Feb 18, 2014       Even the Curtain Puller is Important  

  In a few days, Opera Classica will have auditions in Savona, Italy and Bad Schwalbach, Germany. We are very proud of our past winners who sang leading roles such as Violetta in La Traviata, Abigaille in Nabucco, or the Duke in Rigoletto with Opera Classica. These competition winners are now singing in major opera companies throughout Europe.

For all who choose to be opera singers, the road is very long and difficult. Filled with hopes, disappointments, the pain of being hurt by unfair remarks, the fear of failure and the joy of success.

Three months ago, I had the chance to pull the curtain during a performance of our “Don Pasquale” with young artists. I had done the stage direction, so I knew when to close the curtain and when to open it. This is very important! As I thought back over 40 years of being in the Opera World, tears came to my eyes as I pulled the curtain that night.

When I was in of the Philadelphia Opera Company from 1974 to 1977, the stage manager would not let us stand in the wings during the performance. I wanted to hear and see the opera stars singing on stage so badly, that I came upon the idea of hiding myself in the curtain until the stage manager was gone.

It was a wonderful and exciting time for me. However, great pain and disappointment would soon come…

In 1982, after years of struggling, Licia Albanese helped me get a small position in an important opera program. Instead of the kind support that I had experienced with Ms. Albanese up till then, I ran into a negative, destructive and devastating atmosphere. I was told in a very unkind way to give up singing – something that I dearly loved, and had already achieved success with. I even received a letter saying I should change my occupation. I was broken-hearted, yet despite all the pain I was going through, I mustered up enough courage to go to the general director of the opera company. Fighting back my tears, I said to him, “Mr. Director, I know you do not want me here and you only did this for Miss Albanese, but I will tell you this: I love opera and even if I have to pull the curtain at an opera house, I will be a part of opera.”

I thought about him as I pulled the curtain during that Don Pasquale performance three months ago.

We at Opera Classica wish for all of you who will audition in the coming weeks, that you will give your very best performance, and that you be content with that which you achieve – even if you become a curtain puller.


Feb 11, 2014       Was that "GOOD?"  

  Opera Classica Europa is pleased to announce the launch of its new blog "The Beauty of Opera" with a personal message from general manager, Michael Vaccaro:

Today we celebrate the great Leontyne Price’s birthday. I will always remember being in the audience when she sang Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore (with Giuseppe Giacomini as Manrico) at the Metropolitan Opera New York in 1982. Everyone in the audience on that evening knew they were hearing great singing during that performance. No one asked the question “Was that Good? on that special evening of opera so long ago. "The Beauty of Opera" was evident to all of us.

With that in mind, I would like to turn your attention to another evening at the Opera that I experienced, where the question “Was that Good? originated:

It was at a performance of Verdi's Don Carlo at a major Opera House in 2004. The papers had written words in such a manner that one thought that the greatest singer in the world was coming.

For any prospective audience members who were not “Opera Experts,” this sounded like the opera performance of the century - something not to be missed!

I was in the audience in 2004 on the night of this performance, and after Eboli's 1st-act aria, the Veil Song ("Au palais des fées" / "Nel giardin del bello") I was in a state of disbelief as to how bad the singing on this evening was, until a gentleman behind me - in the highest state of bewilderment - posed in a very loud voice, the question:   “Was that Good?  

That question, and his justified need to pose that question, has remained with me ever since, and is the raison d’être of this blog.

I repeat: when I was in the audience as Leontyne Price sang Leonora at the Met in Verdi’s Il Trovatore in 1982, no one in the audience could question whether it was good or not. The beauty of the performance was apparent, and was received as such.

Our calling as producers and performers of opera is to promote and produce the most beautiful artwork possible, so as to enrich the lives of those who experience it - NOT to cause them to question whether a performance was "good" or not. It is my opinion that great art is obvious - when one walks into the Sistine Chapel, one does not need to ask themself or other bystanders "are these Michelangelo paintings good?"

Sadly, the current state of opera is trending in many cases toward the base and obscene, and causing the audience to ask “Was that Good?” and forcing many of Opera's loyal fans to simply stay at home and listen to recordings of the past on YouTube.

For me, the last great general manager of an opera company was Carl Suppa - general manager and artistic director of the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Before becoming general manager and artistic director of an opera company, Suppa studied with Maestro Umberto Giordano - one of the most famous composers of all-time - and assisted Gina Cigna, the dramatic soprano, at her school in Italy. At 19, Suppa toured the United States and Canada as accompanist for Hilda Reggiani, coloratura soprano, and Bruno Landi, tenor. His love for vocal music was evident in all that he did, and to quote him directly: he felt that nothing can exceed the beauty of the human voice, which he called "music in its purest form." We at Opera Classica agree with what Carl Suppa said, and for this reason we have started this blog - which is dedicated to the "beauty of the human voice, which is music in its purest form."

-Michael Vaccaro

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