Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dr. von Lyric open's his cabinet again! This week: Ravel's Bolero

Dr. von Lyric is opening up his "Curious and Amazing Cabinet of Musical Marvels and Miracles" for us once again! What does he have to say about this week's clip?

"Elegant, musical, witty, charming, sexy (ice skating?) Judge for yourself " - Dr. Von Lyric 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dr. von Lyric and his "Curious and Amazing Cabinet of Musical Marvels and Miracles"

"My colleague at BLO, Amanda Villegas (who carefully posts my selections on the blog) suggested that I might want to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow... an excellent idea. And so in honor of this celebration of (among other perhaps more important things) eating, here's Renee Fleming, Frederica von Stade and Marilyn Horne singing for your supper" - Dr. von Lyric

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dr. von Lyric and his "Curious and Amazing Cabinet of Musical Marvels and Miracles"

"Yma Sumac - a name that arose in conversation a while ago (what on earth could we have been talking about?) and set off some vague but tantalizing memories. I checked her out and here is part of the result... I make no claims here for anything but a deep abiding strangeness. Add Ernie Kovacs (and while we're at it "The Minute Waltz") into the mix and you have a very definitive definition of a very deep and very abiding strangeness. " Dr. von Lyric

Click here for a link to an entire site dedicated to Yma!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A View from the Crowd: Life in the BLO Chorus - Madama Butterfly Final Thoughts

Our fourth and final Madama Butterfly installment of A View from the Crowd with Chorus member Dr. Dana Schnitzer. Thank you for following her journey through the run of Madama Butterfly!

Thoughts After Closing

Geishas, Katrina Holden and Dana Schnitzer

"The run of BLO's Madama Butterfly was a huge success.  The house was packed for every show, "heedless of the wind and weather". 
I think the entire cast and crew is proud of their work, as they certainly should be!

We geishas had a great time, not only on stage but off.  Many new friendships were forged, and many laughs were had.
In case you were wondering what we do backstage when we are not singing, the backstage area is a scene of card-playing, story telling, magazine reading, advice giving.... and even magic tricks.  We certainly know how to keep ourselves entertained. 

During the run of the show, I was frantically studying for my final doctoral oral exam (Boston University).  My castmates helped by quizzing me and having related discussions about music history and vocal pedagogy.  Well, I passed, and I am now officially Dr. Schnitzer!  I walked into the dressing room on Wednesday to a round of applause.  What an amazing and supportive group of people!  I for one am very excited to come back and sing in the ensemble of Flying Dutchman in the Spring, and I am going to miss my BLO family in the meantime. 

Thanks for supporting BLO, and I hope you will come see the next show! - Signing off, Dana Schnitzer

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pucciniana #12

Puccini as only an artist can present him!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dr. von Lyric and his "Curious and Amazing Cabinet of Musical Marvels and Miracles"

"You'll never see a more dramatic performance of the scene between Tosca and Scarpia in Act 2 of Puccini's TOSCA, or a more moving performance of "Vissi d'Arte" than in this excerpt from the 1985 documentary Tosca's Kiss by Daniel Schmidt filmed at the Casa di Riposo - a retirement sanctuary for singers founded by Giuseppi Verdi in 1896. Track down the whole movie (on Amazon or Netflix) - one of the most powerful evocations of the indomitable spirit of the performing artist and unquenchable strength of music itself. A transformative delight!"  - Dr. von Lyric
Sara Scuderi and Salvatore Locapo in Tosca's Kiss

More on Sara Scuderi

Pucciniana #11

A very interesting article from The New York Times entitled "Music Box as Muse to Puccini's Butterfly" was published on June 15, 2012. We have reprinted most of it, but encourage you to read the entire article.

"The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of mechanical musical instruments and automata at the Morris Museum here received national attention after Martin Scorsese’s film “Hugo,” which appeared last November. The museum’s Clown Illusionist, with a disappearing and reappearing head accompanied by a cheery tune, was featured on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

Even now few visitors spend much time in the room where the Swiss music boxes are displayed. Yet, being a musicologist, I lingered there alone last January as my children ran ahead. I kept listening to one box in particular, a harmoniphone from around 1877, equipped with a reed organ and able to play six Chinese tunes from a cylinder.

Confused at first, I suddenly realized that I had stumbled on the key to a musicological mystery many decades old. Scholars have long known that Puccini used Chinese tunes in his opera “Turandot” (set in China and left incomplete on Puccini’s death in 1924). But they have been puzzled by the origins of two “Japanese” tunes in his “Madama Butterfly” (set in Japan and first performed in 1904). What I had found were Chinese sources for two major themes in “Butterfly” and a surprising connection between that opera and “Turandot.”

Was it possible that Puccini had heard this very box in Italy and that it provided crucial inspiration for “Madama Butterfly”?

We know that he heard a “Chinese” music box in 1920 at the Bagni di Lucca home of Baron Edoardo Fassini-Camossi, a veteran of the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China and of a military operation there at the end of World War I, and an amateur composer with published pieces to his credit. The baron probably acquired this box and other souvenirs in China at the notorious “loot auctions” that followed the suppression of the Boxers.

