Soprano Pretty Yende in a Los Angeles Opera rehearsal. Starting Saturday, she'll be appearing in the company's production of The Marriage of Figaro.
When Pretty Yende took the stage as Adèle in Rossini's Le Comte Ory, her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, her performance didn't go quite as planned. She tripped and fell, to the astonishment of the audience. Still, it was a night she could never have imagined when she was growing up in rural South Africa.
Yende didn't even know what opera was until the day she was home watching TV and heard a snippet of the Lakmé "Flower Duet." She was a teenager then; today, at 30, she's a rising star in the international opera community. Beginning Saturday, she'll be at the Los Angeles Opera starring in a production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. She spoke about her journey with NPR's Renee Montagne; hear the radio version at the audio link and read more of their conversation below.
Renee Montagne: I'm going to begin with a story that is often told — but it is too good not to tell it again, which is how you first encountered opera music as a teenager.
Pretty Yende: I was home with my family in South Africa in 2001. We were watching TV at home with my family, and this one evening, there's this ad on TV. And behind the ad, there's this music. It's the British Airways advertisement — you know, they use the Lakmé duet.
And so I hear these sounds, just those 10 seconds. I knew that it's something that I should know, but I didn't know what it was. And so I went to my high school teacher the following day and I asked him what it was, and he told me it's called opera. And I said to him, "Is it humanly possible?" Because at 16, growing up in a very small town, in Piet Retief, I had no idea that human beings were capable of such a gift. And so he told me that of course it is humanly possible. If you have the talent, you can do it. I said to him, "Well, you need to teach me that."
And so he advised me to join the choir, and I joined the school choir. And he told me that, "Pretty, I don't think you're an opera singer. I don't think you're a singer at all. You shouldn't be singing, you should just continue with your quest of being an accountant," because that's what I wanted to do before I heard the music. I wanted to be an accountant. But something had changed, something that I couldn't touch or see, but something that I could feel, that I needed to know if somebody could feel the same way. It was an immense joy that I wanted to share with everyone.
You've described yourself as a church girl. Did you sing in a church choir?
I grew up in the church. I grew up singing in the church. I remember walking with my grandmother to church and she would teach me songs, and she would tell me that when we get to church, "You will go up and stand in front of the congregation and start singing." So my solo career started there.
I know that a very important person to you was a teacher a little bit later, who was extremely key to finding your voice. Tell us about that.
Virginia Davids. I was very fortunate to have her, because once I got to the South African College of Music, I felt I was not good enough. I just found out about singing and I don't even know if I can. But she was really kind enough to make me understand that each and every one of us are special in their own way, but I need to start actually looking at myself and really accepting myself as an individual. And so a big part of that is accepting this gift that I've just been given. I need to open my box and look what's inside.
And this was something that I was very fortunate to learn at that time, because once I was going into this journey and looking at the world and how big it is, really, there are amazing sounds everywhere. But I need to always make sure that I look in my own box and receive this gift, because it's mine. I need to make friends with it, because it's my partner in crime. And actually it took a long time. I'm still learning to accept it, I'm still learning to be friends with it, because it's like accepting yourself in the mirror that this is who you are.
Speaking of gifts, because this one does seem like it would be a great gift to the audience, there is one role that has become famous: Your debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, a little over two years ago. Tell us about that.
Yes. I got a call from my manager. He asked me, "Pretty, would you mind if I could give you an early Christmas present? What would you say if I were to tell you you'd be making your debut at the Met way earlier than you had expected?" And he tells me the opera house is looking for an Adèle, because the one they had planned to have is not able to come anymore. I said, "Oh my goodness, I have to look at the music." I don't even know how long the opera is, but every instinct, I knew that I was ready.
Musically, you were ready, but you didn't have much time to prepare.
No. That explains the fall, doesn't it? [Laughs]
Well, what we're talking about here is, there you were — you hadn't sung a note, but you were on stage — and before you could open your mouth, something happened.
