The May issue of OperaNews, the magazine published by the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, is devoted to Scandinavian opera. There are some very interesting articles, one with the new artistic director of the Stockholm Royal Opera, Birgitta Svendén, another about the old court theater at the Drottningholm Castle, and much more. Check out their web-site www.operanews.com. There you can also hear sound-clips of Scandinavian Wagner singers from the 30’s.
If you look in the April issue online there’s an interview with André Previn about his new opera “Brief Encounter”, world-premiere will be at the Houston Grand Opera in a couple of weeks. We just started rehearsing last week, and haven’t heard it with the singers yet, and they are constantly changing the orchestra parts between rehearsals. I guess mr. Previn are still finding things he wants to improve! From what I can tell so far, the music is very accessible and melodic. It sounds a bit like movie-music, which make sense because it’s based on an old movie. What cracked me up when I read the interview with mr. Previn was that this story was suggested to him by his fifth wife, (now divorced) Anne-Sophie Mutter! For being eighty years old, he’s getting around!
Today is William Shakespeare’s 445th birthday, which leads me to one of my greatest musical joys recently. I have been fortunate to play two productions at the Houston Grand Opera within the last year together with my oldest son, Jakob. The first one was Puccini’s La Bohème in May of 2008 and the second one was, you guessed it, Benjamin Britten’s beutiful opera based on Shakesepare’s A Midsummernight’s Dream in January and February of 2009. Jakob has been in the children’s chorus for these two shows, and it’s been great fun for both of us.
Initially he didn’t want to have anything to do with opera, but when Jakob realized you actually get paid a little bit, he was ready to go to the audition. After the first rehearsal he was like a transformed kid, Puccini was the greatest composer ever, all the grown-up singers were the coolest guys he’d ever met, and he just couldn’t get enough! One big part was that they don’t treat the kids like little kids, they’re just as important (especially in Britten) as the rest of the cast, and they’re expected to live up to that responsibility, which they do.
I heard somewhere that Shakespeare actually had to make up about ten percent of the words he used in his plays, pretty amazing, so here’s to the Bard!
We played the Mozart Requiem Thursday night at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Sugarland, TX. It’s a beautiful church, and it was pretty much packed. Mike Warny sounded great on the Tuba Mirum, Rick Reeves played his nice old Conn 71H basstrombone, and I squeeked out a few notes on my Jin Bao alto, that’s the HGO bone section.
Last night we had opening night for HGO’s new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, great show. The storm in the third act came live to Houston just in time to soak everybody getting out of the theater after the show. Very timely!
Houston Symphony trumpeter and TOOT! leader Bob Walp has always had a good taste in cars, driving vintage BMWs and the likes. He recently got an early Porsche Boxster, and after the Mozart rehearsal Wednesday night we couldn’t resist a little friendly drag-racing on the tree-lined boulevards of Sugarland. I have my old -96 Mustang GT convertible automatic with 116 000 miles, and believe or not, I beat him two out of three! The second time I hit it too hard and was just spinning, but when I got grip the mighty Mustang actually beat the Porsche! Go, Detroit! Of course, the Porsche handles amazingly well, and does have that thing called build quality!
Last night we had the dress rehearsal for HGO’s new production of Rigoletto, opening night is Friday 4/17. Scott Hendricks sings Rigoletto, Albina Shagimuratova is Gilda and Eric Cutler plays the Duke. Amazing singers all three of them, I’m always blown away by what it takes to do what they can do. Just being able to sing over a seventy-piece orchestra with no amplification, talk about breath-control and technique!
Tonight we’re having the rehearsal for the Mozart Requiem, so I’ll drag out my $160 Chinese alto trombone. Mike Warney plays tenor and Rick Reeves basstrombone, the HGO trombone section.
If you want to hear great jazz, come to River Oaks Baptist Church Sunday night 4/19 at 6 pm. New Orleans native and piano-great Matt Lemmler has put together a program about the history of jazz, with a kicking band doing the playing. Gary Welden on trumpet, Warren Sneed sax and clarinet, yours truly on trombone together with a swinging rhythm section. Should be loads of fun!