects her reflection.
1:32: A phantom chorus begins to sing the refrain. Angela looks in the mirror some more, and then looks at me, serenely. She has nothing to do for a good twenty seconds except wait for the chorus to finish. At least they didn’t cut to the giant rose again.

2:25 - Angela begins the second verse. The camera pans out to reveal her sitting on a flight of stairs. Behind her is a painting of a bull - between that and the roses, I we've all the items that veritably scream, "Carmen!" Perhaps some castanets will appear lying on a table somewhere.
4:01 - The chorus sings the second refrain, and rose petals rain down as she triumphantly finishes the piece.

4:28 - It's baaa-aack!

As with “Song to the Moon,” this video left me wanting more from the story—most of the video is just a close-up of her face. It’s no coincidence that the two singers trying out this format are Netrebko and Gheorghiu—they’re both widely known for being hot. Angela Gheorghiu has a quote on her website from the New York Sun calling her “the world’s most glamorous opera star,” and Netrebko has been quoted as saying that her voice has gotten so big because of “the microphone between my tits.” More than ever before, sex appeal is a factor in determining which singers hit it big—it’s no accident Nathan Gunn is always called on to perform shirtless. Not that I’m complaining. Opera may not have been intended for the close-up, but Peter Gelb points out with his HD Simulcasts at the Met that it’s the way of hi-def or the way of the dodo.

Anyway, even if the operatic music video falls a bit short right now, I think Gheorghiu and Netrebko are on to something—a short-form, digital medium for opera has really cool possibilities. Granted, my stance is usually in favor of more opera in all forms, all the time.

In other news, Renee Fleming also makes music videos, for her other life as a pop star. 

- Audrey Chait, Brown Universit

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What exactly is The BLO Bunch?

We get it. A lot of young people probably think opera is stuffy. Staid. For the older set. But what if opera – with its gorgeous divas, dashing maestros, grand costumes and over-the-top storylines – could be interactive? What if it could connect students with a broader community of other young lovers of music, high drama and theatre?  

That’s exactly what BLO aims to do this season, by offering students a chance to join The BLO Bunch. Not only can students save a ton of money on great seats by subscribing to Boston Lyric Opera’s full seasonal program, but students can connect online, in the theatre and after performances.

BLO Bunch members will attend the opera in a theatre filled with other students during the Wednesday Series this season at Boston’s elegant Shubert Theatre. During intermissions, they’ll have access to a special Twitter lounge, where they can broadcast to friends and followers how much fun they’re having. After the show, they’ll move on to a student-only after-party. Subscriptions start at just $51!

The first performance of the student series is November 10th.

To join the conversation, use the hashtag #BLOBunch. Look for the Twitter Lounge in the upper-mezzanine lobby, or tweet from your seat during intermission and keep an eye out for other BLO Bunch members in the theatre! We'll have our flip cameras and we'll be looking for the newest stars of our videos, like these.

When you leave the theatre on November 10th, don't leave the experience behind! Share your impressions and pictures on this blog! By submitting your photo, you could be the next face featured in The BLO Bunch online!

Passive theatre is so passe. See you at the opera!

- The BLO Bunch

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's go to the opera!

To see or not to see, that is the question. For a Theatre Studies major and someone who loves the performing arts, I try to see as many shows as I can. Going to school in Boston has now made that more accessible for me. And student rush tickets? Best invention in the whole world. Whoever thought of that deserves an honorary award.

But here’s something I’ve been thinking about though: Tosca. Opera? What’s that? Of course, in general, I know what an opera is. But really, what is it? What does it really feel like to see it onstage? How will it feel when I can witness it in person? How moved will I be when I can see it all happening in front of me? And wait… Student subscription at the Boston Lyric Opera? Is that REAL?!? This is exactly what I need. How else am I going to experience opera? This is the perfect antidote for my opera curiosity without leaving my wallet completely empty.

