Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Small Gift for our Friends - Happy Holiday!

You made it.

You’re on your way home.

Memorial Day weekend started just a minute ago at 5:01pm, and there’s only one thing standing between you and the warm, fuzzy sun of Cape Cod—2 ½ hours in a cramped car with a grandkid or two in tow and your son-in-law calling every five minutes to find out if-you’re-here-yet-and-can-you-please-pick-up-sunscreen-and-whale-watch-tickets-on-your-way-ok-thnx-bi.

We thought you could use a little TLC en route!

Behold, BLO’s Vacay Survival, err… Relaxation Kit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More on the Met/Opera News story...

BLO Artistic Advisor John Conklin follows up his post from yesterday regarding the continually unfolding story of the Met/Opera News relationship... 

Well, that didn't take long.  The mighty Met blinked, retreated, gave in with what appears to be a humiliating defeat. You can check out the veritable (and almost instantaneous) avalanche of criticism, reproach, anger, scorn, bitterness, ridicule directed at  Peter Gelb when the story hit. …and this just on the New York Times website. Is there more fall-out coming?

Interesting...  the Gelb "censorship" news was on the front page of The New York Times yesterday but the story of today's retraction was on page 3 of the Arts Section. It's getting to be like trying to interpret news from the Kremlin or psyching out the meaning of where the Russian leaders are standing for the May Day parade. Incidentally, there were many blog comments on the Soviet-Stalinist tone of the Met pronouncements... as well as calls for the overthrow/deposition of Comrade Gelb. Occupy the Met? Audiences of the World Unite?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The New York Times on an ongoing struggle. Let's discuss!

The crucial relationship between critics and opera producing companies is often difficult (even contentious). Here is another very recent wrinkle in the ongoing struggle between one of  the most powerful opera companies in the world and the press, explored in The New York Times this week - read the article here. Censorship? Prudent concern over image? Comments? (I love to get  feedback about these blog posts.)
- BLO Artistic Advisor John Conklin

Thursday, May 17, 2012

After Hours at BLO - Thoughts from a singer, opera lover, and development geek


My name is Ceceilia Allwein, and I work at BLO. My official title is Development Coordinator, which means that I manage direct mail, telefund, digital outreach, print advertising and pretty much any other communications that come out of development in service of the annual fund. It’s a super creative job, and I love it! 

At the end of my day at BLO, I don’t go home though.

I hop on my bike, go to a practice room and start singing.

To be absolutely clear, I don’t work at BLO in an artistic capacity, and I don’t make my living as a singer. I was trained as a singer (and music theory!) though and still make my way onto stages about town every now and then.

Five years ago I had no idea I would end up working in development. What I learned over time, however, was that I care deeply about people’s relationship to music and the role that financial support plays in that relationship.

Since joining BLO I have found that my development work and after hours musical activity inform each other, and I would love to share with you a few intriguing things that I’ve learned about my relationship to BLO and opera in Boston. 

1. Taste Does Not Equal Support

My musical tastes are pretty far out. Most of the time when I sing I use electronics, noise or extended vocal techniques. This summer I’ll be a vocal interpreter at the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt in Germany for a few weeks. The definition of opera in Darmstadt would fall way outside most people’s realm of musical decency, but to my taste those are some righteous times just waiting to happen! 

But I also want to live in a community where I can hunker down in a theater seat on any given weekend and bathe in a lush wall of vocal and orchestral sounds.

Butterfly, I’m looking at you!

Regardless of whether I’m a die hard fan of every single opera that’s made the stage (I’m not), I want to experience the breadth of the genre’s influence in musical discourse. I support BLO financially because Boston’s rich musical culture benefits from opera.  

2. Music education is the gift of transferable skills

Through BLO’s Music! Words! Opera! curriculum, students get the opportunity to write an opera—music and libretto—right in their own classroom, and teachers learn how to incorporate opera, which is to say, musical practice, into their teaching. 