So the night has come. Pretty is making her debut at the Met. It is a full house, and what's going on in her mind is that, "I'm not supposed to be here. They wanted the other soprano. She's more famous than me, and now they're stuck with me. Maybe they really don't need me here. Oh, my God, why am I here?" I could hear everybody breathing when I entered the stage — like, I could hear every heartbeat. And then I walked on, gracefully. I was like, "I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm going to say goodbye to my brother and come back." But when I turned I took an extra look back, and that is what cost me, because then I was already on the edge of the steps going down. So when I took that final step, I was on my knees, and I was like, "Hey, what are you doing on your knees. Oh, my God, I have fallen!"
Well, in the end, there was a standing, shouting, screaming ovation, right?
Yeah, I guess even from the first few lines I did, I got a huge applause and it was like, "OK, they want me here. Relax, you know?" And from then on, the entire evening, I was just having the best time of my life. It was really special.
The role that has brought you back to Los Angeles is in The Marriage of Figaro. You play Susanna, the countess' maid who is going to marry Figaro. How are you making this role your own?
I like Susanna so much. I chose to look at Susanna for the strength she has vocally, but also physically, because it's one of the longest roles in the whole entire operatic repertoire. And so what is fun about it is the fact that she allows you to be the best actress, and this is what I wanted to learn from her: How can I be quick, smart, charming, always ahead, never panicking? Because she's always in control. They usually cast it for a person who is more an actress than an important voice, if I may. Not saying that my voice is important, but I mean that usually I would be cast as the countess.
One last thing, which brings us back to South Africa. Considering the history of the country, you are not alone in being on the world stage as an opera singer. What do you make of that?
Well, South Africa has a huge culture of choral music. I remember before Mandela was released, they were not allowed to study music, and so that culture base played a huge part to them in terms of keeping singing. And so I always say that if you think Pretty can sing, you have to go down to South Africa and hear voices, because the amount of talent is incredible. And I think that's just the gift of the country, that with all the struggles they had, they kept singing. They never stopped singing.
Sviatoslav Richter, born 100 years ago in Ukraine, is considered one of the world's greatest pianists.
It was in Carnegie Hall and Sviatoslav Richter was playing the piano. The floor rumbled and the walls shook. It happened during the tumultuous passage in double octaves that opens the fugato in Liszt's Sonata in B minor. That the supernatural force I thought I experienced actually had a mundane subterranean source — the BMT's passage along the tracks underneath Carnegie — mattered not at all.
I had fallen in love with the pianist five years earlier when I was 16. I knew he could make the earth move.
Richter, who was born 100 years ago on March 20, 1915, was the greatest pianist I ever heard. I attended 13 of his recitals during his American tours in 1960, 1965 and 1970. Although he never returned to the United States and though I never had the chance to hear him perform again, he remains the pianist I love most dearly.
Richter possessed a technique that conquered almost every obstacle, a sound that commanded the colors of the rainbow and an intellect and imagination that permitted an authoritative grasp of possibly the largest repertory in pianistic history. Yet unlike his great Russian colleague and almost exact contemporary, Emil Gilels, Richter never set out to become a pianist. He was born in Zhytomyr in Northwestern Ukraine to a family German in origin. He didn't attend a conservatory as a youngster, but received enough training from his father, a pianist and organist, to become able to teach himself after his father was murdered in one of Stalin's purges.
Richter's great love as a young man was opera, and his remarkable sight reading skills permitted him to play operatic scores he had never seen before. He was thus able to secure a job at the Odessa Opera as a vocal coach. But by 1937, his hopes of becoming a conductor had been dashed for political reasons. On the suggestion of a friend, he left for Moscow to see if Heinrich Neuhaus, the teacher of Gilels and several other famed pianists, would accept him as a student. Neuhaus reluctantly agreed to hear him, though the young man had no formal training and at 22 a career as a pianist seemed out of the question. Nevertheless, what Neuhaus heard astonished him and he took Richter on as a pupil at the Moscow Conservatory.
Richter "treated each composition like a vast landscape," Neuhaus recalled, "which he surveyed from great height with the vision of an eagle, taking in the whole and all the details at the same time. He played like no one I had ever heard, and there was nothing I could teach him."