So get ready! I’m breaking out my pretty dresses and heels. I’m going to the opera

- Ying Songsana, Emerson College

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What BLO offers, a student perspective

I love the quality of Boston Lyric Opera productions! The BLO strikes a great balance (in my opinion) between interesting and unique productions and staying true to the nature of the opera and composer. (In other words, they are not too esoteric or modern for the sake of being modern.) While it is a relatively small opera company compared to, say, the Met, I find that the quality of the singers has always been very high, and they don't rely on "big names". Another aspect of the BLO that I love is the amount of outreach and opera education they do around Boston. The annual family opera is always so well done and is a perfect way to introduce children to opera and to show them that opera doesn't have to be stuffy and boring, but a lot of fun!

The BLO is always eager to reach out to the community and provide a great opera experience for people of all ages. The student subscription is such a wonderful way to make it possible for students on a budget to be able to spend a great night at the opera. Also, because tickets aren't as expensive, we can afford to go to all 4 shows, instead of spending all of our money on one or two. 

As a volunteer with the BLO in high school and as an intern now, I have witnessed first hand what an amazing job this company does of making sure their members and the whole community is satisfied with the whole experience, from buying the tickets to special accommodations to the show and more. With the addition of David Angus as music director, and being present at his meeting last week with the staff, there was a palpable excitement in the air as he explained his vision for BLO in the future and I really believe that he is going to take the high quality of Boston Lyric Opera and elevate it even further. This is definitely the time to be seeing the BLO shows and to get involved, because it's on the cusp of truly coming into it's own as an opera company!
- Hannah Shule, Boston University

Monday, October 18, 2010

Can't wait until Tosca opens?

Get an exclusive sneak preview of BLO's 2010-2011 Season!

Singers Michelle Trainor (soprano), Nicole Rodin (mezzo-soprano), Jeffrey Hartman (tenor) and Anton Belov (baritone) along with pianist Noriko Yasuda worked with director Erik Friedman to craft a very special concert with selections from each opera featured in the 2010-2011 Season. The company traveled to local venues, sharing the music. Watch selections from the October 6 concert held at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth!

- The BLO Bunch

What will my seat be like?

Sometimes attending the theatre is a nerve-wracking experience simply because we don't know where to sit! What will the seats be like? How much does it cost? Will I have a good view? Where is the bathroom? How do I get to my seat? Who will be sitting next to me? There are SO many unknowns!

The Shubert Theatre has 1500 seats. Every person has his/her own idea of a good theatre experience, so before you buy tickets, think about what is important to you:
Do you like having leg room?
Do you like sitting on an aisle?
Do you want the best sound quality possible?
Do you want to be so close that you can see the singers sweat?

Maybe you just want the experience of attending the theatre...then maybe the cheap seats are the best choice for you! Everyone is different, so tell us what YOU like!

If you desire an entirely stress-free opera experience, subscribe with The BLO Bunch because you'll be seated with other students! Still on the fence? Join two staff members on a tour of the Shubert Theatre, exploring all sections of the house.

- The BLO Bunch

Friday, October 15, 2010

Boston Has an Opera House, Right?

If you walk on Washington Street (passed Boston Common Coffee), you will encounter a building emblazoned with the words: The Boston Opera House.  Surely, you must think, this is Boston’s opera house, where all opera should be performed.  Indeed, the Boston Ballet now calls this place home.  Why on earth doesn’t the Boston Lyric Opera or Opera Boston use this facility?  Because, quite simply, this building was built as a vaudeville theater and is not designed for opera. 

The B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre (as it was originally known) opened on October 29, 1928.  It was built under the supervision of Edward Franklin Albee (1857-1930) as a memorial to his late business partner, Benjamin Franklin Keith (1846-1914).  No expense was spared when the building was built.  After life as a vaudeville theater, it eventually became a movie house with the occasional vaudeville show.  In 1965, the theatre was purchased by the Sacks Theatre Company, who renamed the theatre the Savoy.  By 1978, when Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston was in desperate need of a home, her company bought the theatre, which it held until 1991, when her company went bankrupt.  The house fell into disrepair until 2002, when a major renovation by Clear Channel Communications was initiated.  When The Opera House was finally opened, its first show was The Lion King.

