Category Archives: other

All in the family: the real Semiramide, Assur, Nino and Ninia

When an opera is based – more or less – on “real events”, I want to get slightly better acquainted with the facts as they have come down to us. I’m not a historian and you shouldn’t expect this to be a history lesson. It’s pretty much the fun facts a quick read on Wiki will reveal. I’m doing this because I like a bit of a backstory myself but I don’t always want to research things right then and there, so I’m grateful if someone’s written a brief synopsis.

First off, these folks are not Babylonians (they originate from the town of Babylon) but Assyrians (they originate from the town of Assur). They do fight (and win against) Baylonians, to whom they are related (ie, they are all Semitic tribes). They have the coolest BCE names ever.

Sammurāmat / Sammuramāt (811-808 BC) – Regent of Assyria, empire named after its capital city, 𐎠𐎰𐎢𐎼 (Aššur), during the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-608 BC). At the time, the Empire was the largest of its kind and the most technically advanced nation of the Ancient World (hence the Hanging Gardens1; but apparently not savvy enough regarding basement lighting 😉 ). Women weren’t held in such high regard back then for it to be a common thing to rule as Regents, but the Wiki source speculates she was possibly accepted due to “politically uncertain times”. It appears she was a real person who ruled the empire – or at least was very politically influential – until her son’s coming of age (I could not quickly find what that age was). It isn’t clear how the legend developed, or, even better, how it spread further afield.

If you’re wondering where’s her picture – of course there is no picture, she’s a woman. But there is a large rock, known as her stele. Better that than nothing.

Shamshi-Adad V or changing beard trends and lots of pointing

Shamshi-Adad V aka, Nino (824-811 BC) – King of Assyria, named after the rain/storm god of the region (Adad). He is the dude who campaigned against Babylonians and defeated them.

Assur-danin-pal aka, Assur – brother of Shamshi-Adad V, with whom he engaged in a serious power struggle when it came to succeeding their father, Shalmanasser III2. After some early victories which brought to his side 27 cities (including the famous Nineveh (𒌷𒉌𒉡𒀀 – I just love cuneiforms!) which will later become capital and end in fire and brimstone), he was eventually defeated and disappeared from chronicles.

Adad-nirari III: Dad, stop pointing at me!

Adad-nirari III aka, Ninia/Arsace (811-783 BC) – King of Assyria, was busy rebuilding the strength of the empire by campainging left and right, building a lot of things and allowing a breathing period for Israel, as long as they paid tribute to him. Sadly, the empire returned to a few decades of weakness after his death.

So, it’s pretty accurate, after all. Assur = bad guy, Nino = struggling with pretenders, Semiramide = ambitious queen, Ninia = recovered well.

  1. some say the Gardens were built in Babylon but others believe they were in Nineveh. So you see how it is, even historians don’t agree on their Assyria/Babylon. Of course it does not help that the Assyrians destroyed and then rebuilt Babylon and made it the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (609-539 BC). 
  2. named after Shulmanu, god of the underworld, fertility and war. 

Roosters as opera singers

A certain conversation spurred me to listen to this rooster compilation 😉 Although this post might initially appear overly whimsical, think again. Whoever’s spent some time in a traditional village or small town is well acquainted with the classic sounds and mannerisms of the rooster.

Today I’m reviewing the above 33 roosters on: dramatic skills/entrances, plumage stylishness, beauty of sound, sound projection, cleanliness of tone, trill skills, and, of course, posture. For your express pleasure, I included direct links to my favourites.

1 flaps wings, great posture, clean, classic sound, has all the notes

2 short, unassuming (though nice crest), no-nonsense crowing

3 perched, nice plumage, short on breath (all good until the end)

4 short, hairy legs, Rossini would not be pleased with his slur

5 classic look and sound, loses steam by the end

6 shaggy-stylish diva-dude, goes for the money notes (projection!) but slurs his way there

7 the JK of roosters, impressive plumage, great posture, baritenor sound, a bit gutted by the end

8 short, with ‘tude, great projection, needs to work on clean sound

9 (0:38) super stylish 3colour plumage, perched, checking out his audience, clean, classic tenor

10 funny looking shag, all black, woodsy type, great projection and posture, not the prettiest sound but he doesn’t cheat

11 nice, peppery plumage with nicely contrasting crest, good posture, short and to the point (Baroque-sized crow)

12 (0:52) the red baron of roosters, what perch when you have that bari-tone? absolute classic crow

13 redish coat, no crest to speak of but he can crow no problem, great snag for a second tier house coop

14 someone dropped the pepper all over him, needs a lot of work on his breath

15 peppery with a yellow twist, good posture, short crow, he was perhaps hanging out with the 20th century rooster-crowd (“you want me to do… trills?!”)

