Listening Party Podcast Episode 8
Jun 12, 2020 1:00pm
Friday, June 12, 2020 | 1 pm | On Demand
Part two of a two-part office conversation features more members of Pacific Opera’s administration staff as we celebrate the gradual re-opening of the Pacific Opera office and share musical memories, stories, and selections. Be sure to listen and then check out the Spotify playlist for a scintillating range of musical selections.
In this podcast you’ll meet Patron Services Associate Kristen Iversen, CEO Ian Rye, Director of Finance Marilyn Walker, Development Coordinator Noelle Hinrichs, and, interviewing herself, Director of Community Engagement Rebecca Hass (who is the one actual professional opera singer on Pacific Opera’s administrative staff). Once again, the conversations are eclectic, and they explore the many roads people travel to find their way to opera … we are lured here through theatre, design, story, music … and more often than not, we arrive almost by accident.
Kristen shares some great stories on the podcast that really take us on a tour of her life as an audience member and lover of theatre and musical theatre, and as someone who works backstage. She told me that her selections for the playlist are basically my entire musical taste summed up in a playlist. She offers Puccini, Mozart, Sondheim, and a tango!
Marilyn doesn’t listen to opera outside of work, but she does have an affection for The Canadian Tenors and suggested three tracks, so I’ve programmed them all. The Prayer, Lean on Me, and Lead with Your Heart. We all love tenors.
You will find a few selections from the composers Ian mentioned – Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach; Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and The Nose by Dmitri Shostakovich, along with a track from one of Shostakovich’s string quartets. There are also selections from The Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky and Samuel Barber’s Vanessa – as well as a little Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen.
It didn’t make it to the podcast conversation I shared, but Noelle is also a fan of classical guitar music. She wrote, I find classical guitar music fascinating to listen to because of the way that these artists present the pieces with beautiful control over tempo, varied string tension and through their own interpretations and arrangements of classic compositions and songs. She has chosen some beautiful examples to share on the playlist. She suggested the American Collection by Matthew McAllister and Midnight by Uros Baric, who is Slovenian. She also suggested a great Canadian guitarist from Montreal, Adam Cicchilliti. In the classical world of music her go-to is Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland. I was even able to find the recording she listens to – by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Trying to choose songs for the playlist is like asking me to choose my favorite child. I love them all, but differently. Music is a soundtrack to my life. I have a wide and varied palate. Classical training left me with an ear that gets bored easily. This is what I felt like sharing the day I created these liner notes. Ask me tomorrow and it would likely be different batch of songs.
- The Prize Song from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner. Listening to this song thrills me, as I share in the podcast. The reason I chose this recording of Ben Heppner is because he sings Wagner with the beauty of voice that lives in Mozart. Magnificent.
- Act II Finale, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner. This is Wagner in comedy. The outrageously terrible romantic singing with the lute of Beckmesser, continually interrupted by Hans Sachs as he tries to make space for Walther and his love for Eva and their elopement AND the ensuing riot of the townsfolks, was incredible on stage. Even as audio, it is for me, one of the greatest ensemble scenes in opera.
- “La mamma morta” from Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano, sung by Maria Callas. If you want to just sit and cry and live in that sad space, this is the song to accompany you there. Callas, whatever you think of her singing, is one of the greatest singing actresses ever. In this recording you have all the meat of the sound, with the squillo and the depth of breath and body so that, as a listener, you feel like you are listening to her soul. This isn’t pretty singing for pretty singing’s sake. This is emotional truth in a voice. When she takes that one final high note and her breath, near the end (4:21 to 4:32) I start to sob every time. Wherever she just went, I went there too.
- Aria from the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, by Johann Sebastian Bach: At the other end of the spectrum from Callas and her heart on sleeve ministrations, is Bach and Mr. Gould. This is for Sunday mornings when you have your coffee and you look out at the grey streets and feel strangely comforted. The moment of bliss for me is the release of the turn at :56 . It’s a glimpse of heaven every time.
- “Mimì è tanto malata! /Donde lieta usci”, Act Three Duet and Quartet from La bohème by Giacomo Puccini. An ex-boyfriend once told me that whenever he needed a good cry, he listened to this quartet. I tried it, and he was right; it’s been my go-to sad music for years. In this excerpt Mimì tells Rodolfo that she is leaving him. But then they acknowledge that their love for one another is too strong, and so decide to remain together until springtime. Meanwhile, the other couple in the opera, Marcello and Musetta burst into the music in an argument. Marcello’s jealousy over an incident he witnessed erupts into insults between the two and Musetta storming out of his life. The mix of the deep and honest love of one couple and the all too human foibles of the others just raises the stakes of this inevitably tragic story.
- Harvest Moon by Neil Young. I’m at the cottage on the French River. I’m looking at the moon glinting off the water. I won’t lie to you, there is a cigar and scotch involved.
- A Case of You by Joni Mitchell. The cigar has finished, but the scotch continues to be poured as the moon peeks from behind a cloud.
- Mr Blue Sky by the Electric Light Orchestra. My husband introduced me to this song. It’s what my family plays when we want to dance as we do the dishes.
- Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair. Nina Simone. When we talk about music and text being equal partners, this is what we mean. When we talk about an artist inhabiting a song, this is what we mean. When I grow up, I want to live in a song as Nina does.
- Only an Expert. Laurie Anderson. I’ve been working on a performance piece for the Indigenous Showcase that was to be at the Belfry this past May. The overall title of the show was “Mother” and each Indigenous artist was tasked to create a piece illuminating their relationship to mother earth and to remind us all that we must protect her. As a Métis woman creating a solo piece, I looked to music as theatre and couldn’t seem to stop listening to this piece by Laurie Anderson. This piece is smart, pointed, and feels like social justice in a song. It inspires me creatively.
- Wristband. Paul Simon. I mentioned in the podcast that I came from a folk/pop background. I started out singing with my guitar at age 6 and playing at the family parties. Simon and Garfunkel were favorites of mine. Since then I’ve continued to admire the song writing skill and story-telling of Paul Simon. I love this song, which is obviously written from personal experience, and it makes me laugh.
- “My Shot” from Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I sang for almost three years in the Toronto cast of The Phantom of the Opera. As a classical singer who had spent years obsessed with vocal perfection, I found the way Broadway artists use their voice as a paint kit to tell stories inspiring and key to reclaiming my own artistic instincts. It led to me creating a touring one-woman show with jazz standards and Broadway songs; that led me to teach music theatre voice at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. When I teach private voice or give masterclassrd to opera singers these days, I encourage them to embrace their voice not only as a vehicle to share beauty, but also as an instrument to tell stories. I encourage them to be brave in using the many colours at their disposal to move the listener. Hamilton is pretty far from Rodgers and Hart, but I celebrate the power of different kinds of music and approaches that continue to inspire.
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