Rocket Opera Highlights tomorrow in Oakland

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Catchy tunes, high notes, movie… Great work by David Cox, a man who loves the stars…

Tomorrow 8 PM 511 48th St, Oakland, Shapeshifters Cinema.

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Phantom of the Opera – dream come true!

In 1993 my British aunt took me to see this show in London. I was instantly hooked – on the music, the production, the story. The high note in the Phantom/Christine duet seemed out of this world! I did not even dream that one day I’d be able to pull it off. This performance at the Carnival Concert in Warsaw in February was a dream come true.

I am promised a front view recording where you can see my partner, Maciej Buczyński. For now, this.

Free Concert on Sunday for a Good Cause!

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Last year I hosted the first SF house party for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity which over the years raised millions for children’s health care and has introduced Polish people to charitable giving.
This year the Polish Club of San Francisco opened its doors to the event and we invite all those who are in the are to come, enjoy the free concert, the food and drink, meet lots of cool people and bid on attractive auction items!

Admission is free, you donate by buying food, bidding on auction items and throwing cash into the boxes. No checks this year, but credit cards are welcome.

Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity

Here’s an English language Facebook video describing the history of the Orchestra. It’s been playing for 26 years now and this year it got nominated to Nobel Peace Prize.

If you cannot make it consider donating online using the link on the SF Committee website. 

We enjoy the support of many local businesses – donation boxes can be found all over Bay Area including Seakor Polish Deli, Polam Federal Credit Union, Union Square Salon

Bernal Opera will be there at 6.40 PM with a mix of musical theatre and opera favorites.

Where: Polish Club of San Francisco, 3040 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

When: Sunday January 14th 4-9 PM

Performers include:

David Dobrzynski, 13-year old rock guitarist – a prodigy1

Voice of Poland star Magdalena Bałdych!

Street folk band Kuzyni

The Slavic Strutter Duo – Dance

Kids folk ensembles Orliki and Sokoly:

See you there!

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Who’s Afraid of the Exterminating Angel?

My husband is. “Contemporary opera? Thanks but no thanks. Hours of nothing but recitatives.” And declined to join me at the movie theatre.

He was probably right not to go. His interest in classical music is to experience something, well, classical, meaning “timeless” – something that endures, can be revisited and enjoyed musically. 20th century’s music followed another path. The purpose of art was redefined as something evoking a strong response, but not necessarily a pleasant one.

If you accept this notion you can appreciate pieces like “The Exterminating Angel” for what they are. It is great theatre – strong characters, great visuals, powerful sounds. The score is peppered with super high pitched notes and requires a countertenor, a boy soprano and a super high coloratura soprano. All in all this is something unique, that you are not going to find anywhere else.

If it were only that you would leave impressed but cold. What makes this show work is the story. I am glad I had not seen the original Buñuel movie, as it was all new, fresh; I did not know what was coming. The situation is absurd, surreal and scary and cannot be easily tied to current events but can be tied to everyone’s life experience. We live in the illusion of freedom, but in fact we are locked in our destiny, our historical moment, our social environment. We can feel rich and powerful one moment but it takes a political event, you of all of it in one day. That happened in Bolshevik revolution, Nazi’s Germany, in Rwanda, it is happening in Myanmar. Why do human-made horrors happen? It should be simple to just leave the party. Refuse to participate in evil madness – all it takes is to toss your gun. Not to persecute people. Not to blow yourself up in a crowded street or place of worship. Why are we humans not capable of “rebooting” in such instances and choosing another path? This is a very sad reality of our world and our existence.

“I am happy to die as I will not see the extermination.” says one of the opera characters. Extermination is not just death. Extermination is death at the hands of other humans that treat you like non-humans. The “reboot” of WW2 where dehumanizing ideology was defeated wears thin. New generations don’t realize the horror of it. We should be aware and concerned. And do something about it while we still can.

Metropolitan Opera audience

“The Exterminating Angel” Thomas Adès, Metropolitan Opera  Oct. 26 Nov. 21 2017.

The Exterminating Angel #metopera encore today! Will I match this high note?

Since the video of Audrey Luna became viral with the Note So High It’s Never Been Sung Before article I could not wait to see the show! Thanks to the wonderful Met broadcast to cinemas I am going to see it today. High expectations! High notes being one of my favorite sports and the copycat that I am, I had to try the to match the Met diva in my underground Bernal Opera venue. Result?

That took some trying and interestingly, it is the low part, or tying the low part to high one is the most challenging in this “exercise”.

I will look closely how Ms Luna does it live on stage, it’s always most educational!

More after the show…

 

 

Sunday: Renegade Piano Recital to Materialize on Bernal Hill

So looking forward to this!

Bernalwood

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It’s happening again. Just like that wonderful time a few years ago.

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 6, a piano will appear on the top of Bernal Hill. Carried up the hill by a team of meadow gnomes and musical sprites, the piano will be positioned with a commanding view of the San Francisco skyline.

Then people will arrive, and some of them will be talented musicians. The piano will play, and there will be music, and more people will gather around, and the scene will be lovely.  Like this:

👴🎹🎶🌇🌞😍😊

A post shared by Jen (@tuasomeblossom) on

… but maybe with more fog.  Hopefully not. But definitely maybe more fog.

Most importantly, you can be there too. To be part of it. Like a renegade.

PianFrancisco is a musical cabal that stages impromptu piano performances in improbable places around San Francisco. They materialized on Bernal Hill…

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Voice, Bite and Posture

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I am reposting an article which illustrates perfectly how postural imbalance creates overbite and underbite and vice versa – how irregular bite can lead to tension in the neck, jaw, spine and even be connected to flat feet! This is anecdotal, but I noticed some of the best singers I know have perfectly developed arches.

I only recently understood how neck tension affects the position of the larynx and voice quality. I will write more about it soon, for now it is interesting just to look at the image of the neck muscles with the larynx lodged in the middle. Any stiffness in this area will lock the larynx in a certain position vs. the resonators and the sound will not be optimal.  Sometimes just changing the way you stand on your feet will release shoulder/neck/jaw tension and produce a more beautiful sound.

Below the Google translation of the original article, seems quite good as translations go.

BITE AND POSTURE (Худоногова Е.Я)

First, there is a close relationship between the head and the spine. If a person holds his head anterior to the shoulders, the neck and shoulders will also change their position to compensate for the front position of the head. The bite is also exactly related to the spine and depends on the position of the head and posture in general.

This is done through the system of connections of the lower jaw and temporal bones, which on the one hand participate in chewing (through the temporomandibular joint), and on the other hand are the receptacle for the vestibular apparatus (inner ear and snail) that are responsible for the balance. As a result – difficulties in walking and motor skills, abnormal gait, curvature of the spine, scoliosis.

Try tilting your head back and gently close your teeth. Pay attention, that first of all the back teeth will be closed. Now tilt your head forward, to your chest, and gently close your teeth. Now the first contacts appear on the front teeth. This example clearly demonstrates how the position of the head affects the closing of the teeth.

It is important to understand the relationship between the musculoskeletal and dentoalveolar systems, to ensure the stability of the vertical posture of a person. This is a very complex, dynamic process. It involves various functional systems of the body: musculoskeletal, vestibular, visual, dentoalveolar, etc. Gurfinkel VS, et al. (1965) showed the effect of articular receptors on the human posture. Receptors of joint capsules and ligaments signal the position of the structures of the joints forming, the direction and speed of their mutual displacement.

When considering the profile of a person standing, the centers of gravity of his head, shoulder-shoulder articulation, hips, knees and feet are, as a rule, on one vertical axis, which is characteristic for a harmoniously developed, statuesque figure.

In anomalies of occlusion (irregular bite), the center of gravity of the head is often located in front of this vertical axis, which leads to a change in posture and an increase in the load that affects the muscles of the neck. In this case, the preservation of the correct position of the head and the horizontal position of the gaze is possible only with the increase in the tension of the muscles of the neck. In patients with anomalies of occlusion, the forward position of the head is tilted forward, the chest of the chest, its anteroposterior size, the angle of the ribs, the protrusion of the scapula, the protrusion of the abdomen, the curvature of the lower legs, flat feet (Khoroshilkina F.Ya., Malygin Yu.M. 2009).