As a product of music education similar to Music! Words! Opera! myself—and a conservatory trained, Gen Y, digital native—I can attest to the job skills that music education offers: I have executed complex tasks on stage since I was an itty bitty kid, become comfortable expressing myself verbally in public on abstract topics, and developed a huge autodidactic streak from years of self-directed practice. My music education has given me a significant advantage.

Supporting music education at BLO is not only about cultural appreciation, developing new audiences, or spending Saturdays in prestigious pre-college programs. It is also about giving kids the opportunity to learn transferable skills right in their own classrooms that will serve them for their entire lives.

3. It takes both artistic and financial context to cultivate artistry

I give performances as a non-vocational singer, because it puts the expression and vulnerability that professional artists give in every performance into context. I also founded a contemporary music ensemble a few years ago, because I wanted to know first-hand what it was like to build an organization from the bottom up. (Conclusion: It’s hard. Very hard.)

Now that I work at BLO I do considerably fewer performing projects, but the experience continues to renew my appreciation for the leadership at BLO. I am blown away by the quality of opera and the budget on which it is produced. Go Esther, John, David, Nick and Dan!

It boils down to this: Financial gifts provide a framework for material possibility--a framework that impacts the strength of opera’s voice in Boston, the exposure to art and skills that kids get through music education, and the artistic vision of BLO’s leadership.

I’ve been on a journey to really explore these three points for the past few years, and I feel stronger than ever about the importance of supporting BLO. Not to mention the fact that giving just feels good. (Don’t believe me? Read this.)

I invite you to make a direct impact on BLO’s material possibility by donating now. If you donate before June 30, you will have double the impact through the 35th Anniversary Challenge matching grant as well.  

And! If you’d like to check out the musical stylings of an avocational classical singer, you can join me at my next concert TONIGHT!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012, 8pm
New England Conservatory
Williams Hall

I would love to meet you in person and chat about how you can be a part of the amazing things that BLO has planned!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Milk-punch o wisky?"

The Inspector cast toasts to "new Italy." Photo by Erik Jacobs.
That's what Lieutenant Pinkerton offers the American consul Sharpless as they await the arrival of Pinkerton's geisha bride, Madama Butterfly. (What IS "milk-punch" anyway? It sounds rather nasty... I'll have to Google it.)  Next season at BLO, it turns out, is full of drinking and eating. There are two on-stage wedding celebrations complete with toasts (and snacks?) - Madama Butterfly and Così Fan Tutte - and an obviously boozy  sailors' homecoming celebration in The Flying Dutchman. One of the central actions and important symbolic gestures of Clemency is the preparation (on stage) and serving of a meal to three strangers (who turn out to be angels - moral obvious). Interestingly, all of these ostensibly happy celebrations turn out in the end to lead to or prefigure dire, even tragic, events. ("That's opera, Doc.")

The New York Times took a closer look at operatic eating and drinking this week, read the full article here.  

 - BLO Artistic Advisor John Conklin 


Friday, May 4, 2012

In Paris... Front-of-house glamour, behind-the-scenes mystery

Grand foyer at the Palais Garnier.
Opéra national de Paris/ Delagarde/Moatti.
From The Wall Street Journal today, a quite fascinating glimpse backstage at one of the ultimate expressions of front-of-opera-house glamor and behind-the-scenes hidden mysteries and technical wonders... and some very enticing photographs. Read the full article by Lennox Morrison.

I'm thinking of posting on this blog (probably starting sometime this summer) a series of (mainly photographic) "visits" to various unique opera houses (startlingly new and richly old) around the world, so maybe this entry acts as a good introduction and beginning. Boston, of course, has its own quite distinguished operatic venues (the ones we've left standing)... the Opera House with its almost Parisian take on the extravagant  glories and delirious excesses associated with opera at it's grandest and our own more intimate Schubert Theater... granted somewhat more restrained and classically chaste in its approach, but still  deliciously elegant with its smooth manipulation of the white and gold, red velvet and cut crystal traditions of the operatic interior.

- John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor