Tag Archives: twitter

When the parasite keeps sucking blood

26 Apr

ParasiteWaking up to a most rude tweet happens quite frequently and sometimes they happen to be sent by yours truly (which is even worse).

Coming across this:

by someone who should know better, did infuriate me.

Let’s face it music critics and -ahem- bloggers are parasites to the body of opera singers and directors. As such, too much unnecessarily blood-letting is ill advised, like the old leech based treatments it may endanger the patient. Ben Heppner was valiant in his retirement announcement to make such reductive, nearly offensive, throwaway remarks seems petty and uncouth. Rupert makes his living on the back of the hard work of others and affording them a modicum of respect is the least he can do. Sure, music criticism has to be harsh at times but it can be practiced with more panache and humour. I wonder if RC gave up reviewing today how many rude tweets he would get from all the artists he has offended over the years? I’m guessing none at all.

If you follow me on Twitter you know how downhearted I get every time I spot Christiansen in the audience with his gruff, miserable face looking on, waiting for something he can suck blood out of. Unfortunately he fails to engage in any discourse on social media, maybe he doesn’t have notifications turned on, on his phone…or he simply doesn’t give a shit what the little people think.

I do avoid reading his reviews as they usually are more about him than the production he is meant to critique. His air of earned authority is not quite my idea of what a critic should be about. The lack of humour and sheer pettiness is probably good for the Telegraph’s dwindling online audience and to keeping him employed for a few more years. But does he really inspire anyone to go and see a production? A critic has a life of privileged access to the art form with complimentary tickets showered on them from all directions, the least they can do is encourage an audience to the shows they attend, not become a pantomime dame full of preening self-regard and scaring people off.

Ben Heppner has left already a great legacy and his very upfront and elegant retirement announcement

is a great example of how to make such decisions known. Good luck for his retirement and whatever he will apply himself to, including his fun live tweeting during the Met Opera broadcasts for Canadian Radio. He has always been a class act, unlike many of the parasites that feasted on his off-form nights and claimed prizes for unkind reviews just to contribute to the nasty blood sport that opera reviewing can be. 

Radio broadcast promotion on a different level

8 Mar

wig-red.pngThis morning on Twitter was notable for the tragicomic tweets of Iestyn Davies, trying to bring to his followers’ attention that tonight’s performance of Rodelinda is live on Radio 3.

Clearly informed by all the reviews and a few sour blogs written about the production he probably made a much better promotional effort than any official opera house twitter account could have ever hope to.

As a tribute to the hilarity and oddball passion here are some of those tweets ūüėČ

I saw the production last Sunday and has been swirling around my head ever since. My thoughts will settle in the form of a blog post…soon. In the meantime listen to the radio this evening, it was musically very rewarding.

While ENO’s promo was a bit more…sedate

Kath Jenkins from Neath to OBE glory, a true story

30 Dec

Kath Jenkins OBEIt seems the PR people of Katherine Jenkins have been quick to tell the Daily Mail that she has been awarded an OBE in the queen’s new year’s honours ‘for her work breaking down barriers to propagate classical music, charity fundraising and the support she shows for Britain‚Äôs Armed Forces’ if propagating classical music is singing the same four arias in a career lasting a decade that doesn’t appear to be a very intensive schedule for the Welsh star. The playlist that she garbled through at the music festival of Raymond Blanc’s Les Manoir aux Quat‚ÄôSaisons¬†in 2012 is a good indication the kind of trash counts as dissemination of classical music to bankers and others that would pay ¬£450 for gourmet food and amateur screeching.

As you know I don’t really care for any “honours” given out by an unelected head of state of an empire that has long since died out. Those awards are usually a pat on the back for all of those that suck up to the political establishment.

But what makes me uncomfortable is that a manufactured nobody that can barely stay in tune and sing straight to a microphone, again is called an opera singer by the Daily Mail and fêted with a spread in The Daily Express (I presume they had a page left spare from their latest reporting on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales).

For a large part of the population…especially the middle Englanders that the DM targets, an OBE offers a legitimacy to someone of such limited accomplishment and study in her chosen field like Katherine Jenkins. It makes a mockery of many hard working artists that sing their heart out and are equated to a classical crooner of no real distinction. All she represents is the get rich quick culture that hooks on distasteful sentimentality, the wilful shit peddling of the record companies and taking advantage of an ignorant public.

