Category Archives: opera humour

5 years of opera, innit?

Yes, it’s that time of the year again when we harvest what we sow. You may have noticed I’ve been rather quiet this month but the backstage has had some activity recently, with yours truly busy tinkering at this little gift which I hope everyone who reads the blog will enjoy šŸ™‚ and if you don’t… well, you can skip to the 12:55 and listen to Eterni dei, in a version I’m sure you will recognise.

Ep 3: True Crime Tito

Without further ado, here’s episode 3 of the opera. innit? podcast, from which I drifted away a couple of years ago due to it taking too long to produce. But I like to hear myself talk too much to actually give up, even in the face of laziness (which I admit is one of my – very few šŸ˜‰ – weaknesses) and competition from pressing “real life” activities.

So, yea, that’s where you get after years of thinking about Tito too much and talking about it too little (although, thanks to you, dear reader – and often more than once, opera buddyĀ – I’ve talked about Tito more than I thought I ever would 5 years ago).

edit 17/10/18: sounds like Vesuvius may have erupted later than we’ve thought for hundreds of years… rather after 17 October 79AD than on 24 August 79AD…


Just when I thought Gritsy wasn’t so bad after all…

…I ran into this (for your convenience, I’ve linked the ending – you need to stay for the “flea market” chorus – everybody in for themselves!1):

What in the world was that? And how did anyone – especially the conductor – think this was a good idea?2 Works well for the final stretto 50m dash in the Operalympics or as an advert to stop kids from playing with electricity, otherwise…

ps: from another Opera Ball – this time in Dresden. Coincidence? I think not.
ps2: in her defence, she is not afraid of taking chances (and watching her moves is half the fun), unlike a certain mezzo we know and (I) love šŸ˜‰ One hopes that these chances were less misguided…
ps3: even more in her defence, as a redeemer for Rossini, this trailer of Adelaide di Borgogna, where Ottone seems to be a woman. So maybe she just needs to ditch the Opera Balls and stick with trouser (wearing) roles?

  1. thanks to T for the wise words ;-) 
  2. someone please remind them all it’s not Les Contes D’Hoffmann

The Carmen-Tancredi mystery solved

Last night thadieu and I decided to revisit this precious moment in Viennese Opera Ball history šŸ˜‰ and then it occurred to us to compare Gritskova’s moves to previous Opera Ball featured singers. What came out was both amusing and illuminating:

As you can see, the moves appear pre-ordained. Now of course, Netrebko was on the verge of fabulousness (already on top of the world?) at the time and she is a natural mover, as opposed to La Grits, who looks like she’s thinking, I will be famousbulous if it kills me!

You didn’t think you’d escape this “scientific experiement” without an incursion into the steely moves of the Ice Mezzo herself, did you? Here she’s singing Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix (brace yourself for some arctic seduction). But, as you can see, she also has to walk and twirl (I mean wowza at the camera movement! That’s some getting down with the debutants for Vienna!).

As thadieu observed whilst we very carefully surveyed a few of her performances (including La tremenda ultrice spadaĀ and Non piu mesta), she seems to be thinking I will sing this intense aria, but I will make 100% sure not to trip on the hem of my gown at any time (actually T was more colourful, saying she was careful to avoid stepping into – vocal – mud).

After some big names, prepare for textbook DIVA action:

Aside from the curiously unflattering musical choices, it’s plain to see that Draculette has drafted into her contract if and when she will be moving! Haha! She’s such a veteran, she knows that she will be asked to cover that huge space and wants it in her own terms.

So there you have it, we can be a little less harsh on Gritsy today. After all, her choice of aria was the most… daring?!

Opera Twitter meets The Onion

As you all know, I have so far decided to stay away from Twitter, mostly on account of already spending enough time online (I’m falling by the wayside, I know, but -). Based on the accounts below, I don’t know that I dare put up with the mental anguish and aesthetic dilemas at stake:

Twitter discombobulated when bachtrack review does not praise everyone involved

(it’s bachtrack, but they do occasionally give 3 stars and less, don’t they? This describes a performance of Handel’s (virtue-praising borefest) Theodora)

Weā€™re talking about students and young professionals so Iā€™ll be wary about bandying names.

Heavy forshadowing… but starting with the good:

Here instead, in a nod to last weekendā€™s Glyndebourne Opera Cup and as a means of cutting to the chase, is my roll of honour.

First prize: Polly Leech (mezzo- soprano) a complete artist whose command of style, score, vocal technique and stagecraft was staggering. Her rendition of Ireneā€™s “Bane of virtue” was the first moment at which a singerā€™s performance met the measure of the work.


Honourable mentions go to soprano Charlotte Bowden, tenor Patrick Kilbride and bass Jolyon Loy.