Unfortunately, the pit area is far too small to do any reputable operas, hence why it usually presents musicals.   Sarah Caldwell would not let this deter her in the pursuit of opera, except her bankruptcy, will can deter anyone, especially when people come looking for money!

The harsh reality is that Boston once did have an actual opera house, which opened on November 8, 1909, near Symphony Hall.  The building sat 2,700 people, had no obstructed views, and at the time, had the largest stage in the United States.  No expense was spared as the owner of the building, Eben D. Jordan, Jr. (of the department store Jordan Marsh) wanted Bostonians to experience opera in the grandest way possible.  Quite unfortunately, the organization that the opera house was built for, the Boston Opera Company, went bankrupt after a few short seasons.  The opera house was bought by the Shubert organization of New York.  This is the same organization that owns the present-day Shubert Theatre in Boston, where Boston Lyric Opera presents operas.  With a capacity of 1,600 or so, it is very small compared to other opera performance venues and it is unsuitable for most large opera productions. 

The Boston Opera House continued to show opera and other shows until the 1950’s, when it was decided to tear down the opera house.  It was thought to be structurally deficient and the City of Boston demanded that the Shuberts pay $300,000 to fix the foundation.  The Shuberts decided not to pay the money, tried to sell it to the city, and was unsuccessful.  With the city unwilling to buy the structure, the Shuberts sold it for $135,000 to S. and A. Allen Construction Company on September 4, 1957, a firm that specialized in auto parking lots and garages.  The Allen Construction Company claimed though that it had not yet been decided if the opera house would be demolished for a parking lot at the time of the sale. 

The president of Northeastern University, Dr. Carl S. Ell, decided to purchase the building from the Allen Construction Company and build a women’s dormitory in its place.  He had been looking at ways to fix the chronic overcrowding of Northeastern and this seemed to be a perfect solution to his problem.  On September 25, 1957, the Opera House was sold to Northeastern for $160,000 and torn down in the summer of 1958.

Yes, you unfortunately read that right: the opera house was torn down.  Such a beautiful, majestic structure was reduced to rubble.  The women's dormitory that was built in its place is still standing.  The City of Boston deserves and needs a new opera house.  Imagine what operas Boston Lyric Opera, with the right facility, could do.  Hopefully, in the near future, this dream will become a reality. 

-Rob Tedesco, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh the DRAMA!

The world of opera is one filled with color and magic. The scores and librettos written by the great composers and new composers bring exciting stories to life. When my friends ask me why I love to go and see an opera it is a simple answer; I love the melodramatic and exciting tales that are brought to life through the rich music. Boston Lyric Opera brings these old and new masterpieces to life with a new spin. BLO’s artistic staff is not afraid to add a contemporary edge to Bizet’s Carmen or find a creepy location for Brittan’s The Turn of the Screw.  In addition, the staff and patrons of BLO are welcoming and they’re there to teach new opera lovers what ever they can. Boston Lyric Opera builds a warm, fun, and exciting community for opera that everyone, young, old and even us the in between, should have the chance to experience! I am extremely excited to see what new twists Boston Lyric Opera has in store for its community this year in its new season of operas! 

- Kara Fleishaker, Boston University

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Holy Monteverdi, Batman! I haven’t been this excited since I got to see Lady Gaga back home in Pittsburgh! Boston Lyric Opera is offering STUDENT SUBSCRIPTIONS?! Surely, this must be pure jest. Opera is exclusively reserved for the blue hairs, hoity toity socialites, and pretentious art lovers. The stuff in opera is way to highbrow to be appreciated by the likes of us rowdy college students.