Over on Twitter we have been making up suitable takes on what OBE should stand for when it refers to our dear Katherine, here’s a selection so far:

Odious Barbie Entertainer
Ordinary Blonde Entertainer
Oddly Bland Entertainer
Overtly Brazen Entertainer
Off-key Banality Enumerator
Over-Booked ‘eadache

Twitter gets heavy-handed

19 Sep

twitter gagIf you have been following this blog or you are indeed a Twitter follower you must know by now that Mark Berry’s account aka @boulezian was suspended last night.

I contacted Mark this morning to ask what was happening and he confirmed that his account was suspended without any justification by Twitter. He did have a look through The Twitter Rules and he couldn’t genuinely find himself to have broken any of them and led to suspension.

I received no notification, let alone explanation, but when I returned home last night and tried to log in, received a message saying that I had been suspended. As it suggested, I dutifully looked through the list of rules, etc., and could find nothing that I might have come close to breaking. ¬†¬†There was a form I had to fill in to ‚Äėcontest‚Äô the suspension; I have done so, but it was a little difficult, since I was supposed to say what I had done wrong! As yet, just silence in response.

Many of his followers have started a mini campaign to have him reinstated as it seems like a totally unfounded and unreasonable course of action by Twitter. Mark has been one of the most savvy and interesting commenters of the classical/operatic twitter universe and it is a great loss to the diversity and plurality of opinions. His critical thinking on his blog and forthright views are much cherished by the community.

Use our #FreeBoulezian hashtag to tweet @twitter to complain about this heavy-handed and unfair suspension. Hopefully his account will be reactivated very soon and sanity will prevail.

PS He has just been reinstated, which is great news, but will post this anyway.

Classical appliances

21 Jan

This morning on Twitter…as it happens the conversation went towards an unexpected direction¬†and ended up making some mock adverts of Classical biz stars (had to use that term due to -that- waffle iron). Thought I’d add them here for an¬†extra laugh. If they don’t make laugh…try the real thing, Myleene¬†Klass Nails.

David Pountney 1 – Norman Lebrecht 0

17 Jan

This morning a link to a blog post by David Pountney, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Welsh National Opera as a response to as usual baseless and naive article by Norman Lebrecht in Standpoint Magazine (who buys it, I wonder), grabbed my attention.

Any classical/opera world followers on Twitter are too well versed in Mr Lebrecht’s attention seeking, ambulance chasing ways. I am truly grateful that someone of Pountney’s stature took a stand and publicly denounced his lazy assumptions about funding. He makes a number of great¬†points¬†about the nature of the opera business and of art in general. I totally agree with all his points. Additionally, pure commercial¬†enterprises have very rarely produced good quality opera programming. Utter the name Raymond Gubbay (a¬†favourite¬†of the Royal Albert Hall, old Norman, isn’t he?) to any¬†opera¬†lover and you will see ūüėČ

Bravo to DP and hope all the readers of my blog will read his post.

David Pountney’s Adventures of the Spirit blog post

Norman Lebrecht’s Just say no to State Funding article¬†(watch out for the tulip metaphor!)

Read More

The new season announcement by the WNO

Follow the hilarious Fake Norman Lebrecht, much better than the real thing!

My top 11 discoveries / realisations of 2011

19 Dec

This was a pretty intense year and thought it would be good to make a list of inspirational mainly operatic highs of 2011

1 Twitter

It was the first full year that I’ve used the network as a great resource for news and also as direct communication on matters operatic and not. Met some great people through it and started some very¬†interesting¬†conversations.

2 Beverly Sills

This year I immersed myself in the recorded output of the diva from Brooklyn. A great artist with an intriguing personality to boot. Surely one of the finest coloratura sopranos of the 20th century and worth going back to her for renewal and inspiration.

3 Veronique Gens

The year (almost) started with her magisterial Niobe at Covent Garden and finished with her fantastic  recital at Wigmore Hall. A diva cut off the old cloth of greatness.

