Friday, October 26, 2007


This I think is a fairly well put together interesting video that was recently featured on YouTube.

I watched it and had a few thoughts. The first and foremost being, man am I glad that I went to a school where I got to be in small classes. Average class size of 115? that's ridiculous. Yet I could look at every statement and say yes I know someone just like that, or I am in fact just like that.

I then read some of the comments left for the video, and that is what actually spurred me to write something; there were comments saying well if you didn't use facebook, or just didn't spend as much time would actually get what you should out of an education.

Well, I have two responses to this, one direct and one really the reason why I'm writing here. The first is: the internet is addicting. It is, no questions asked all of the technology that we associate with the internet allows you to become drawn in, and it seems that there are higher returns the more you use something. Blogs: I check the blogs that I read everyday, sometimes more than once a day. The people whose blogs I read don't update everyday, I don't update everyday, but as a consumer of this information I want new information and stimulus every day. I will point out that if you're away from the internet for a week, in many ways you don't miss it at all (or at least I don't, but then we all know that I'm an obstinate hermit who hates technology). Anyway long point made short, the internet is addicting, and is the easiest way to remain socially connected for many college students.

Here is my other reaction to the comments and the video, and I guess society: (today has been a colon day!!!)

The comment was that you have to get this education in order to make a reasonable living. The thing you always hear is well you'll never be able to do anything worth while unless you have at least a BA. Yet not everyone is academically inclined. That is not to say that some people are too dumb for school, but rather that some people are not wired such that they will get anything worth while from a college education except a diploma such that they can get a better job (and ostensibly debt). In fact I would argue that there is a tremendously large population that simply slogs through college because they feel they have to in order to get anywhere in life.

I don't think that everyone should go to college. I don't think that everyone should desire to go to college. I don't think that our society should place such stigma on those who don't pursue higher education. It absolutely can be a waste of your time and your (or your parent's) money, and it may not be because you are lazy and easily distracted by the internet and video games.

we have education for youth up to the age 18 because it is the way that our society has created to try to expose youth to all of the opportunities that they have. All of them, so that means that if they choose to not become an I-banker, or pursue some other profession that does not require higher education, that does not mean that the system has failed them.

I'm not actually sure that our goal should be to get as many kids as possible to go to college. I'm not advocating that there should be a smaller intellectual elite, but rather that for those whom college will not serve to expand their worlds in a manner that they are interested in, perhaps we ought to have other options that are looked at as equally noble endeavors. Apprenticeships to skilled labor, or learning art organically rather than through history, there are so many ways to expand ourselves that are just as worth while as college.

Anyhow I'm not sure this has come across very clearly as I wrote it as I was having thoughts about it, rather than after mulling it over for an extended period of time and the honing it down to something that you the reader might follow as a concise argument. Don't be alarmed if you come back and the post has been edited for further clarity.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

La Boheme

La Boheme is according to many the best opera of all time...while I am not certain that I quite agree with this analysis it was a tremendous opera. It made me understand why people love Puccini. I for one have always been a luke-warm fan of Puccini, I mean Tosca is just so damned hard to watch, and the through composition just irks me sometimes...I need some delineation between recit and aria for mercy's sake! But then when I sang in the opening of Le Rondine (the swallows) it was an entirely different story, how he went from literally parlor "conversation" to one of the most numbingly beautiful arias without it feeling trite is surely a feat of genius.

Not withstanding all of that: La Boheme....As I said before it made me see why people love Puccini. This was a revival of the same tired production that the Lyric has put on I think since '73. The singing was all good, though nothing astounding. So a mediocre production, good singing, good acting, you're prepared to have a good but non remarkable evening. But then Puccini breaks your heart. I mean of course Mimi's going to die, we all know, yet when she does and the horns play that full chord, it just breaks your heart....I cried, it's true.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Diva gossip

Now there is nothing that we as the adoring public love more than the scandalous behavior of prima donnas and divas. Certainly we focus on Hollywood and Pop stars these days, but the fascination still holds, the people that we watch perform ought to have flashy public lives to live up to their fictional lives.

The latest Opera gossip here in Chicago is that the notoriously misbehaved Angela Gheorghiu has been fired by the Lyric Opera of Chicago for "unprofessional behavior". She accordingly missed 6 out of 10 of the rehearsals and did not show up for costume fittings for new costumes that she herself had requested. The full story. She was replaced by Elaine Alvarez who has been getting rave reviews.

Angela Gheorghiu's husband Roberto Alagna is now at the Met singing Romeo et Juliette. by Gounod with miss hotness her self: Anna Netrebko. He, Roberto that is, had quite the run in last December with audiences and management. He was hissed at while performing at La Scala in a production of Aida, by what we would call the peanut gallery, but in the opera world especially in Italy is called i Loggionisti. These are the particularly vocal opera aficionados that sit in the cheap seats. They boo at all sorts of things including Renee Flemming, and anything new, or too scholarly, in sum they boo and hiss, it's kind of why they go to the Opera. Anyhow I don't know if I blogged about this particular incident when it happened, but he stormed off stage leaving his lady sans duet partner, his undercover was literally shoved on stage in his street cloths. Che Scandal!

So this opera husband and wife are not particularly known for their "good behavior", yet they continue to be engaged by major opera houses. Look at Alagna, he's at the Met right now! You would think that they were endangering their careers, but it may just be at this point that they are in such a position that they can afford such tom-foolery. Pavoratti himself was not known for his good behavior as his career matured. (also the gossip on what he did or did not leave his wife and daughters after his death)

So there you have it, you're all caught up for today. Also I provided copious links for readers who are not as immersed in reading about the fabulous world of opera!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Da Corneto

I was recently looking for local companies that put on operas in Chicago to audition for when I stumbled upon a group called Da Corneto. Their philosophy is based upon beautiful music and beautiful singing, something that they feel most companies have lost touch with with their flashy or more disturbingly modern productions. They disregard the notion that an opera singer is a "singing actor" and think that they are at most an "acting singer". As such they put on I guess what I would call partially staged productions, no sets, no costumes aside for a few character pieces and minimal staging. They do this to emphasize vocal line and powerful choral and orchestral passages.

This is really mostly interesting because it goes against a current and a call for change in the world of performing opera. Gone are the days where it was permissible to merely stand and sing. You can't just be a singer you must be a powerful convincing actor as well. Audiences simply are not convinced that Lucia goes raving mad while she's standing stark still singing ridiculously complicated ornamentation. So as a result a lot of time and effort on the part of the singer is devoted to convincing acting on top of beautiful singing. Ideally non of the beauty of line or power of the music ought to be lost because of acting or other production values. This does not mean however that this is not sometimes the case.

The death of Pavoratti in some ways marked the end of an era of standing and presenting beautiful music. He never made more than a cursory effort towards acting, and people loved him. He just cared about making beautiful music. So I don't know if Da Corneto is continuing a tradition worth carrying on, whether they are holding on to a tradition of the past, or whether it is simply creating a different operatic performance option for Chicagoans. I do know that it is intentionally turning a blind eye to modern production practices and a modern trend towards believable acting. A trend that I see as good for in many ways, yet can easily slip into trouble.

There is a reason why the fat lady no longer sings. You simply can not make it in the operatic world unless you are of a certain desirable build. Directors frequently ask singers to loose weight, something even more traumatic for a singer than for an actor, because the quality of your voice is intrinsically tied in with your body. So to change the physicality of your body is to change the way that you sound and the way that you need to sing. Tricky business.