In the early stages of the process, these deviations can be regarded as a weakness of posture. The increase in deviations, which with increasing age is manifested to a greater extent, is characterized as a violation of posture.

There is also an opposite tendency: the functional state of the musculoskeletal system determines posture and affects the formation of the musculoskeletal system. In this case, the fixed pozotonic reflexes, conditioned by bad habits, lead to an incorrect human posture and, in turn, contribute to the development of dentoalveolar anomalies.

Anomalies of occlusion (bite) can be both a cause and a consequence of disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

That is why it is important not only to restore the correct position to the teeth, but also to get rid of the problems with the spine, to strengthen the muscles of the whole body for successful correction of an incorrect bite.

Different types of disorders of posture are not a purely aesthetic issue, since in the future this leads to the development of osteochondrosis, discogenic radiculitis and other diseases of the spine in adults. Proceeding from physiological regularities, posture is a dynamic stereotype, a complex of conditioned and interconnected conditioned reflexes (Kalb, TB, 2001).

The formation of the body’s posture is influenced by many factors. A significant role is played by social living conditions, work activity and even hobbies (Rybakova VV, 1997). Posture can change, despite the relative stability of anatomical factors. It can improve in the process of special physical training and worsen in chronic diseases, hypodynamia (Movshovich IA, 1964). Progression of scoliosis is associated with a decrease in the potential of the body, increased fatigue, the formation of ugly deformation of the figure, the emergence of psychological and social problems.

One of the main tasks is to return the initial amplitude to the muscles: with the existing disorders of the spine, they “get used to” working incorrectly, because of what becomes more difficult to regain normal posture over time.

An increasing number of doctors, when examining their patients, pay attention to the posture, the position of the head, shoulders and the physical development of their patients. There was such a direction as neuromuscular dentistry. All this once again confirms the fact that everything in the human body is interconnected.

“Treatment of distal occlusion in patients with musculoskeletal disorders”, Khudonogova E.Ya.

 

 

How to kill an opera company – news from Poland #Opera Kameralna (update)

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My personal operatic journey started 20+ years ago with a visit to Warsaw Chamber Opera. A tiny venue, a classical building hidden behind communist era apartment blocs did not  promise much but turned out to be a life-changing experience. It was the first time that I listened to an opera at really close quarters – almost at an arm’s length – and the effect was profound. It was totally immersive and with the period costumes, the charming set and perfect attention to detail it transported me to the 18th century. Grey reality of Warsaw disappeared, I was transported to a different time and space – pure magic! The decision to start my voice studies was greatly influenced by that powerful evening.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 8.25.43 PMThe company was the creation of one man – musicologist and oboe player Stefan Sutkowski, who in 1961 in the midst of Communist times traveled to Austria and in an antique bookstore bought a copy of the orchestra score for “La Serva Padrona”. He came back and put together a production which gave birth to the only private theatre in the Communist block. Over the next 50 years his tiny company staged all of Mozart’s operas which were played annually at the Warsaw Mozart Festival; held Rossini, Handel and Monteverdi festivals; discovered and revived ancient and forgotten Polish music; commissioned contemporary operas; and had a marionette stage as well. It is impossible to list all the good things this institution achieved on a shoestring budget. It relied, in its best years, on a combination of city funding and private sponsors. The Mozart Festival in June and July was a real treat in the city where traditionally most theaters close for the summer. It had two orchestras – an ancient music ensemble playing baroque music on old instruments, and the Sinfonietta playing everything else. Both the orchestras and the singers performed also at outside venues and events.

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Because of the small size home venue (160 seats), few international tours, and the low profile that director Sutkowski favored, the Warsaw Chamber Opera was in many ways Poland’s secret gem. It did not have the fame of Salzburg or the big names on its billboards, but it had high musical and artistic standards. It was a perfect training ground for young singers and a home for renowned singers like Olga Pasichnyk. Many people got hooked after just one visit, as I did, and ended up going to every new show and revisiting the old ones as they were revived.