Over the next 20 years, Richter acquired a reputation as a pianist who — in Russia, at least — was rivaled only by Gilels. But because of Richter's German origins, the death of his father at the hands of the secret police and his friendship with such artists as Boris Pasternak — a writer whose novel Dr. Zhivago made him a "non-person" in the Soviet Union — the pianist himself was politically suspect and not permitted to travel to the West until 1960, several years after appearances by Gilels and other Soviet musicians.
From the beginning, however, Richter was a sensation. Word of his prowess had been spread by several remarkable, if primitive-sounding, Soviet-made records. When five recitals, each with a completely different program, were announced for Carnegie Hall during 11 days in late October, they sold out in a few hours. (All five recitals can be heard in Sony's forthcoming 18-CD set Sviatoslav Richter: The Complete Live and Studio Recordings from RCA and Columbia.)
Richter's first Carnegie program featured five Beethoven sonatas. The first four sonatas were infrequently performed, yet Richter made those of us in the audience listen with bated breath. Not only was he able to make unfamiliar pieces sound like masterworks, he could make overplayed music sound completely new. The concert concluded with a performance of the "Appassionata" that transformed the familiar favorite into a terrifying utterance. No one who was in the hall that evening would ever forget the way the finale's coda exploded. The pianist had turned a concert into Judgment Day.
Sviatoslav Richter's hands, photographed in 1961.
"That performance, as well as the studio version Richter recorded shortly thereafter, raised the bar for all of us," pianist Malcolm Frager told me in 1979. "No one was able to play the 'Appassionata' in public without worrying that the audience might have the sound of Richter's performance in their ears."
I was lucky enough to hear Richter play many of the keyboard works that mean the most to me. There was his Liszt Sonata, which was so powerful because Richter's huge hands — easily spanning a twelfth — could play the composer's daunting double octaves without the physical strain that betrayed other pianists. His Debussy and Ravel were unforgettable because those enormous hands, with their thickly padded fingers, gave him the physical capacity to create exquisite textures; because he knew secrets about pedaling that were his and his alone; and because his extraordinary imagination could seize upon the essences of those two composers and translate them into shimmering beauty.
Richter played the late sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert in a manner that had the force of prophesy. And his interpretations of Russian music beggared description. He single-handedly rescued the original piano version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition from tarted-up arrangements, such as that of Vladimir Horowitz, by revealing colors in the composer's unvarnished original rivaling those in the gaudy Ravel orchestration. Richter's performances of late sonatas by Prokofiev and Scriabin secured their place as the most important collections of piano sonatas since those by Beethoven and Schubert.
I admired the man as well as the musician. He never rested upon his laurels, and his repertoire, instead of contracting, continued to expand as he grew older. A few major pianists might have been courageous enough to program an obscure Schumann work or a piece of abstract modernism as difficult as the Webern Variations. But what can one say about a pianistic Don Quixote whose all-Schumann programs sometimes consisted almost entirely of rarely heard works such as the Four Fugues, the Blumenstück and the Nachtstücke? Or whose recitals of 20th-century music often contained little-known works by Hindemith, Szymanowski, Bartók and Shostakovich?
Richter also taught me something about limitations — that admiration, for example, need not become idolatry. My favorite piano concertos are those by Mozart; my favorite solo pieces, those by Chopin. Those happened to be among Richter's favorites, too. But they were also the two major areas of the repertory in which he was least successful. Large hands such as his can cause problems when playing Mozart and Chopin, whose music calls for intricacy and delicacy better suited to smaller, slimmer hands. Besides, one needs a touch of innocence for Mozart and an ability to communicate emotional directness for Chopin. Richter never possessed those qualities. He was both too imaginative and too subtle to be either simple or direct.
And I also learned from Richter a lesson in acceptance. He was in declining health for about the last 15 years of his life, and I dreaded the day when his death would be announced. When it arrived on August 1, 1997 in Moscow, I finally had to acknowledge that all things, even those I love most, come to an inevitable end — even the life of the musician who was mighty enough to shake Carnegie Hall down to its foundation.
