Listening Party Podcast Episode 7
Jun 05, 2020 1:00pm
Friday, June 5, 2020 | 1 pm | On Demand
Part one of a two-part office conversation features members of Pacific Opera’s administration staff as we celebrate the gradual re-opening of the Pacific Opera office. Staff members, all of whom clearly love opera, share musical memories, stories, and selections. Be sure to listen and then check out the Spotify playlist. The music is eclectic, vibrant, and surprising – like our staff. It includes some gorgeous opera selections … and so much more!
In this podcast you’ll meet Box Office Manager Amy Culliford, Donor and Sponsor Relations Coordinator Steve Barker, Executive Associate Maureen Woodall, Director of Development Yvette Guigueno, and Director of Marketing Nicole Malcolm. The conversations are wide ranging, touching on, among other topics, princesses and roller derby, lego and falling in love – and music!
Amy told a beautiful story about her Grandmother who would sing lines of the Habanera from Carmen to her, and to fill out her playlist, she kept her Grandmother front and centre. She wrote to me: “I’d love to add one or two more songs my grandmother loved to sing as I was growing up – feels appropriate after my story, and she’s still in hospital right now but she would love to hear she’s been mentioned. .. Que Sera, Sera sung by Doris Day is one of them, and she also loved to sing La Bamba by Los Lobos. I’ve added Ariel’s “Part of my World” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid because Amy declared her the best princess of all.
I can’t hear the Washington Post March by John Phillip Sousa without thinking of Monty Python usually, so I’m happy to have Yvette’s story now to give a more personal emotional memory for this music in my own mind. She also asked me to include “Soave sia il vento” from Così fan tutte, which I would say is the one of the most transcendent pieces in all of opera. In her playlist you will also find Amazing Grace on the bagpipe (also a favorite of my mother’s). Yvette wrote of this request, “any bagpipe version (didn’t get to this story – but my family is from a weird line of Catholic/ Salvation Army – this song on bagpipes gives me the feels every time).” And she also asked me to include her quarantine anthem from the new, and much anticipated Fiona Apple album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I think Fiona Apple sums up how we all felt after three months of pandemic quarantine.
Steve told us about his experience singing “Va, pensiero” from Nabucco when he was with the Pacific Opera Chorus, and that is included on the playlist, but he later emailed me and asked for an opera that I had not heard – On this Planet. It’s a Danish contemporary opera by Anders Nordentoft that Steve is very fond of. This opera is a journey through life from birth to death and highlights Anders’ personal musical journey as a rock musician and a classical artist. There are two tracks for you to sample from this interesting contemporary artist. I love that chance to hear a new classical composer in opera.
As I mention in the podcast, Maureen creates the Keynotes for all the operas at Pacific Opera and she brought her same keen skills to the liner notes for her playlist. She kindly supplied the following insights into her choices.
Bach Cello Suites
As a child taking piano lessons, I really struggled with Bach. I didn’t get him, and I didn’t like playing those pesky inventions and fugues. Now he is my absolute desert-island composer, and I especially love the six Cello Suites (BWV 1007-1012). What Bach does with a single cello line is sublime, and I am deeply grateful to Pablo Casals for reviving and recording the Cello Suites after two centuries of neglect. Each suite starts with a prelude and is followed by a set of five dances, meaning there are 36 movements in all. I’ve chosen one – the lively Bourrée from the third suite, played by Pablo Casals.
Cahos (Chaos) from Les Élémens, a ballet by Jean-Féry Rebel
Written in 1737 when Rebel was 71, this is a real oddity from the French Baroque. Most of the work sounds like a typically charming Baroque suite, with movements named for the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, as well as for various dances.
But the prologue, Chaos, is a bit of a shocker. It opens with one massive, dissonant tone cluster that encompasses every note of the d minor harmonic scale (D–E–F–G–A–B-flat–C-sharp), played simultaneously. Rebel obviously felt the need to explain himself and so added this comment to the printed score:
Winterstürme from Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
In this aria, Siegmund has fallen in love with Sieglinde and he sings about spring vanquishing the storms of winter, and love and spring being one. It is the happiest moment in the opera (things will go way downhill from here!) – and probably the most joyous moment in the entire Ring Cycle. This 1961 recording features the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, with Canada’s renowned Jon Vickers as Siegmund – a role he performed at the Bayreuth Festival and the Metropolitan Opera.
Opera could be considered the heavy metal of the classical arts, and the German band Rammstein is certainly both loud and theatrical – and useful when I’m in need of a jolt of energy or a few minutes of headbanging.
Every member of the band was born in East Germany well before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The song Radio recalls that time, when listening to western radio stations was forbidden. Here is the English translation for the first verse and chorus.