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Chamber Opera functioned well under two different regimes and for decades until someone decided that it had it too good. Four years ago city authorities carried out an audit of WCO and decided the whole thing was “wasteful” and even accused Sutkowski of “criminal” corruption. Storage of old sets and costumes, singers and conductors on payroll, too many musicians… City funding for WCO was cut by  twenty five percent, forcing layoffs and closure of WCO’s many activities. It could no longer afford new productions. Director Sutkowski was forced to retire. The new director tried to expand the audience by doing open air events and addressing the financial restraints any way he could; but it was not enough. The Warsaw county regional government decided it could no longer afford WCP with its extravagant musicians’ pay of $459 per month. And so, this month it is disbanding the main orchestra,  giving notices to all the conductors and the singers.

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To give a fuller context to this catastrophe, it is worth pointing out that public funding for art institutions is a tradition of many Eastern European countries. The whole region emerged from World War 2 and Communism with its old elites decimated and impoverished. Unfortunately, the new business elites are not much interested in supporting the arts.  Poland is  a place where music culture is high-quality but is not widely distributed through the country – unlike Germany, for example, where every town, even a small one, seems to support their own symphony or performance venue. In Poland many professional musicians, trained over 18 years in specialized schools, cannot find employment in Poland and end up emigrating to Western Europe. The Warsaw Chamber Opera was one of the last institutions in Warsaw that offered steady, albeit very basic employment to musicians, singers and instrumentalists.

In the past four years WCO was receiving a city grant comparable to the budget of a repertory theatre – which usually does not  have a live orchestra, a puppet theatre, a community outreach program and the ability to conduct scholarly research. It was 1/5 of the budget of the National Opera. After the cuts in 2012, the opera’s finances never recovered. So now the only “solution” is to let go of the people, and make project-style productions with contract musicians. Will the musicians still be available? If there are no jobs for them in Poland’s capital city many might leave Poland or even leave the profession. Will it be any more efficient? It seems that with 150 musicians laid off this ensemble will be gone.

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The new acting director who set it all in motion with the support of the regional officials thinks she “will make WCP great again”. Well, great it already was. Ironically,  the acting director Alicja Węgorzewska-Whiskerd is a singer herself.

It is painful to see how shortsightedness and private interests disguised as “sound management” can lead to the destruction of a beautiful institution over half a century old. This is not just a Polish problem. War on the Arts also seems to be the theme of threatened administration policies here in America,  where the National Endowment of the Arts may be eliminated. What is there to do? Can art fight back? Will we be saved by protests, petitions? I don’t see good prospects on the long run. For Warsaw Chamber Opera – I hope  people who were touched by the magic of this place will always remember it and find enough strength to carry on its legacy.

Updated (June 3rd 2017): Stefan Sutkowski died on April 22nd 2017, the day his musicians were handed notices. Orchestras from all over Poland, including the renowned Warsaw Philharmonic are joining forces to protest the situation in solidarity with the Warsaw Sinfornietta. Who will play at this year’s Mozart Festival? Stay tuned.

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Tripping on gowns from Operafashion!

One of the most delightful aspects of opera is the costume. You can sing in jeans and sneakers, especially since many contemporary productions use modern settings, but when it comes to recital, the audience demands glamor. I noticed that my 8-yard-long gown often creates as much excitement as the singing!

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And so it should! A gown makes the performance feel like a wedding day. I really love the designer dresses worn by the stars but if you have even basic sewing skills you can create amazing outfits yourself. The key is lots and lots of fabric and safety pins to drape it.

My dream is to one day sing in a dress inspired by this painting:

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Peacock/Stained Glass by Kazimierz Stabrowski

When I saw at the National Museum in Warsaw it sent shivers down my spine. It is a very large picture and when you come approach it it seems the lady is looking right through you, inviting you into her fairytale reality.

It immediately came to my mind today when I saw this:

Sigh…

More costume photos from my favorite blog Operafashion:

Thanks Operafashion!

 

 

Source: A unique “Traviata”signed by Valentino Haute Couture in Valencia