Steve Wigler is the American correspondent for International Piano magazine.
Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?
The Tallis Scholars sing the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
Arvo Pärt was saved by the bell. The Estonian composer, who turns 80 in September, hit a creative roadblock in 1968. After a hiatus of eight years he returned with a new sound inspired by the simple triad (a stack of three notes, an essential building block of Western music) and by bells. He called his new style tintinnabuli (from the Latin for bells).
It's also the title of the new album released last week by The Tallis Scholars, a veteran British vocal ensemble with a reputation in Renaissance masters like Palestrina and Josquin des Prez. Little by little, Peter Phillips, the group's director, has been adding Pärt's a cappella pieces to their repertoire, judging them a perfect fit.
The Tallis Scholars sing Pärt pared down. They employ just two voices per part as in their Renaissance music performances. This method makes a significant difference. It adds clarity and spaciousness to music already suffused with airy silences.
Take the stunning opening to Nunc dimittis. One by one the parts, from low to high, expand the sound like a flower blooming. Halos of sound emerge from extremely close harmonies and a blinding light floods suddenly on the word "lumen" (light) with the Scholars in full cry. The piece ends with amens chiming gently above a deep, tolling promise of eternal holiness.
Last year, when I had the opportunity to talk with the composer about the stillness in his music, he told me: "On the one hand, silence is like fertile soil, which, as it were, awaits our creative act, our seed. But on the other hand, silence must be approached with a feeling of awe."
You can understand exactly what he means in a piece like Nunc dimittis.
All Things Considered
Berlin Philharmonic Principal Oboist Albrecht Mayer introduces neglected composers from Mozart's time on the new album Lost and Found.
Does the name Jan Antonín Koželuh mean anything to you? It doesn't register even to most classical music geeks. But Albrecht Mayer would like to change that.
Mayer, the Berlin Philharmonic's principal oboist, chose a concerto by Koželuh and works by three other forgotten 18th-century composers for the new album Lost and Found. Mayer solos in the concertos and conducts the Kammerakademie Potsdam.
How did he discover these neglected composers? Online, of course. At least that's where his research began.
"I found myself in some really mysterious, obscure places," Mayer told NPR's Arun Rath, "like in university libraries all over the world. And I discovered so many interesting pieces which were never edited, never recorded, and so I developed the idea I should visit these places personally."
One of the libraries Mayer visited was in the Polish city of Wroclaw, where he thought he found a new piece by Mozart.
"I opened the first page, and it was so beautifully drawn and colored, and it was really like a masterpiece," Mayer says. "And then I opened the second page to see the start of the score, and suddenly I realized, 'Oh, it might not be a masterwork. It might not even be Mozart.' And 30 seconds later I discovered it might not be interesting for me."
But Mayer did end up finding plenty that was interesting — concertos by contemporaries of Mozart. Like Ludwig Lebrun. "They knew each other," Mayer says. "They had been friends. And I think this concerto already points into the future, towards a direction of the early Romantic music." Lebrun wrote this concerto in G minor in 1777, the very year Mozart wrote an oboe concerto of his own, which remains lost.
And then there's the Bohemian Joseph Fiala, another friend of Mozart. "He was working in Salzburg in the famous Hofkapelle, in the best orchestra there," Mayer says. "He was a cello player and an oboe player, and this concerto is very demanding, so he must have been very good." Another gem Mayer found in Poland was by Franz Anton Hoffmeister.
So if their music is so good, why did these composers, regarded in their time, fall into the cracks of music history while others went on to immortal fame?
"Life isn't fair," Mayer says. And sometimes you need a little intervention.
"Without the Miloš Forman movie Amadeus," Mayer says, "nobody would be talking about Antonio Salieri nowadays. I'm sure that Koželuh and Fiala are much better composers than Salieri."
A few people, Mayer says, just make it — blessed by the gods or by fate to be immortal. And others die, only to become neglected along with their music.
"They are kind of victims of musical history," Mayer says. "Some of them are rediscovered, and some still sleep somewhere in their little graves."
Pianist Seymour Bernstein discusses Schubert.