But, that isn’t the case at all. Operas were the original musical and, dare I say, the original movie. Wagner created epic mythological tales through his Der Ring des Nibelungen, while Puccini poured emotion, romance, and tragedy into La bohème. By the way, these two operas are inspirations to modern day works! Have you ever seen The Lord of the Rings or Rent? You should probably read this article for a great comparison of Wagner and Tolkien, and Rent is a direct adaptation of Puccini’s La bohème.

So, if operas are about love, manipulation, tragedy, myth, violence, betrayal, and anything else from the mystery bag of emotions, themes, and plots, then there is no reason for you to miss out on an opera. Especially since they have indeed inspired modern works (You can’t even prove me wrong on this one. Look at the above…)! It would be similar to missing out on the blockbuster of the year, or the movie that everyone is talking about, but you. Especially since the blockbuster you would be missing would be a fabulous BLO production. The mission of Boston Lyric Opera is to produce artistically excellent productions of a diverse repertoire that entertain and inspire audiences. BLO does, has done, and will do exactly that in this 2010-2011 Season. We will go from tormented and torturous love in Tosca, to the provocative morality play of The Emperor of Atlantis or Death Quits, a comedy of Roman proportions in Agrippina, and enter the land of confusion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I couldn’t be more excited for this Season, especially as a student. A great offer waits ahead, as well as even greater productions. I can’t wait to see where the productions take the audiences physically and mentally this Season, by way of unearthly talent and genius collaboration on stage to make these stories come to life.

See you soon!

- Jessica Trainor, Boston College

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is opera boring?

Opera is boring, or so most people believe.  I mean, sure there are some operas that drag on a little, but I dare you to watch Puccini’s Tosca and not get emotional when Tosca dramatically reacts after her lover’s death (be sure to go see it this year!)  You cannot watch the end of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung and not be completely blown away.  Not just because of the destruction of Valhalla (which is awesome), but because of the music that accompanies the scene.  (Indeed, Wagner’s Ring Cycle is based on the same Norse legend as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.)  Wagner’s music tells you something is happening; something powerful.  That is what great opera is about; great music, acting, sets, and, of course, great stories.  What would opera be without their stories?  Beethoven’s Fidelio, Verdi’s I vespri siciliani, and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte are but a few operas that were written about oppression.  That’s why opera is important: it says visually and musically what can’t be said orally.

Fortunately, Boston Lyric Opera is an immensely talented company that can re-create these operas for audiences to see and hear.  Last season's Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten was an amazing foray into not only a new venue (the castle by the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston) but an opera that visually made you uncomfortable, but in a good way.  BLO is changing the way opera in presented in Boston, and I for one can’t wait to see all their productions.  With their dedication and commitment, we are in for quite a ride this season.  Make sure your safety harnesses are fastened; here we go. 

- Rob Tedesco, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Why opera?

As a young person who loves opera, I'll be the first to admit that we are slightly rare birds. I've never quite understood why--opera is exciting, sexy, and full of decidedly not-G-rated subject matter--accompanied by powerful, sublime music. Current directors and designers are creating innovative, visually stunning productions, and opera is a great theatrical medium for experimenting (Wagner's gesamtkunstwerk definitely has room for acrobats and video projection, that's all I'm saying). I'm from the San Francisco area, and I used to meet other students while waiting in ridiculously long lines to buy student rush tickets. Now that I'm on the East Coast for school, BLO is where I get my opera fix, and I'm excited that there's a program for young people like the BLO Bunch. The great thing about BLO shows is being treated to way more than just the "standard" production--the design and directorial choices are always fresh and interesting, and I love having the Opera Annex production in a non-traditional theater space. The school year can get so busy, and being involved in the BLO bunch is a perfect way to stay in touch with other young opera lovers. I am looking forward to meeting fellow students who procrastinate by watching John Adams' Nixon in China on YouTube instead of writing papers. See you at the opera!

-- Audrey Chait, Brown University