(Bane of virtue is a really badass title – \m/ at ya, DJ Handel)

So far so polite and appreciative. Now onto the scandalous part:

There were near-misses for a couple of countertenors too, but one shrieked at the top and faded at the bottom while the other, though more technically secure, buried his head so deeply in his score that poor old Didymus remained glued the page.

šŸ˜€ Sorry, I don’t have the Twitter truth quotes, as this was pointed out to me by Baroque Bird, who likes countertenors a lot, so I have no reason to think her mezzo-biased or malicious. We had a convo over whether it was weird or not to lay it into ’em (whoever ’em happen to be). Well, you know me šŸ˜‰ You’re on stage, wear your Gorgon shield.

Twitter magic wand fight between composer, critics, singers etc. over mild criticism

These are comments on the ROH production of Turnage’s opera for children,Ā Coraline, apparently doomed to be his last (opera):

TheĀ Observerā€™s Fiona MaddocksĀ felt it was overlong, but praised the cast and staging, writing. ā€œWith some text trims and … judicious use of surtitles, it could triumph.ā€


The Guardianā€™s Tim Ashley, in a four-star review, noted that the children in the audience enjoyed it but added: ā€œTurnage has long divided opinion, and not everyone, I suspect, will like it.ā€

Like, OMG, no platform, the two of you!

Worst of all, the bad boy of English classical music criticism:

Indeed, theĀ Telegraphā€™s opera critic Rupert ChristiansenĀ did not pull his punches. ā€œTurnageā€™s score is grey, sluggish and lacking in either charm or spookiness,ā€ ran his review.

That’s almost as bad as they cuss up in Tottenham, fam. What what!

Hugh Canning, the Sunday Timesā€™s opera writer ā€“ although this was not a production he was reviewing himself in a formal capacity ā€“ added in a tweet since deleted that he thought that Christiansenā€™s comments were ā€œspot onā€.

He hastens to add, he was not reviewing it himself.Ā But he did post a thumbs up. What’s the (first) world coming to? Wait, he deleted it šŸ˜€ world crisis (almost) averted – you didn’t think this stopped here, did you?

The following day, ahead of his operaā€™s final performance of this current run, Turnage, who in 2015 was awarded the CBE for services to music, wroteĀ a tweet to Canning and Christiansen which said: ā€œDonā€™t worry Hugh. There will be no further operas by me that you will ever have to sit through again. Iā€™m done with the genre. Going to leave it [sic] my more talented contemporaries and younger colleagues.ā€

I’m taking my CBE and I’m going home! You critics can write your own operas now! See if I care.

CanningĀ replied: ā€œIā€™m sorry to hear that. Iā€™ve been a big fan of your earlier pieces. Can I suggest a few cuts in Act 1 & a sprinkling of fairy-dust on the orchestration?ā€

lolz. It’s but a step from thumbs up, big dawg to a sprinkling of fairy dust. We all flirt with danger on occasion but soon return to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to. Or to the bowl of potpurri.

The criticā€™s response was heavily criticised by opera singers including British tenorĀ Paul Curievici, who was not involved with the production.Ā He wrote: ā€œThe shared-space-ness of Twitter is tricky, and this is one incident among several in which the right tone has seemed hard to land on … Opera twitter prompting one of our most garlanded composers into abandoning the art form does not make me feel good about opera twitter.ā€

double lolz. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

TheĀ tenor Ben Johnson tweeted: ā€œWhere does a critic get off directly (publicly) writing to a composer of this standing in such a way?ā€

Dunno, dude, I thought you had a really funny sense of humour. A composer of this standing – good thing it’s still ok to say what you have to say about lesser known composers.

All I can say is, a friend of a friend who’s into Neil Gaiman (as well as opera) went and enjoyed it.

Ok, there’s something else I wanted to say:

Verdi feelings

The other day, the contralto mobile passengers were trying to see what the fuss was about the recent (current?) Don Carlos at Opera Bastille. We failed to zero-in on a coherent answer (feelings, eh) but I remembered this amusing sestissimo post. It’s about La forza del destino – my favourite opera to laugh at – but anyone who also hasĀ a (low brow) sense of humour will get a big chuckle out of it, because they will recognise the trouble coping with Verdi-ness in general – if you’re coming from the other side of opera fandom.

In case you’re wondering what’s with this randomness, I’ve decided to clean out the vault, so there’ll be all sorts of stuff – short and silly or long and deliberate – coming out of there for the next couple of months. I hope none of them bite…

Sealed with a gif

I think Giulia will especially appreciate this šŸ˜‰ I saw it years ago but it never gets old.