Couldn’t see, talk, or hear anything
But every night for one or two hours,
I disappeared from this world
Every night a little bit happy,
my ear so close to the receiver
Radio, my radio
I let myself get sucked into the airwaves
My ears become eyes
Radio, my radio
So I hear what I can‘t see
Secretly satisfying my wanderlust
Cold Cold Ground by Tom Waits, from the album Frank’s Wild Years
Tom Waits is not technically an opera guy, but his sense of drama and story is amazing, and his distinctive raw voice is as expressive as that of any classical singer. Cold Cold Ground is the song that first dragged me into his world. I first heard it in Léolo, a Canadian film that is as disturbing and hypnotic as – a Tom Waits song! The words are stark; the rhythm is irresistible.
My Bonny. Laura Smith
Here is a version of the well-known Scottish folk song My Bonny that stands for all time. It was arranged and performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Laura Smith and is on her album B’tween the Earth & My Soul.
The Fanaid Grove. Barbara Thompson, Saxophone
An old Irish melody transformed into a gorgeous solo by the English jazz saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson, The Fanaid Grove can be found on Songs from the Centre of the Earth, an album of traditional melodies that she arranged and recorded in 1990 at the medieval Abbaye du Thoronet in Provence. This is also the opening theme of the British detective series A Touch of Frost.
Down By the Salley Gardens. Barbara Thompson, Saxophone
A traditional Irish melody that was famously set to words by William Butler Yeats is heard here in a beautiful arrangement by Barbara Thompson. It is also on her album Songs from the Centre of the Earth.
The Dutchman, sung by Liam Clancy
This has the feel of a folk song, but it was written in 1968 by the American songwriter Michael Peter Smith. It’s a tender portrait of a childless couple growing old together, going for walks, drinking tea with whiskey. He has dementia, and she takes care of him. The melody is lovely; it’s the words that break your heart.
Nicole brought many stories and songs to our interview, and then a Spotify play list to match! She did her own editing of the playlist to pare it down from the 3 plus hours she started with. Here‘s what made the cut.
Rodelinda. These three selections highlight that “rock star” quality I was talking about. Dove sei? is just SO beautiful; it’s one that I continue to hum years later . . . and it might have a hidden, unexpected companion piece later in the list. Bertarido laments his inability to be with Rodelinda as he hides for their safety, and expresses his deep need for her to be by his side to get through: Where are you, beloved! Come, comfort my heart! I am oppressed by torments and my cruel lamenting I can bear with you alone.
Morrai, si; l’empia tua testa directly follows in the opera. Don’t let the beauty of the music fool you as she rails after the villain Yes, thou shalt die – I’ll make that head the step, by which to the throne I’ll tread. I can’t hear this song without seeing Nathalie Paulin’s fury and that lush red fabric releasing from the heavens and then dropping to the floor. #drama. Vivi, tiranno! is just such a great battle cry from an amazing countertenor voice Live tyrant! I escaped you…I wanted to save you just to show you my heart is greater than my fate. Boom. That’s how you put a Tyrant who wanted to kill you and marry your wife in his place. (I imagine. I’ve not had to.)
Der fliegende Höllander. This is it listeners – Wie aus der Ferne langst vergang’ner Zeiten – the is the moment my fate was sealed starting at 2:25 in this track: Am I deep in a wonderful dream? What I see, is it mere fancy? Have I been till now in some false world, is my day of awakening dawning? . . . As I have often seen him, here he stands. The pain that burns within my breast, ah, this longing, how shall I name it? I also included Steuermann, lass die Wacht! because it is simply one of the most joyous songs to ever be sung. Let us forget for a moment that they are besieged by ghost pirates mere seconds later – that’s not important right now. Right now let’s just live here for a bit and join in voices demanding we throw a party on the shore with our friends.
“Non piu mesta” from La Cenerentola, by Gioachino Rossini. I have such fond memories of this opera, as it was my first as a formal part of the resident stage management team, and the entire opera is a bop. Literally – it is hard to sit still and not bop along. This song is Cinderella’s celebration at the end, and contains some of my absolute favourite trills in any aria. The soprano’s voice shimmers in the air like magic.
Human Again, One of the great joys of my life was Assistant Stage Managing Beauty and the Beast at Theatre Calgary. It’s long been one of my favourite sing-a-alongs, but hearing this song, which was specific to the musical and not included in the much loved movie, I think the newness allowed me to get more caught up. You’d better believe that I was crying backstage every performance watching the napkins spin and kick. I’m easily, shamelessly moved by spectacle, is perhaps the takeaway?
Dear Theodosia, from Hamilton. To me music is emotion. It gives voice to things you don’t know how to express, and it gives you words when the feelings are too strong. I’m not a parent, but I can say that when my sister’s daughter was born, this song forever changed for me. So this is here for Eleanor. <3 For when I can’t be there to say the words.