Puccini’s visit was leaked to the press and later reported in the librettist Giuseppe Adami’s books on the composer, so opera lovers have long known that three tunes from the Fassini music box, now in the private collection of Lionello Ghiotti in Italy, were prominently featured in “Turandot.” The most famous Chinese song, commonly called “Mo Li Hua” (“Jasmine Flower”), signals the seductive and glorious aspects of the fairy-tale Chinese princess Turandot; another tune accompanies the entrance of the three ministers; a third serves as an imperial hymn." read more... 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pucciniana #10

Two out of our five performances of Madama Butterfly are done and with just three more to go (11/7, 11/9, and a matinee on 11/11) I thought that this Pucciniana should be dedicated to the mystery of the Geisha. - Amanda Villegas, Marketing and Communications Manager

Over the centuries there have been countless books and movies written on the allure of the Geisha. lists 1,188 books alone. But to Western society there is still so much confusion surrounding these Japanese cultural icons. It is a common misconception that the geisha was a prostitute. To the contrary, Wikipedia gives us this definition: Geisha (芸者?), geiko (芸子) or geigi (芸妓) are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance and games. answers the prostitute question:

Are Maiko and Geisha prostitutes?

Most certainly not! A Maiko and Geisha's profession is based on preserving the traditional arts such as dance, singing and music and entertaining in a non-sexual manner.

The confusion as to whether Geisha are prostitutes or not seems to have stemmed both from the close proximity Geisha had to courtesans in the Edo era and the fact that they did technically originate from the red light districts. The main culprit though appears to be from post World War II occupation by U.S. service men.

Many U.S. service came home from Japan with wild and raunchy stories of "Gee-sha Girls" whom, for most of the part where not in fact real Geisha, but rather, ordinary Japanese women or prostitutes masquerading or calling themselves "Geisha", largely because it was easiest for the service men to understand.

Of course, the large majority of service men did not know the difference, and despite the survival of the Geisha districts after the enforcement of the prostitution laws in 1957 and the subsequent closure of the red light districts, the misconception has haunted the flower and willow world ever since.

More interesting links on the Geisha:

One of my favorite history sites, History Undressed has a great article on the history of the Geisha. Read it here!

Japan-Zone brings us an interesting perspective on the history of the Geisha and some personal anecdote! "I recently had the pleasure of meeting a woman who was once the No.1 geisha in Japan. She's a wonderful lady, funny, warm and kind. She was once a favorite of my wife's grandfather who, with his many business and social connections, helped her find sponsors and make her name..." read more...

Japan Guide has information on how to attend a Geisha dinner when in Japan!

"An enduring symbol of fashion and tradition embodying the grace of the Japanese people. Curiosity and misunderstanding face most gaijin about geisha, women in Japan and paid entertainment" Geisha of Japan has probably everything you've ever wanted to know about the Geisha history, lifestyle, and even hairstyles!


In my research I discovered that there are a TON of sushi restaurants named Geisha! Who knew?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pucciniana #9

"Nagasaki - the city of Butterfly and the atomic bomb, Back in Nagasaki - a song written by Harry warren and Mort Dixon in 1928. The levels of implied or overt racism and maniacal cultural confusions in the song and in these performances is complicated (to say the least)" - John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor

"Hot ginger and dynamite

There's nothing but that at night

Back in Nagasaki where the fellas chew tabaccy

And the women wicky-wacky-woo" - from Back in Nagasaki

Jeeves and Wooster Nagasaki: (yes that is Dr House in his young and foolish days)

Red and Stuggie Song:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Opening Night!

It is opening night of Madama Butterfly! Our cast, crew, and administrative staff are putting the finishing touches on what looks to be a wonderful evening of Madama Butterfly!

To all of you who are getting ready to attend a performance over the next 10 days, we hope you enjoy! And if you are on the fence and unsure whether or not you want to spend a night at the opera, tickets are selling very quickly, so if you want to see one of Puccini's masterpieces this Fall, you must act soon. Visit for more information.

Toi, Toi, Toi to all of the talented artists that will bring this work to life for you tonight!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A View from the Crowd: Life in the BLO Chorus

Dana Schnitzer's third of four installments for "A View from the Crowd"

Backstage at BLO
 "It has been exciting to move into the Schubert Theatre for tech and dress rehearsals. I always forget just how fun it is feeling a production come closer and closer to opening. Of course, we now face the issue of re-spacing ourselves, and getting used to the set and wings, but so far it has been quite stress-free. The only real challenge for the chorus is the scene where we renounce Butterfly and have to BACK off the stage without looking behind us, contending with a step and a specific doorway exit!

Backstage at BLO
Listening to and watching Yunah Lee sing through the role of Butterfly the other night has inspired these thoughts: you simply can't thrive in this career unless your technique is rock solid, enabling you to move and act while simultaneously achieving a consistent, beautiful and most importantly HEALTHY tone throughout the entire opera. Opera-singer-hopefuls are quick to blame others; the business and its politics, the soprano with "more connections", the accompanist in their audition... when in reality, once you have achieved the most perfect technique, the way will be paved for you. Otherwise, you frankly have no business being up there in front of thousands of people singing lead roles. Yunah sings the entire (VERY demanding) role without fatigue or a hint of strain. She is truly an inspiration!

Unfortunately the chorus and orchestra lost a day of rehearsal to Hurricane Sandy, but we are not distressed. We are ready to put our best foot (vocal cord?) forward at the open dress rehearsal on Wednesday 10/31. The orchestra, principals and chorus sound amazing, and the behind-the-scenes folks are absolute pros. I will write my blog of final thoughts once we have closed... in the meantime, please come see the show! It is not to be missed!" - Dana Schnitzer