Jun 30, 2009


There is a documentary all about ME! (Well, about my people anyway, and by people, I mean chickens.)

The Natural History of the Chicken is a PBS program and it is utterly fascinating. I am particularly fond of the segment about Cotton, the opera-loving chicken, who is gratuitously pampered. (I really don't understand why I don't get that sort of treatment.)

You can see Cotton starting at minute 5 in this part of the video:

See him watching Pavarotti around minute 8:30.

That's the life.

Jun 24, 2009


(photo by: Eric Mull)

All the Shakespeare fans in the house, say "Heyyyy!"

Where would we be without Bill? Not only would legions of students be deprived of learning just what the heck iambic pentameter is. Our cultural lexicon would be devoid of "to be or not to be..." and "out damn spot!" And the millions of other artistic works that appropriated and purloined plots, characters and inspiration from Shakespearean writing would not be.*

Alas, Leo DiCaprio would have never debased the character Romeo and Kenneth Branagh's filmography would be decidedly shorter.

And there would be no Falstaff!

Falstaff was not based on just one Shakespearean work. The character Falstaff appears in different forms in three works: Henry IV (part 1), Henry IV (part 2), and The Merry Wives of Windsor. While the opera's plot stems mostly from The Merry Wives, elements from Henry IV are also incorporated. (Interestingly, Henry IV is set in medieval England, while The Merry Wives is set in the Elizabethan era when Shakespeare wrote--his only contemporary play.)

I think you'll agree--if you've seen the opera--that there's much more to Falstaff than his belly and his ribaldry. In this chicken's humble opinion (okay, so none of my opinions are really humble, per se), he is one of Shakespeare's most interesting and deep characters.

I'm actually a little surprised and disappointed that Falstaff hasn't been appropriated more often in the arts. But he DID get a [now-defunct] beer named after him. Oh, the glory.

*Of course, there is speculation that Shakespeare was a purloiner himself...

Jun 22, 2009


Apparently I'm not the only one who is gushing about Falstaff. Our opening weekend audiences loved it, too!

We got the critical validation, in Don Rosenberg at the PD: " On both dramatic and musical levels, this is a 'Falstaff' of fine imagination, grace and vibrancy."

And at ClevelandClassical.com: "Falstaff was memorable for the general vocal excellence of its singers and their tight interaction as an ensemble. This show was well cast, well rehearsed and well executed."

Then there's comments from patrons like:

"Your orchestra was splendid. I could hear the gold clanking, the wine coursing throughout Falstaff's body and so much more magic that Verdi created."

and more to the point:

A great way to start the week!


Jun 18, 2009


We are getting so meta around here.

Last night's dress rehearsal was a pioneering social media experience for Opera Cleveland. A few handfuls of area bloggers/Twitter users came out to enjoy and comment on the opera. We gave them full access to the house and to backstage, (where they hopefully met me!)

I spent the morning reading their Twitter updates and blog posts about their experience, and it was so fun to see everything through different eyes.

If you have a Twitter account, you can read the updates here.

Adam Harvey at Organic Mechanic posted a cool blog post about the evening, along with photos, including a sketch by Debbie Gill that she did while watching the opera:

John Heaney at Orange Envelopes tweeted with this backstage image:

Kevin Cronin over at RealNeo posted this and noted "a great opportunity, to see the behind the scenes wrangling and appreciate both the backstage and on stage professionalism."

John Farina was the prolific Twitter-er of the evening, whose tweets included: "I was very excited to actually see Carl the Opera Chicken tonight!" (duh, who wasn't?) and "This feels like I'm doing a 'pop-up video' on VH1." (oooh, great idea--Pop-Up Opera!)

Scott Piepho and his daughter hiked up from Akron. (Click here to read perhaps the only blog post to reference both opera and Chumbawumba.)

We also had Eric Purcell, Tech Czar Michael DeAloia, Alexa Marinos at Cleveland's a Plum (no, you are!), Stacy "I told you no Pantone colors!" Mallardi-Stajcar and Rick Pollack--and their guests--hanging out.

Thanks to everyone who came!

Jun 14, 2009


Falstaff bullies Bardolph.

The Merry Wives. (I want some of whatever makes them so merry.)


My dear Valerie, working at the Stage Manager Booth, with the ever-present stopwatch.

Hmmmm...props or singers' everyday accessories?

Milena's stage right booth and her cues. (Stage managers keep Post-Its in business.)


This is what rehearsals are for, troubleshooting things like backward surtitles.


Before the downbeat of the production, we have a "Pre-show," in which all the cast gradually comes onto stage--as themselves.

