The Metropolitan Opera 2017 Audition

Yesterday, Sheila and I had the privilege of attending the Metropolitan Opera Audition that featured 9 very talented young opera singers on the fringes of stardom.   Each of the 9 finalists performed 2 arias with the accompanying Met orchestra and an enraptured packed house.

Held annually, the Audition is a MUST SEE for anyone who loves opera and for those with an open mind and heart who wish to see and hear some extraordinary artists.

This year was special, since it marks the 10th Anniversary of the 2007 Audition that was “aired” by the Met Opera in 2009.  I remember seeing this compelling documentary at one of the Met HD live performances and have been hooked ever since.

As the judges tallied up their votes, 3 of the contestants from that historical 2007 Audition sang arias, including Michael Fabiano who is currently performing in La Traviata.

I have been thinking about “Art” quite a bit after learning that funding for the National Endowment of the Arts (“NEA”) will be cut to zero in the new Budget.   Frankly, $148 million to the NEA is not much, considering that a single new F-35 jet costs more than twice as much.

I will be very much saddened if funding for the NEA is cut, but I also understand the argument that the NEA has outlived its usefulness if its primary role was to “bring culture to rural areas” in the United States.  If our laws or institutions are clearly outdated, replace them with something that makes sense rather than graft on a series of well-meaning programs that do not truly fulfill the intent of the writers of the Law.

Personally, I would prefer that we build theaters for ballet, music and the performing arts at High Schools rather than invest in football stadiums and new sports facilities, but I seem to be in a minority.

After watching Cosimo de’ Medici single-handedly risk his family’s fortune and reputation to engage a bankrupt architect (Brunelleschi) to complete the Dome on the Duomo and commission Donatello’s risque David, it is gratifying to see the creation of transforming Art that defied popular constraints.

If left to their own devices, the “elected” government of Florence would be fighting wars with neighboring Lucca rather than build the foundations of the Renaissance culture.  Thank God for people with the vision of Cosimo de’ Medici.  The same might be said of Louis XIV and the Palace of Versailles.

While I treasure the grandeur of the Opera and classical music, I am not sure that a credible majority in this country share my opinion.

In a recent New York Times article that focused on the demise of intellectuals, Norman Podhoretz summarizes the bleak cultural landscape quite nicely, “All Americans really care about is sports,” he said. “They pretend to care about other things, but what they care about is sports.”

Therefore, as we move into an era of “popular” culture, I remain hopeful that true visionaries like Cosimo de’ Medici will emerge to create a cultural and artistic landscape worth celebrating.  My granddaughter and future generations certainly hope so!

Public Service Announcement from Gourmay

All is “right in the world” and the prospects for peace have never been brighter regardless of which side of history you prefer to stand on:

  • Congress is in summer recess and,
  • President Obama is spending two weeks vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

In the words of Garrison Keillor, that national treasure who hosts A Prairie Home Companion, “the optimists among us are either running for public office or on strong medications; the rest of us are skeptical.”   I guess I will resume taking my meds.

For those who have better things to do with their lives, I recommend the Met HD Opera season (2014-2105) that begins October 11.  We make an effort to see them all, but for those who are tempted to see what old people do in their spare time, I have listed below several traditional operas and a few operas featuring legendary divas.   If you are fortunate enough to be hooked on Opera, there is still hope for your soul:

You can watch a live Saturday matinee performance or an encore performance the following Wednesday. Simply enter your zip code to find a theater that is broadcasting a Met performance near you. Found below are a few special ones:

Nov 1, 2014 – Bizet’s Carmen. Moral of the story: Never succumb to the charms of a gypsy.

Nov 11, 2014 – Rossini’s Barber of Seville – Good fun and a few instantly recognizable melodies

Jan 17, 2015 – Lehar’s The Merry Widow – Easy listening with eye-candy Renee Fleming in the leading role. (Will you look that good when you are 55?)

Feb 14, 2015 – Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta – A chance to see the incomparable Anna Netrebko

Mar 14, 2015 – Rossini’s The Lady in the Lake – An opportunity to see “bel canto” by famous tenor Juan Diego Flores. Joyce DiDonato ain’t bad either.

Schedule one or more. You won’t be disappointed.

Couldn’t resist another classic duet from Puccini’s La Boheme with Rolando Villazon and a somewhat younger Anna Netrebko. If this doesn’t move you, you have never been in love.

Together, we can keep this art from heaven thriving. Do your part and attend a live performance at the Met or in a theater near you.

I am Gourmay’s International Correspondent and I approve of this message.

Thais and the Majesty of Opera

There are few things more beautiful sounds in the world of music than the Méditation theme which is played between scene changes in Act 2 of Jules Massenet’s Thaïs. This is certainly one of my favorite operas with a simple yet delectable theme: A woman of easy virtue finds redemption in the Church and a hardened ascetic discovers to his great misfortune the power of love. Found below is the finale of Thaïs with echoes of the Méditation theme that bring tears to the eyes of most opera buffs:

Enrich your life with a trip to a theater in your neighborhood to see a live HD performance of the Metropolitan Opera.   Simply enter your zip code to find a theater near you.  Donizetti’s Mary Stuart airs January 19th so get your tickets now.  Yes, there are sub-titles (in English) for the hard of hearing.