4 Allan Clayton

First noticed him¬†this year in a small part in Britten’s Dream, then I saw him triumph in Castor and Pollux and L’Enfance du Christ. A loud voice for the future, hope ENO and RO will give him more¬†substantial roles to sink his teeth into.

5 Iestyn Davis

Never one for countertenors, but his¬†performance¬†in Britten’s Dream was magnetic and his Niobe contribution very substantial. A young British voice to shake up the world of opera and early music.


Have always loved the London Symphony Orchestra but this year they have been stunning. Also one of the most adept to Twitter orchestras on the planet. A band all Londoners should be proud of and should patronise with frequency.

7 Anne Sophie von Otter

Like a well aged Claret, ASvO is a European treasure. Her captivating Wigmore Hall recital was intoxicating to the max. Greatness without the hollow diva attitude. Looking forward to her LSO collaboration early in  February 2012.

8 Alice Coote

Listened to her sing¬†Les nuits d’√©t√© years ago at the Proms and was terribly impressed, her triumphantly sulky Prince Charmant in Cendrillon was breathtaking. Her upcoming¬†Winterreise ¬†at Wigmore Hall will be an early highlight of 2012 (there are still a few tickets left, grab them quickly!)

9 Joyce DiDonato

The Yankeediva is a charismatic performer that elevated Cendrillon to stratospheric heights, her Ariodante was to die for, despite the awful orchestra and still a fun Twitter person to have disagreements and banter with.

10 Mark-Anthony Turnage

He gave us Anna Nicole, which was plethoric in its gay abandon and a great showcase for the considerable gifts of Eva Maria Westbroek, the darkness of Twice Through the Heart with the excellent Sarah Connolly and his remarkable music for Undance.

11 Sylvie Guillem

Managed to see her new mixed bill evening at Sadler’s Wells in its two outings back in early July and late September. She was absolutely wonderful both times. A rare dance treat. She continues to be the measure of all dancers, a standard for excellence.

If you had an epiphany of an artistic nature in 2011, feel free to add your top whatever in the comment section and Merry Xmas ūüėČ

You never know who’s watching ;-)

6 Jun

You just never know who’s watching!

I thought it would be fun to ask the amazing reigning super Mezzo Joyce Didonato if she was watching Katherine Jenkins’ “rendition” of Una Voce Poco Fa in last night’s results show for Popstar to Operastar…and you can imagine my surprise and perverse delight that she confirmed that she was actually watching! Calling it unforgettable is I think an appropriate turn of phrase indeed ūüėČ

I can confirm that I played Joyce’s version later after PSTOS just to reaffirm in me the power of¬†true¬†musicianship¬†and vocal beauty. Kudos to the Yankeediva for the 100th or so time ūüėČ

Handbags at dawn or protecting the family silver / Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream / ENO – 21 May 2011

22 May

I have to confess at being a total Britten virgin and this time round I went to see the new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the English National Opera on a whim (only bought the tickets the day before the opening). While following all the reactions of bloggers and critics on Twitter I was fascinated by the genuine dialogue it was creating. Lets say there was a buzz in the air. It was a shame to hear that Iestyn Davies was vocally indisposed and he was only acting the part while a stand in was singing from the side of the stage (he was absolutely fantastic as Creonte in Steffani’s Niobe Regina di Tebe which was on last year at Covent Garden) but the other main reason for seeing it was my total inexperience with Britten’s operatic output. I systematically had avoided his work as it seemed to lack passion and any compositional radicalism.

Reading numerous reviews the day after the first performance I was intrigued by the division between the reviewers into the offended old crowd that thought the family silver had been pilfered and a much younger group that thought it was as exciting, if not even more, than Faust that preceded the production at the Coliseum. A particular example that created an avalanche of Tweets was Stephen Jay-Taylor’s “review” that had all the qualities of a gossip session over the garden fence. He has been writing for aeons but that fact does not give him a carte blanche to insult performers in order to please his enlarged sense of self.

