Inside Opera with Robert Holliston is moving online. Robert Holliston, the regular host of Inside Opera and of Pacific Opera’s pre-show Lobby Talks, presents a series of invigorating chats about everything opera-related. Recommended for newcomers and opera aficionados alike, Inside Opera Online is insightful, friendly, and funny. It’s also available on demand whenever you feel like listening.
Episode #4: Art in a Time of Pandemic
Friday, June 19, 2020, 1 pm | On Demand
Robert Holliston joins Pacific Opera’s Artistic Director Timothy Vernon and accomplished opera and theatre director Glynis Leyshon for an eloquent discussion of the importance of the arts at this time. They speak with passion and compassion of the devastating impact the pandemic is having on artists and of the danger that we may lose a generation of great artists. The conversation also touches on the value and limitations of the technology that is right now displacing live performance and of the enormous but inspiring challenge of creating digital performances that can somehow transmit the immediacy and sense of personal connection that so many of us are missing.
Episode #3: So, you wanna try opera?
Friday, May 15, 2020, 1 pm | On Demand
Today Robert Holliston chats with two other opera experts – mezzo soprano Rebecca Hass, who is Pacific Opera’s Director of Community Engagement, and Giuseppe (Joey) Pietraroia, Pacific Opera’s Chorus Master and Associate Conductor. Our trio recall their first opera experiences (spoiler – they all started with Puccini!) and recommend a few starter operas for newbies. They also talk about what people look for when they come to the opera – great theatre, athletic singing, eye candy … the reasons vary a lot!
There are also some true confessions about falling asleep at the opera. Shockingly, even people who know, love, and LIVE opera have been known to doze off during a performance!
Episode #2: Carmen in Popular Culture
Sunday, April 26, 2020, 1 pm | On Demand
Today, Robert Holliston talks (and sings!) about the opera Carmen and its extraordinary position in popular culture. His tribute to Carmen touches on the manic piano playing of Vladimir Horowitz and introduces Carmen Jones, an African-American adaptation of the opera. Robert also subjects us to an episode of the sitcom Gilligan’s Island that mashes up Shakespeare and Carmen in an inspired bit of silliness.
Along the way, we also encounter a singing orange, the Swedish Chef, and the great bass Samuel Ramey hanging out with Muppets.
Here are links to the Youtube videos that Robert talks about. Enjoy exploring these wonderful (and bizarre) incarnations of the music of Carmen.
Gilligan sings Hamlet’s Soliloquy to the tune of the Habanera from Carmen in this jaw-dropping collision of highbrow vs lowbrow art. From Gilligan’s Island, October 3, 1966 (featuring Phil Silvers and co-directed by Ida Lupino).
More from Hamlet on Gilligan’s Island with a bit of Carmen thrown in. This time Polonius (the Skipper) gives some sage advice to Laertes (Mary Ann): Neither a borrower nor a lender be … to thine own self be true … sung to the tune of the famous Toreador Song.
Pearl Bailey: Beat Out That Rhythm on the Drum”. The Carmen story is reset to the African American south in Carmen Jones, a 1943 Broadway musical by Oscar Hammerstein II and a 1954 film directed by Otto Preminger, with Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen, Harry Belafonte as Joe (Don José), and Pearl Bailey as Carmen’s friend Frankie. Enjoy this excerpt with its exuberant choreography and Pearl Bailey’s warm voice. Just try not to dance along!
Carmen Jones: The Habanera with Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte. Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for an Academy award for best actress for her performance in the title role. Although both Dandridge and Belafonte were fine actors and vocalists, they were not opera singers, and their voices in the movie were actually dubbed by a young Marilyn Horne and LeVern Hutcherson.
Dorothy Dandridge sings “Taking a Chance on Love” from Cabin in the Sky at the Velvet Nightclub in 1953. If you don’t know this wonderful singer, here’s a chance to hear her perform.
Samuel Ramey and the letter “L”. Join the Sesame Street gang for a rousing ode to the letter “L” with the great operatic bass Samuel Ramey as Escamillo the bullfighter, complete with glittery Toreador costume. Ramey sings the Toreador Song (with quite different words). Do sing along … La, la! Olé!
An orange sings the Habanera. Sesame Street presents an operatic orange, all dolled up as an occasionally off-tune Carmen who knows a thing or two about fluttering her eyelashes.
More Muppets: The Swedish Chef and Beaker try their hand at the Habenera. A surprise guest joins them at 52 seconds in. You don’t need to know the words to sing along.
Vladimir Horowitz: Variations on a theme from Carmen. In the 1920s the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz composed a set of variations on the Gypsy Dance in Carmen (“Les tringles des sistres tintaient”). Here he is playing this virtuoso showstopper at a Carnegie Hall concert in 1968.
Beyoncé Pepsi Commercial.
With apologies for such blatant product placement, here is Beyoncé singing The Joy of Pepsi, a 2003 commercial, to the tune of the Habanera from Carmen.
Episode #1: Five Operas for a Desert Island
Sunday, April 5, 2020, 10 am | On Demand
Pacific Opera’s Artistic Director Timothy Vernon joins Robert Holliston as the two make some life-altering decisions. If they were stranded on a desert island (or self isolating at home) with just five opera recordings, which would they choose? And does Wagner’s Ring Cycle count as one opera recording? or four?
Get a head start on exploring some of the operas Robert and Timothy recommend with these excerpts from other companies’ productions.
The trio “Soave sia il vento” from Mozart’s Così fan tutte with Nicolas Rivenq as Don Alfonso, Miah Persson as Fiordiligi and Anke Vondung as Dorabella. Glyndebourne Festival, 2006.
“O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La bohème with Nicole Car as Mimi and Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo. The Royal Opera Covent Garden, 2017.
“I know a bank” from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with countertenor Christopher Lowrey as Oberon. Grand Théâtre de Genève, 2015.
“Ein Schönes war” from Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos with Jessye Norman as Ariadne. Metropolitan Opera, 1988.