Subscribe: opéra chanteuse
Preview: opéra chanteuse

opéra chanteuse

Updated: 2015-09-16T18:35:56.689-11:00




Beecham or Toscanini to a female cellist: "You have between your legs one of the greatest instruments devised for the pleasure of man. Can you do nothing but scratch it?"

On Friendship


Leo Lerman on Truman Capote: "He saw me as I saw myself, and I saw him as he saw himself. We each saw each other's invention and through the invention into our true, ever-loving hearts."

Prima donna assoluta



Ulrica the Fortune-Teller


The Divine Miss Simone II


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">

The Divine Ms. Simone


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="459">



allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="459">

Do You Hear What I Hear?


To those who still believe in the magic of the season:
the Merriest of Christmas.

Pensée de la Semaine


Oscar Wilde: “Hate blinds people.
Love can read the writing on the remotest star.”

"Pasquale" Telegram



Final Masterpiece


One of the last dresses that YSL designed in 2002, the year of his retirement. In the show, it was worn by the Russian model Eugenia Volodina, as seen above. It is made of silk chiffon, in a shade of blue so beguilingly lovely that Giotto himself would have been mesmerized. As the photo shows, the dress is strapless, draped and caught at the side with a perky bow in silk organza. Masterful. Sublime. Saint Laurent.

Beauty Diva


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">

Irene Esser, 21, Venezuela’s representative in the forthcoming Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, being interviewed by a Spanish talk show a few weeks ago. Words are inadequate to accurately describe the beauty of this jaw-dropper. If she doesn’t win, there’s something seriously corrupt with the Miss Universe organization. If she does win, she would grabbed the headlines, the likes of which would make someone like the future queen of England green with envy, precisely because Ms. Esser would make her look like a royal nanny.

Runway Diva


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="459">

Anna Bayle, fashion’s self-proclaimed First Asian Supermodel, was, in her glory days throughout the 1980s, one of high fashion’s most sought-after faces. She walked like no one else, whether on the runways of Paris, Milan, Rome, London, and New York. The 5’ 10”, Manila-born Ms. Bayle modeled for every major designer in the world: Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Thierry Mugler, Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Mizrahi, et. al. And it was all because of her signature walk; a walk (above, it begins at :40.) that one New York Times critic described as though “she were crushing a cigarette butt with each step down the runway.” Ms. Bayle has long since retired, but through online videos of her triumphant years on the fashion stage, her exotic beauty and grace, but above all her inimitable walk, continue to inspire.

YSL: Pure Genius


Yves Saint Laurent haute couture, autumn/winter 1984. Violetta Sanchez, shot by Helmut Newton for French Harper’s Bazaar.

Divine Sarah


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="459">

Sarah Vaughan. Unforgettable.

Ella Enchanted


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="459">

The First Lady of Song. Pure Ella. Pure enchantment.

High Priestess of Soul


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">

The Divine Ms. Nina Simone. The way she ends this song sent shivers down every erogenous zone of my body. One of the greatest frissons of my entire musical experience. Devastating.

A Thorougly-Modern Mess Redeemed By Love


Just a quick review of Werther, unveiled Sunday afternoon at LOoC. The production’s director, Francisco Negrin, must truly hate Massenet so deeply for him to have conceived such a pointless, heartless Werther. The spare, modernist sets, designed by Louis Désiré, did nothing to alleviate Negrin’s gloomy, preposterous staging. Thankfully, the singers were in top form. While tenor Matthew Polenzani, as the love-lorn Werther, did not quite steal the show as a truly great Werther must, he nevertheless sang the role with conviction that seemed to pour effortlessly out of him without resorting to clichéd gestures. He may not have compelled the audience to follow his lead by contemplating suicide in the name of unrequited love, but he gave a performance that was genuine and believable, vocally and physically; one never forgot, in listening to Polenzani, that Werther is a poet.

It was Werther’s beloved Charlotte, however, who made an indelible impression. Mezzo Sophie Koch’s voice is tailor-made for this role, like a Chanel jacket on Anna Wintour; it has the gleam of gossamer silk so finely spun that it seems ethereal. One could almost see the twinkle in her eyes when Werther declared his undying love. Her gestures alone, contained, graceful, suggested what her heart wanted to say, to Werther, to Albert, to me. Unbelievable to think that this performance was her first-ever foray onto the American operatic stage. Baritone Craig Verm was Albert as he should be portrayed: sensitive, alert to Charlotte’s feelings towards him, or lack thereof; a thoughtful portrayal of a thankless role. Soprano Kiri Deonarine as sister Sophie was charmingly naïve; Massenet would have been entranced. The orchestra, led by Andrew Davis, was often splendid, evoking the romance and beauty of Massenet's tear-jerker of a score that had the sweeping effect of a film score reminiscent of Max Steiner at his most feverish.

After the Rain


Happy Halloween!