It helps establish the blurring of reality and fiction that underlies Falstaff.

In the pre-show, the singers even interact with the audience.

A really cool way to start the show, eh?


Jun 12, 2009


Today I joined Dean, Anya, Gaetan and Victor at 90.3 WCPN (go NPR!) for their interview on Around Noon. I met a fellow opera fan, Dan Polletta, who interviewed the singers.

If you tune in on Monday at noon (natch), you'll get a sneak peek listen at Anya's and Victor's fan-frickin'-tastic voices and hear an interesting interview.

If you miss it, you are clearly a slanderous, dread-bolted, mildewed ear, but you can catch it at your leisure online.

Are you wondering why I look a little...different in the group photo? Take a closer look:

I'm Carlstaff!! Anya made me my own fat suit and antler hat. (Doesn't this mean I'm officially his understudy now??)


Jun 10, 2009


Ok, so we've got a blog and Twitter and FaceBook accounts. We have live video streams of Falstaff rehearsals. What else can we possibly do to make opera more accessible, to continue to dust off the perceptions of opera?

I know! Let's invite other bloggers and Twitter-ers (tweeters?) to experience an opera, perhaps people who aren't familiar with the art form, and see what their impressions are.

We are opening our final dress rehearsal on the evening of June 17 to the blogging/tweeting community. If you are a Cleveland-area blogger/Twitter-er and would like to join us, send me an email!

I'm going to get the ball rolling by live blogging and tweeting our Sunday evening rehearsal, so look for my posts then.


Jun 8, 2009


For a chicken, I certainly get around. (Texas, Florida, Colorado, Canada...) Nonetheless, I still live vicariously through others, and I am not ashamed.

So I was a little a-flutter when I learned of some celebrity connections our Falstaff cast has.

David Won (who plays Ford) has been a regular at The Met, thus rubbing elbows with some of the opera elite. He debuted there as Gregorio in Romeo et Juliette, which starred Natalie Dessay. He later reprised the role opposite Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna. [insert wistfulness]

(I'm not worthy, David, I'm not worthy!)

Steven Goldstein, who plays Bardolph, has also shared the stage with some notables--in both his opera and theater careers. It runs the gamut from Wagnerian diva Jane Eaglen to Ed Begley, Junior.

(Hey, Ed, remember me?!)

Steven has also appeared in several movies and TV shows, including House of Games, directed by David Mamet:

(Forgive him, it was the '80s.)


Jun 5, 2009


Our Meet the Cast events are still one of my favorite things we do. I like hearing people's stories almost as much as I like opera. (Almost, mind you.)

We had a large crowd at our Falstaff Meet the Cast event on Tuesday, where I found out lots of interesting tidbits about our cast.

For instance, Caitlyn Lynch (above center) grew up in a musical family. She recalls napping in the coat racks at church while waiting for her parents who were in choir practice. Her father is in the funeral business, though, and had she not gone into singing, she may have joined the family business!

While some singers, like Anya Matanovic (above right), pretty much always knew they would follow that career path, others didn't start there. Fenlon Lamb was pursuing a degree in geology, Gaetan Laperriere used to be the head of school physical fitness program, and Peter Kazaras was a lawyer before becoming a singer (and now director).

That's all this bird brain can remember, but IF YOU WOULD HAVE COME TO THE EVENT you would have heard lots more! ;)


Jun 2, 2009


What are ya doin' tonight? Don't tell me you're slumming at home, watching I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! or watching the Cavs in the playoffs.

*I* will be at Joseph-Beth Booksellers tonight at 7:30 pm for our Meet the Cast event. And you should be there, too, because it's FREE. (Oh, not to mention, fun.)

AND 20% of your bookstore purchase today will benefit Opera Cleveland. (So you can get that biography of Kim Kardashian you've been coveting.)


Jun 1, 2009


I'm not gonna lie: Victor Ryan Robertson (Fenton) and Tim Culver (Dr. Caius) called me foul/fowl names while we were taking this photo. Use your imagination.

Falstaff (Gaetan Laperriere) chats up Mistress Quickly (Melissa Parks) in rehearsal, who is trying to avert her eyes from his plunging man-cleavage. (No matter that said cleavage is all foam and fabric.)

Extreme man-cleavage close-up:

(And, no, our Falstaff will not be wearing a tracksuit; we're not going Euro-trashy on y'all.)

Because Peter is back directing for us, it's inevitable that Tommy, his loyal, permed companion is here, too. (You can sometimes see him on the live video of rehearsal!)