Sound. The biggest gift of Spotify is how it’s helped me discover new-to-me artists like Sylvan Esso. I’ve always enjoyed music as something that helps you escape on a journey away from whatever might be holding you down. The best make you feel as if you’re physically removed from wherever you were before you hit play. This song is at surface level maybe simple, but when I’m foggy or need a moment to reset from a state of chaos this song has been like a barge I could step on and float off into a lake of calm.
Virtual Insanity. This song is three things: 1) Another inescapable bop (don’t lie and say your foot isn’t tapping – it is); 2) A warning call from over 20 years ago (remember the 90s) to not get immersed in our digital lives to the detriment of what is real and in front of us; 3) An undeniable BOP.
Show Me Love. Music is also often meditation for me. I am not (yet) well practiced at making space in my brain for meditating, but I have found gems like this, where after I listen I’m able to sit in silence with more comfort. It helps me let go of those things I can’t control, it reminds me to forgive myself for the day’s mistakes, and it makes clear the intention with which I want to move forward.
I’m On Fire. Is it too much to admit that I may have had my sexual awakening to this song as a young woman? Alright, then instead I’ll focus on two other things. 1) The energy from the live audience in this recording is EVERYTHING I am missing right now during covid. You can feel the electricity and you know that every heart in that room is currently beating on the same beat (heartbeat hypothesis presented as a poet, not as a doctor). 2) His voice. This song often ends with those OOOoooooOOOOOoooos he does that can drive a person crazy. Here he’s more grunty, but I guess what I’m saying is that song is basically The Boss’s version of Dove sei.
Spiegel im spiegel, One of my favourite songs in the world. I’ve had the pleasure of twice designing lights to dance pieces set to this song, both TOTALLY different, and I still feel the movement and see the colours every time I listen. I pitched this being the song I walked down the aisle to, and Robert Holliston, who generously gifted live music to my wedding, used his veto card to proclaim that under no circumstances would I turn my wedding into a funeral by bringing this song into the mix, hahaha. It’s important to have friends like Robert who have your musical back.
Rhapsody in Blue, This song is electricity. I first heard it when I was about 10, watching the older dancers at my dance school perform to it. Though Fantasia 2000 did its best to rid me of enjoyment for the piece, the piece preserved. There are no lyrics, but you can bet I sing along. “Bum Bum BUM BAHHHHH!” – etc. (note: I didn’t know you could take two wonderful things – Rhapsody in Blue & NYC – and make them both worse through smashing them together. But there you go, and we shall never speak of Fantasia 2000 again.)
Mehcinut, Jeremy Dutcher has done incredible work on his path as a musician; work that has brought into being stunning songs that cross genre, cross culture, and cross time. A powerful piece of music that lays so clear what magic can happen when space is made to reimagine the voices included at the classical music table. My spirit soars when I listen to this piece. In Jeremy Dutcher’s own words:
This project is a call to my community
let’s show what we’ve done and can do
let’s send a dream into the future for where we’ll go
Amplifying diverse indigenous voices
past, present and future
of inspiring artistic visions
Once Upon Another Time: My song for long melancholic drives or eyes-closed moments – obviously not the two at the same time. It takes me back to driving on long prairie highways, passing tall grass fields with rolling waves of gold and green, wading through canola fields as grasshoppers jump across your path in the day and sing you to sleep at night. I feel the wind of an open sky on my skin when I listen to this song.
Your Next Bold Move. I don’t know why it seems that melancholy (in moderation) does the most to stir me and to remind me it’s time to move again. I promise I listen to upbeat songs too. This is my personal rally for reflection before action. Another meditation I suppose. A reminder to process my anger, process the pain, process any regret or shame and sit in the learning. And then figure out why, and how, and for whom you need to move forward. It’s stillness before the storm.
Calling All Angels, I couldn’t do a list that didn’t include k.d. lang. If Bruce Springsteen’s voice was half of my sexual awakening, k.d. lang’s was undeniably the rest. This song has always captivated me, the way her voice weaves and dances with Jane Siberry’s. I first heard it at the end of a movie when I was a kid, and I remember sitting there through the credits just letting the tears flow even as the credits ended and the screen went dark. When I don’t know what I’m feeling, but I’m feeling it all too strongly to hold it inside, this song sorts it out for me. Sometimes it gives me comfort, sometimes resolution, sometimes hope, and sometimes it just holds the space for me to cry without worrying about defining why. Some people do a juice cleanse – I cry it out. That’s maybe the theme of my list as a whole: giving permission to FEEL SO HARD that you can shed all of that which you need relief from and make space more joyfully for things to come.
Physically Distant | Socially Connected
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