16 all the colours in the book, just launches into the sound, he might ruin his voice pushing (against wind and debris) but for now it’s a great crow

17 white with peppery bib, still has the tone but is starting to lose the control

18 all peppery with blue tinge by the tail, legendary posture, passable crow

19 all colours, good posture, honest crow with the trims

20 snowy with black tail and faded crest, checks his audience, “still singing at 70”

21 all colour, perch, classic crow with trims but pushing a bit forward

22 all white, all ‘tude, starts great but loses steam

23 great white colour, very nice crest and no-nonsense baritenor crow

24 white/black, tiny crest, great woodsy perch, cheats

25 squat, whitish, a bit too much grain in the diet, sound drops about halfway through

26 all colour unique plumage, great crest and aerodynamic posture (not so great in the long run but highly photogenic), good crow; the cyclist of roosters

27 red, perched lazily at the coop “door”, “what, you actually want me to sing?!” face, does an approximation of the crow

28 golden, good posture, nice ping but Rossini would shake his head

29 (2:02) the king or roosters, unique marmot-stance, great crow

30 all colour, all crest, the equivalent of a bearded (hipster) rooster, writes his own ornaments

31 (2:10) perched impressively, impressive tail feathers, massive entrance, clean tenor sound with trims – the Pavarotti of roosters

32 short, squat-ish, colours = check, good posture, countertenor sound! honest crow

33 all white, forward crest, posture, great tone but a bit slurred by the end

Sex abuse accusations against Levine

It was a matter of time until this reached the opera world (though it appears the time was very long indeed and the Met is likely not to come off too well for doing nothing about it until now). I wonder what else will come out and about whom…

4 years of opera, innit?

nobody messes with the contralto

It’s that time of the year again – opera, innit?‘s anniversary so here’s a mini Q and A:

Interviewer dehggi: so, Blogger dehggi, it’s been 4 years now. What motivates you to continue running the blog?
Blogger dehggi: Tito and contraltos in action!
Interviewer dehggi: how about the good people you’ve met because of opera?
Blogger dehggi: they are the hidden perks 🙂 thank you all for making it lively and spontaneous!
Interviewer dehggi: and the cake? Are we forgetting the cake?
Blogger dehggi: how could we?! Goes with all the fun/snarky opera chats. Virtual Tito-cake for all 🙂

Howdy neighbours and Happy Christmas!

shop window in Paris (Place des Vosges, I think), December 2016

It’s been a tough year, yes, but there’s a time for everything and now it’s time for Happy Holidays to all! I was debating putting up another traditional carol then I decided it was only right to share with you, dear reader, a bit of holiday cheer, since joy has been in short supply this year.

The blog is a place I come to for positivity so I wanted to return that warmth and goodwill to all of you who have read, commented/conversed, liked or inspired me with your own posts, as well as to those of you with whom I shared those special inner places which are live performances here in London or in Vienna and Paris 🙂

This year’s trad carol is called Linu-i lin (Gently) and is my second favourite these days. As in the case of all traditional songs, different regions put different lyrics to the same tune. This, the version from my county, talks about visiting neighbours over the holiday season rather than about Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary hanging out up in Heaven (that version is called Sus, la poarta raiului (At heaven’s gate)).

Just ignore the cheesy ’80s production 😉 It’s hard to get carol versions which don’t sound 1) too classical, 2) too cheesy or 3) too earnest (this choral arrangement impressively manages to tick all three 😀 it’s worth checking out just for the costumes, seemingly combining Sugar Plum Fairy and Swiss Guard aesthetics; also wowza at the trendy dude’s hair at 1:31; and a last one strictly for hardcore mezzo lovers -> I found a Kate Lindsey lookalike at 1:35 in yet another choral arrangement).

Hope it/one of them will make you smile.

PS: I know there are some loose ends (I do intend to finish that Aix Tito! soonish…), among which is a shambolic Finta giardiniera post which got pushed back for almost a month now because getting to the venue turned into an adventure madder than its Act II finale. Or so it felt at the time, you might end up thinking …eh? To that I’d say lucky you weren’t there!

Know the one about Wagner and the wrong tax code?

Much like the mysterious knight, I usually try to keep my everyday life a mystery 😉 but Wagner uncharacteristically came to the rescue this time and I can file this moaning session under “musically related” (if tenuously so). If you want to skip it I’ll leave you with the porcelain swan sleigh. Click on it for a version of the Lohengrin act I prelude conducted by a chap whose surname translates to fisherman. turn loose the swans

Had someone told this “migrant” to go back where he was from…

… we wouldn’t have this:

So how about we don’t start down that path 300 years later?

Now that my sense of humour has recovered quite a bit, let’s at least help keep London where it belongs:


click to sign the petition! Anyone can, whether you’re a Londoner or you just like London/Londoners and want to make them smile a little in this time of confusion.

“where does franco fagioli lives?”

  • spelled like that, is a new search engine term via which someone found my blog.
  • the reason I’m writing about this is because I’m quite adamant about privacy in general. I can see why someone would be interested in the whereabouts of a beloved celeb (ie, in which country they live, especially if they are originally from a place not at the centre of the opera world). Sometimes they are open and they talk about it themselves. Fair enough. But I still feel it’s less our business. Leave them be.
  • you might think differently and that’s ok. There is a reason people chat with singers after the show. I’m ambivalent about that (as you may have noticed). Chatting might be very pleasant but you shouldn’t forget that the person on stage is somene else.
  • I don’t know where he lives. I also don’t know whom he’s dating (if he is dating anyone) – this related to another search engine term. Please don’t illuminate me about either. Or about any other opera singer I like (but you can tell me about who those I don’t like have broken up with! this is a schadenfreude happy zone, not a nunnery – after all).

Ugly stuff that happens offstage

I had been out for a lovely night of Baroque and was about to post about it when I became aware of what happened in Paris. Though this is a music blog I felt awkward about going on with business as usual tonight. Instead I felt compelled to express how awful I feel about these tragic events.