Speaking of opera gifs, it’s not only been Tito August chez dehggi but also gif August. This was one of the very first scenes I wanted to gif:

that sneaky manteau keeps coming back šŸ˜‰

ps: …since we’re in gif-land and it would be a bit weird to keep making overly silly posts this side of tumblr, also check out the hysterical Musical Notation (with Cats) post.

ps2: how cool is THAT for an animated gif?! Brings me closer to (gif) deities etc.

ps3: haha! Ohttone…!

ps4: Romeo ā¤

If that opera thing didn’t work out…

Did you know today was Say unPC Things About Opera Day? No? Now you do.

Latonella started it way back in August last year, in her Ciro from Polonia post:

The formidable Ewa Podles looks like “an elderly Polish lady.”Ā Haha! She so does.

I was ruthlessly inspired, so here we go:

Susan Graham = running your middle school’s carpool scheme and organising Soccer practice since 1996

Edita Gruberova = Auntie Ditta from Bratislava will teach you how to make belcanto-style preserves from the peach crop in her own orchard

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, loved by many opera devoted ladies, looks to me like your surprisingly well intentioned car mechanic

Dorothea Roschmann = teaching middleschool German to exasperating pre teens (a few with secret crushes on her)

Sara Mingardo = that mild mannered Librarian in charge of the Italian Renaissance Poetry Section on your campus’ Main Library

Alex Esposito = wait, wasn’t that the footie coach?!


Elizabeth Watts’ funny reccount of learning Ligeti

absurd panoply of foul-mouthed tenors, dominatrix mezzos, hell-raising basses and weak countertenor politicians

I’m on board with Ligeti šŸ˜‰ but yea, Le grand macabre is a bit of a headache for the listener and apparently even more for the performer. Funny soprano Watts makes it all sound… well, not exactly easy but crackable. Yours truly considered attending one of the two Barbican dates but ended up prefering to read the story on account of one contemporary opera per month being about enough of a self-challenge.

ps: three Guardian references in one week? – well, yes, sometimes there are good articles on opera in the Guardian.

And the best aria title goes to:

That type of cane shaking goes back to theĀ 1600s? Haha. Probably beyond. But upon further investigation it’s just another Early Baroque nurse being cheeky (I have it on good authority that nurses are still cheeky, foul mouthed and) poking fun at young people nowadays:

QuestiĀ giovaniĀ moderni giocanĀ sempreĀ adĀ ingannar.
IĀ lorĀ vezziĀ sonoĀ scherni, cheĀ fanĀ l’almeĀ sospirar.
QuestiĀ giovaniĀ moderni giocanĀ sempreĀ adĀ ingannar.
PaionĀ tantiĀ Endimioni leĀ zitelleĀ inĀ lusingar.
MaĀ seĀ v’ĆØ,Ā ch’ilĀ corĀ liĀ doni, ĆØĀ unaĀ lunaĀ aĀ vaneggiar.
QuestiĀ giovaniĀ moderni giocanĀ sempreĀ adĀ ingannar.

I think this silliness is a good end to a week of solid contralto/mezzo worship šŸ˜€ I should mention that today I put aside 3hrs of my timeĀ forĀ L’incoronazione di Dario so you know I’ve been most serious about mezzo/contralto rituals. If there was a god and that god was a low tessitura female singer1, I’d’have payed for a lot of sins this week…

PS: how good does this stuff fit DG’s voice? I’d fall in love with it… if I weren’t besotted already…

  1. The thought alone is making meĀ feel pious… 

The 225th La clemenza di Tito Day

Tito relaxes after a long day of scoffing at foiled assassination plots

This year for Tito Day I’d like to steer you, gentle reader, towards someone else’s writings/experiences.

Have you ever wondered how it isĀ to sing Sesto?

I mean the whole exprience of it, not just picking up the score and trying to hit the notes whilst also interacting with a bunch of other costumed people on stage. Some of you have probably read this account as it’s old (by blogger standards) enough to have achieved cult status but it’s still as entertaining as ever. We Titoheads are extremely lucky to have someone withĀ first hand experience detailĀ the processĀ in such a hilarious manner.

Without further ado, head over to sestissimo1 and scroll, for a month long account of the glamourous fabulous life of the contemporaryĀ opera singerĀ duringĀ a production2 of La clemenza di Tito.

  1. Yes, it’s mezzo Jennifer Rivera’s old blog. I think she migrated it to her main site but I liked the vintage air and the fact that it’s so Sestoriented. 
  2. If you want to know the audience’s opinion ofĀ the (rather handsome) Graham Vick 2008 Torino production of Tito she’s talking about, check out this account.Ā You can also watchĀ the 30min Prima della PrimaĀ documentary of this production on ‘zetube.