Having seen the production this evening I can say that I am terribly surprised that such irresponsible rubbish has been written about it. Why is Britten’s work seen as the sacred cow of British operatic tradition? Himself partially used Shakespeare’s play and wasn’t too bothered with authenticity, why does a change of context create such an amount of discomfort and apparent sense of threat? Christopher Alden did give us a very uneasy ride by siting the action in front of a forbidding Victorian school all painted grey(a nice touch was that the right hand side part of the set was jutting beyond the proscenium, agitating the space in the process). Surely we did not get the fantastical wood that Britten’s own provincial first production in 1960 has had. But Alden does make an interesting allusion to the composer’s personal life and his perception by the people around him. He creates an uncomfortable story of child abuse that is insinuated through the relationship of teacher Oberon and his chosen student. A clever reference to Britten’s obvious fascination with boys throughout his life and operatic career. Even though there is no evidence of any impropriety Alden is inviting us to look through the eyes of Britten’s contemporaries in 1960, while he was rehearsing the piece it must have seemed to a lot of people totally unnatural a mature man to cast a cornucopia of young boys in his latest opera and to have them rehearse in a barn in the middle of nowhere. That very core of his idea about the composer is what can be seen as gratuitous and an easy shot. But I can vouch that it actually works on stage. It brings Britten’s own demons to the fore with the cruel reality of school thrown in for good measure.

The set is providing for hidden looks and touching between Oberon and his Changeling Boy, creating an intriguing mix of psychological terror and a tableaux of shadows that gets exploited in numerous ways. A very telling scene is in the second act when Oberon leaves behind Tytania who is smoking in a depressed state while he walks off stage with the boy. Till he reappears in 15-20 mins all sorts of ideas circle in the minds of the audience. Another creepy detail is when Oberon stops singing his aria out of the window of the classroom his “best boy” is helping him put his jacket on. And that is the way Alden’s sub plot is working, by suggestion. He has not gone for any coarse means but by association he leads his audiences mind to wonder into some very dark recesses. Now that is the kind of thinking process that would never take place had we had a pretty wood on stage. This kind of total rethink of the plot may seem an anathema to some purists but as a newcomer to Britten found it meaningful and an interesting diversion from a well trodden path, where staging an opera amounts to performance archaeology and nothing more. This darkness in setting and intentions has also another effect, it amplifies that almost film noir elements of the score. All the slightly dissonant keyboard playing and the haunting long phrasing of the strings seems dark and airless on top of a gleaming, textural couverture of pizzicati strings and bells.

The third act brings a hilarious staging of the play within a play (Thisbe and Pyramus), the audience tonight found it very funny and there was a lot of laughing echoing in the auditorium, in contrast it seems to what a couple of spiteful reviewers were reporting from the premi√®re. Willard White was really going for broke and delivered some very funny moments and also an emotionally charged moment when he almost directed the school children / fairies to use the whole of the building as a giant drum kit in order to accompany their singing. Michael Colvin’s Flute (Thisbe) was really funny in pink tights and sang very well his “heroine’s” last moments.

Anna Christy sang her torturous high coloratura with the frivolous outlook of a leggera soprano. Her singing was beautiful and being made to parade the stage in your bra while singing some killer aria is not an easy task. She gave us the frumpiest Tytania in the history of the stage but she had the stage presence to be a fantastic companion to Oberon.

Iestyn Davies did actually sing tonight, his voice was as beautiful as ever but in the first couple of scenes he sounded guarded and seemed not to push too hard, his subdued instrument making his presence feel weak. But it’s totally understandable when he is not very well. After the interval he sounded much more comfortable and the volume increased too. Even for people that find counter tenors tedious I can imagine finding his attractive silver tinged delivery appealing.

Two other definite stand outs where Allan Clayton (Lysander) and Kate Valentine (Helena), their duets where beautiful and with a very confident and assertive vocal positioning.

All in all I am relieved to report that there was not a hint of boo from the audience. Everyone was appreciative of the great efforts from the choir, orchestra (under the vibrant baton of Leo Hussain) and soloists. Britten’s crystalline structures came through and the clarity of the playing was just a joy. I don’t think he will ever be my favourite composer but tonight was a great start of looking into more of his works in the coming seasons. One criticism I would have of this first outing of the production (as referred to by Alexandra Coghlan) was the profusion of wall touching…most of the characters spend inordinate amounts of time feeling the grey walls. An exaggeration that sometimes took us away from the moment. But that hopefully can be looked at and corrected and not seen as an Alden signature.

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