Credit: Courtesy of IFC Films/Sundance Selects
Ethan Hawke might strike you as an unlikely guide to classical music. But in directing his first documentary, Seymour: An Introduction, he created an intriguing and ultimately profoundly moving tribute to a largely unknown artist, 86-year-old pianist Seymour Bernstein.
A student of Clifford Curzon, Nadia Boulanger and Georges Enescu, Bernstein seemed in the 1950s and '60s to be a serious star ascendant. A 1954 New York Times preview mentioned him as a rising virtuoso in the same sentence as Leon Fleisher, Earl Wild and Jacob Lateiner. In a review written in 1969 — the same year that Bernstein made his solo debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — Times critic Donal Henahan raved about both his technical accomplishment and intelligent interpretation: "If his recital ... was not merely one of those freakishly great days that good pianists sometimes enjoy, Seymour Bernstein is ready to break out into a wider circle of attention."
That never quite happened for Bernstein — at least, not in a traditional career trajectory. At age 50, he decided to dedicate himself completely to teaching, composing and writing. In 1977, he gave a farewell performance, though unbilled as such, at the 92nd Street Y. The Times reviewer, Joseph Horowitz, wrote of that concert with unknowing prescience: "It is a pity that, given the modesty of his bearing and the subtlety of his art, Seymour Bernstein will probably never be as widely appreciated as dozens upon dozens of lesser pianists."
This isn't only a film for piano fans, though. Bernstein's deep humanity, sagacity and wit come shining through in this tender and loving portrait. Borrowing the title of a J.D. Salinger short story for this project, Hawke illuminates Bernstein as an artist and teacher whose wisdom reaches far beyond the confines of classical music.
While the spotlight is on Bernstein, Hawke appears on screen a couple of times — first to explain how this project came to pass (after a chance meeting at a dinner party), then to discuss paralyzing stage fright with his new friend and quasi-mentor. It's a subject Hawke and Bernstein can commiserate about; the film's narrative suggests that stage fright was part of the impetus for Bernstein's decision to quit his performance career. Yet he tells Hawke, in essence, that if you're not feeling fear, you're not doing it right.
The film opens in limited release in New York Friday and nationally after that.
Owner Heidi Rogers Tuesday at her famous Manhattan shop, Frank Music Company, before the store's final closing Friday. Judging silently from on high is composer Igor Stravinsky.
There's a kind of little village of artisans on Manhattan's West 54th Street. In a couple of plain looking office towers, there are a bunch of rehearsal studios, violin makers' workshops and other music businesses. Behind one of those office doors on the 10th floor sits Frank Music Company — Frank's, as everybody calls it.
The store opened in 1937. Heidi Rogers has owned the shop since 1978. And she still writes all of her receipts in pencil. Rogers stands behind the counter, nearly her entire stock sits behind her, stored in thousands of large brown folders stacked on industrial shelving.
"I don't have a computerized inventory, believe it or not," she says. "So, I have hundreds of thousands of things. I have a lot of music. Let's put it this way: I could pretty much say 'yes' to any request from a musician for many, many years. I never was out of things."
Yet today she will make her last sale, as her store is closing for good.
At its height, Frank's was a pilgrimage site for many musicians, from students to the world's most celebrated soloists. There used to be another sheet music store called Patelson's, right behind Carnegie Hall. But Patelson's closed down in 2009, and Frank's was the last dedicated shop left standing. You can still buy scores at The Juilliard Store up at Lincoln Center, but it's just not the same.
Rogers holds forth while people are flooding Frank's for one last shopping trip. About a dozen customers pack the tiny space, listening reverently. Among them is Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John. She performs as a soloist with orchestras around the world. Yet this is where she comes for sheet music.
"Oh, I would say, more than 20 years, probably something like 25 years. Since I was a kid, basically," St. John says. "It was my only stop for sheet music for a quarter of a century. I mean, I always came here."
