I skipped the Pittsburgh Symphony's Heinz Hall concert Friday to go to another PSO concert at Static. What? Yes the PSO did double time April 5 with the performance of a multimedia and multi music concert, Mercury Soul. Headed in part by composer Mason Bates, it was a mix of techno beats spun by Bates and the performances of art music by some PSO members. The night had its ups and down. It was a contrived atmosphere, especially with the CMU camera crews -- at least 3 cameras -- but it got better as the night went on. It is always great to listen to classical music with a drink in hand, and that was the case here, plus you could talk and not be shushed. Bates really came up with some amazing grooves during his pure DJ set but the choice of a Stravinsky work after those beats was a real energy drain. Earlier the performance of some of John Adams' "Alleged Book of Dances" was performed by four PSOers and bassist Jeff Grubbs improvised on his own. It was an admitted experiment. I think it ended up being enjoyable, but it took a while and I don't know if it drove any new subscribers. Fun, though, and I hope the PSO keeps thinking this way.
By Robert Croan, Post-Gazette Senior Editor
If there needed to be proof that the world of opera has something for everyone,
the current season of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD has been a living testament.
From the light comedy of Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love” to the philosophical depths
(and musical sublimities) of Wagner’s “Parsifal”; from Thomas Ades’s contemporary
take on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to the upcoming baroque extravaganza of
Handel’s “Julius Caesar” (which closes this season April 27); from a traditional staging
of Verdi’s “Aida” to his “Rigoletto” moved to 1960s Las Vegas, inspired by the antics of
the Rat Pack. English-language subtitles for all productions have de-mystified the idea of
watching an opera. The plots become as clear as in any foreign-language film.
The upcoming season is similarly diverse, with three Russian works and one
Czech, new productions of “Eugene Onegin,” “Prince Igor,” “Falstaff” and “Werther,”
and starry casts including sopranos Anna Netrebko and Renee Fleming, mezzos Joyce
DiDonato and Stephanie Blythe, tenors Juan Diego Florez and Jonas Kaufmann. A
special novelty will be Shostakovich’s “The Nose,” an uproarious 1920s comedy that
was successfully revived in 2010 with “South Pacific” star Paolo Szot. American soprano
Lisette Oropesa, who won Pittsburgh audiences in Mozart’s “The Abudction from the
Seraglio,” will be the ingénue Nanetta in “Falstaff.”
There are now three Pittsburgh area theaters that show The Met in HD: Cinemark
Robinson in Settler’s Ridge Center at Exit 61 on the Parkway West (I-376), Cinemark
18 in Pittsburgh Mills at Exit 12A on PA-28, and the Pittsburgh North 11 Theater at
9700 McKnight Road. The simulcasts are live on Saturday afternoons, with "encore"
presentations on Wednesday evenings two weeks later and eventually on home TV in
PBS's "Great Performance" series. It should be noted that "Live in HD" performances (10
in 2013-14, cut back from 12 this season) coincide with the Met's Saturday afternoon live
radio broadcasts – a great American cultural tradition since 1931, aired weekly during the
season on WQED-FM.
The 2013-14 Live in HD broadcast schedule begins Oct. 5 with a new production
of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin, featuring Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role. The
remaining operas are:
Shostakovich: “The Nose,” 12:55 p.m. Oct. 26, 2013
Puccini: “Tosca,” 12:55 p.m. Nov. 9, 2013
Verdi: “Falstaff,” 12:55 p.m. Dec. 14, 2013
Dvorak: “Rusalka,” 12:55 p.m. Feb. 8, 2014
Borodin: “Prince Igor,” 12 Noon, March 1, 2014
Massenet: “Werther,” 12:55 p.m. March 15, 2014
Puccini: “La Boheme,” 12:55 p.m. April 5, 2014
Mozart: “Cosi fan tutte,” 12:55 p.m. April 26, 2014
Rossini: “La Cenerentola,” 12:55 p.m. May 10, 2014
Tickets may be purchased in advance from: http://www.metoperafamily.org/
Pls read my short Q&A of this fascinating person here in Pittsburgh
By Robert Croan Post-Gazette Senior Editor
The great Rise Stevens was a presence in my parents’ home for as long as I can remember. On the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, on the Voice of Firestone, on radio, television and recordings her dusky, deep mezzo-soprano was indelibly imprinted in my ears. Her sound was immediately recognizable and unmistakably her own, her personality larger than life.
Ms. Stevens died March 20, at the age of 99. I spoke with her by phone seven or eight years ago, in connection with research on her longtime colleague Ezio Pinza, and found her sharp and alert, with all her memories intact.
The first time I saw Ms. Stevens was on the cover of an Opera News magazine. It was a sexy photo in the role of Mignon, a once popular opera by Ambroise Thomas that has inexplicably disappeared from the repertory. Not long after, she appeared in a rare televised performance of Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier,” the opening night of the Met’s 1949-50 season. Living in
Without exaggeration, Ms. Stevens was the most glamorous opera singer I have known in a lifetime of opera going. She was movie star gorgeous in an era when opera singers were not expected to be beautiful. She reminded me of her non-singing contemporary Rita Hayworth, a similar physical and personality type. Ms. Stevens did, in fact, appear in two
Ms. Stevens never appeared with Pittsburgh Opera, but she gave a recital here in March 1957, and returned 10 years later as co-general manager of the Metropolitan Opera National Company, a short-lived young artists venture that predated the operatic training programs that aspiring singers now take for granted in the United States. In 1980, Ms. Stevens returned to the Met as adviser to the Young Artists Development Program and executive director of the National Council Regional auditions. She maintained an active interest in helping aspiring young singers throughout her life.
An excellent biography of this beloved artist by former Met archives staffer John Pennino (Baskerville Press) contains an invaluable CD of rare performance ranging from “Carmen” excerpts to Snow White’s “Someday My Prince Will Come.”