The violinist is taking today to do one final stocking up. "Well, let's see," she muses. "I think I have a pile over there of 10 violin concertos. I also got a couple of standards, like some of the Mozarts, also some more modern stuff — Arvo Pärt, Szymanowski, this sort of thing, because unless you come here to Frank's, it's really difficult to get that stuff."
Franks's was also a place to talk about music.
"I would always run into people that I knew," remembers Zizi Mueller, "or I'd run into major musical people that I didn't know, but that were there. And the other thing about it, too, is that the staff was always comprised of musicians and really knowledgeable people."
Mueller is the president of Boosey & Hawkes, one of the biggest classical music publishers. Boosey administers the music of Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Bartók, as well as such living composers as John Adams, Steve Reich and Osvaldo Golijov.
Mueller acknowledges that as online sites have popped up, allowing people to download sheet music to their iPads, traditional dots on paper are quickly becoming obsolete.
"The online world offers SO many advantages to the musicians and non-musicians alike, that it's become a kind of irresistible force," Mueller says.
Mueller won't say how that online world has affected her sales, but Rogers will.
"The beginning of the end was photocopying," Rogers says, "and then after that the internet, because it's hard to compete with Amazon. And in the last three years, there's been a tremendous amount of free downloading of public domain music and even non-public domain. I mean, there's all kind of copyright violation going on, and you just can't survive that. Because if you can't sell Mozart and Schubert and Beethoven, you can't pay for Hindemith and Lutoslawski and Stravinsky and all the other 'skis."
All of them, and the rest of her unsold stock, will go to the Colburn School in Los Angeles, thanks to an anonymous donor who is buying all those stacks of brown folders.
And as the store fills up with last-minute well-wishers, St. John pauses at the counter to take a selfie with Rogers — one final farewell to an era.
21-year-old Estonian-American composer Jonas Tarm.
It was supposed to be a celebratory occasion, a high-profile performance of a piece given life by the orchestra that commissioned it — a young composer's music played by other young musicians.
Instead, the performance scheduled for Sunday of Jonas Tarm's music at Carnegie Hall by the highly regarded New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) has been canceled after it came to the attention of the ensemble's administration that the piece contains a quotation from the Nazi "Horst Wessel Lied."
Born in Estonia, Tarm is a 21-year-old composer studying at the New England Conservatory in Boston. In 2014, he won the "First Music" prize from the NYYS, which resulted in the commission of a piece to be played by the orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
Within the 9-minute piece called, in Ukrainian, Marsh u Nebuttya (March to Oblivion), Tarm says he used two musical quotes, each about 45 seconds long. The first is the anthem of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the second is a Nazi anthem, the "Horst Wessel" song.
Tarm maintains that a piece of music should not necessitate further verbal explication. As such, he did not volunteer to tell the NYYS he was making those musical quotations within his piece, nor did he provide any background or context about his artistic intentions to the orchestra.
Absent those conversations, what resulted was that a group of youthful musicians — many of them well under the age of 18 — were unknowingly performing music they (and their parents and guardians) may have strongly objected to, whether or not they understood Tarm's artistic ideas and the context of his piece, which he now describes on his website as being "devoted to the victims who have suffered from cruelty and hatred of war, totalitarianism, polarizing nationalism — in the past and today."
Tarm turned in the Marsh u Nebuttya score in September. Rehearsals began in December and the piece was premiered in a NYYS performance at Manhattan's United Palace Theater Feb. 22. The composer wasn't able to attend that performance, but he said he was contacted afterward by NYYS conductor Joshua Gersen.
The composer says Gersen told him the performance went "quite well," aside from technical details that needed further rehearsing. In addition, Tarm claims that a friend of his in the audience told him that the piece was "well received by the audience."
The project fell apart after that first concert. According to interviews the NYYS' executive director, Shauna Quill, gave to the New York Times and to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the orchestra was not aware of Tarm's quotations until after the piece's world premiere at the United Palace Theater, when one audience member sent a letter of complaint to the orchestra, signed "A Nazi Survivor."
Tarm says that the first and only conversation he had about his work's content with the orchestra came March 2. And that at that point, NYYS made it clear to him that their decision to cancel his piece on their Carnegie Hall program was final.
"I was never contacted before to explain myself and my artistic views," Tarm says. "That was never an opportunity I was given."
"I strongly believe that the music should speak for itself," he continues. "This is the most disappointing thing about the situation for me. I felt like I had something important to say, musically speaking, and I was not able to say it. Shostakovich, Mahler, Beethoven — you cannot find any official program notes they provided at their concerts, describing what the music means to them."
He says he believes he had already provided enough in what he delivered to the NYYS. Along with its evocative title, the piece carries a dedication "to the victims of hunger and fire." The program note, in its entirety, is composed of five lines of poetry:
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
That poetry is an excerpt from The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot — someone infamous for his anti-Semitism. Was that citation meant to add fuel to the fire? Tarm claims not to have been cognizant of Eliot's anti-Jewish writings. "I was not aware of that context of his life," Tarm says. "I had no idea about that."
Our inquiries to the New York Youth Symphony were referred to Kimberly Kriger, a spokeswoman from Kekst and Company, a crisis-management PR firm whose team includes NYYS board member Ruth Pachman. In a lengthy press statement issued today, the organization responded, "The first time the composer revealed the source of his music was on Mar. 2, in response to our inquiry [about musical sources] ... When asked to explain the context and meaning of the piece, which would justify his use of this source, he refused."
The NYYS release continues: "This was his obligation to our orchestra as a commissioned artist and particularly important given the fact he was working with students, ages 12-22. Had the composer revealed the sources of his piece and the context under which they were used upon submission of the final commission in September 2014, the piece and the notes could have served as an important teaching moment for our students. However, without this information, and given the lack of transparency and lack of parental consent to engage with this music, we could not continue to feature his work on the program. Again, if the composer had been forthright with us from the start, this situation would not have transpired."
The NYYS declined requests for further comment from Quill and Gersen.
Latvian bass-baritone Egils Silins portrays The Flying Dutchman, one of opera's most disturbing bachelors, in Orange, France in 2013.
The Bachelor, the reality TV show poised to close out another nail-biting season (which young woman will Chris Soules choose Monday?), has nothing on opera. Over the past 400 years, composers have placed onstage any number of hot-blooded Romeos, sensible gentlemen and conniving psychopaths all looking for the perfect mate.
Your job in this puzzler is to identify some of opera's most eligible bachelors, sorting out which are dateable and which are duds — or worse. Score high and consider yourself a competent judge of character. Score low and beware your next romantic rendezvous.
Tenor Bryan Hymel sings shining high Cs in the Rossini aria "Asile héréditaire."
Pavarotti, roll over. There's a new king of the high Cs. His name is Bryan Hymel and he pops off no fewer than 10 of them in "Asile héréditaire," the Rossini aria that opens his new album Héroïque, released Tuesday.
To be fair, Hymel's brawny tone has little in common with the sunny Italian sound of Pavarotti. And that's just the point. Hymel's voice is rare these days: a combination of Wagnerian muscle and bel canto refinement, comfortable in the stratospheric register (look out for a couple of C-sharps and one high D on the album), strong enough to soar above a full orchestra and suave enough for sweet-toned love scenes.
Like many a rising opera star before him, Hymel (pronounced EE-mel), a 35-year-old New Orleans native, caught a break filling in at the last minute. In 2012, he replaced leading tenors at London's Royal Opera House and New York's Metropolitan Opera, both times in the punishing role of Énée in Berlioz's Les Troyens. In 2018, he'll open the Met season in Samson et Dalila.
Arnold Melchtal, a character in Rossini's operatic version of the William Tell legend, is another taxing role, infrequently risked by tenors today. But Hymel makes his aria "Asile héréditaire" sound easy. The character returns to his birthplace to whip up vengeance (with a chorus of Swiss confederates) for the murder of his father.
Make sure to listen all the way to the end to hear Hymel cap off the aria with staggeringly long-held high Cs. This is why we listen to opera!
"Our DSO to Go app has not only helped our live webcasts reach tremendous success around the globe, but has been an accessible sales channel for many first-time concertgoers without prior ticket or contribution history."