The Past is Prologue


Verdi’s so-called “symphonic opera,” Simon Boccanegra, opened Monday night at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Boccanegra is hardly a staple in the repertory, but when it is performed—and given justice—one is struck at how familiar the opera seems, as reassuring as one’s own grandfather. I feel like I’ve been acquainted with it somehow, when in reality Monday’s prima was my first live exposure to this astonishing gem beyond the unsurpassable Abbado recording. Verdi, ever the master at tugging our heartstrings, compromised not a single note in bringing to life Boccanegra’s universal story, going so far as to revise his work some twenty-four years after its 1857 Venice premiere, transforming it at once into a very human drama that goes straight to all our hearts. Baritone Thomas Hampson sang the title role. Amelia/Maria was soprano Krassimira Stoyanova. Tenor Frank Lopardo was Gabriele. Fiesco was bass Ferruccio Furlanetto. Baritone Quinn Kelsey was Paolo. All five principals offered riveting performances that were slightly marred by opening night imperfections, for which the evening’s conductor must take the blame. Under Andrew Davis’ baton, Verdi’s gorgeous score seemed bereft of eloquence that this music so desperately requires. Certain key moments in the drama such as the moving climax of the “recognition scene” between father and daughter went by without fanfare. Davis is not a Verdi conductor. The meat of this opera is, of course, the Council Chamber scene. Boccanegra without it is akin to Onegin without the Letter Scene. When everyone on stage (and pit) conspire to set this scene on fire, the effect is extraordinary, unlike anything in Verdi. Monday night’s rendition of this volcanic episode came close to setting the Lyric stage aflame. Stoyanova’s piercing cries of “pace” helped to ignite it, but was put out by the conductor’s unimaginative wand. The Bulgarian soprano, who is making her Lyric début, sang her first and only aria, “Come in quest'ora bruna,” with mellifluous grace that recalled Mirella Freni’s golden-voiced Amelia, except that Stoyanova’s is more lachrymose in timbre than honeyed à la the beautiful Mirella. What was missing in Stoyanova’s voice is a Gheorghiu-style urgency; that, and some old-school diva abandon à la Millo, from whom she can take a masterclass. Hampson’s Boccanegra—vocally—is not one for the ages. There are no incidental joys to be had in listening to him. As there are no opportunities to bask in the warmth and beauty of the baritone voice, for his has none whatsoever; if it can be likened to an ice-cream flavor, it would have to be vanilla. But, as an artist, he says more about his character’s life story through his impeccable musicianship than could any Boccanegra with the voice of God. Looking pale and gaunt in his death scene, he was Boccanegra. Other cast members weren’t so convincing. Lopardo’s heroic Gabriele vocalized unabashedly, as though he were singing Lohengrin, cracking a note or two in the course of his duet with his betrothed. His voice is as unreliable as a weather forecast; in fact, it seemed to hover in the air like a traveling cloud that gave no hint whether it might rain or not. Kelsey was a domineering Paolo, in voice but more so in demeanor. Vocal honors must go to the Fiesco of Furlanetto. With a voice that could plunge the deepest ocean depths, he dominated the stage with his voice alone. After last season’s victorious Godunov, the Lyric stage is artistically richer wi[...]

Remembrance of Yves Past


A Saint Laurent opening has always been a red-letter day in French high fashion. Hedi Slimane’s premiere Saint Laurent collection, shown last night, was no exception. It was the hottest ticket of the entire spring/summer 2013 season. The show will no doubt please YSL purists; but, as a fashion statement, it had nothing new to say. It was rather like a greatest hits parade of the beloved couturier’s most iconic collections, namely Saint Laurent’s eponymous “Ballets Russes” collection of 1976 and the Spanish gypsies of 1977, thrown in with see-through blouses culled from 1968 for shock value. (Slimane need not have bothered showing them, for they no longer have any shock value left. Monsieur Saint Laurent’s controversial and often plagiarized sheer blouses seemed shocking back in 1968 when he first showed them with Bermuda shorts, but for 2013 they look merely vulgar.)The bulk of Slimane’s “Saint Laurent Paris” show—as he has chosen to call the brand, eradicating the elegant “Yves”—consisted of slim capri (if they can be called that) pants worn with a multitude of suede vests and jackets that, at first glance, remind one of Tom Ford’s mid-'90s shows for Gucci, when that designer found it useful to borrow ideas from Saint Laurent’s illustrious repertoire years before he became creative director of YSL. Slimane, a former Dior Homme designer based in L.A., has had no previous experience in womenswear. It showed. The whole collection had the look of a design student's graduation show, laboring to assert his style. Though Slimane emphasized Saint Laurent’s fascination with folkloric dressing, he ignored one major aspect of his vocabulary: color. Slimane’s somber palette was limited to black, brown, and beige. The evening ensembles reeked of nostalgia, and not the most flattering of aromas, either. Worn with floppy fedoras that have seen better days, the finale consisted of swirling capes and flowing dresses that evoked both Saint Laurent muse Talitha Getty and his passion for Moroccan garb. What's missing in Slimane’s rendition was Saint Laurent’s seemingly effortless mastery of draping. Slimane’s shapeless frocks appeared sloppy even on the most anoretically thin of models. Though this was a spring show, a dark, autumnal air seemed to permeate the Grand Palais where the show was held. Viewing the collection online, one can sense that the venue had no ambiance or mood to complement the clothes. The models had none of the womanly elegance that Saint Laurent mannequins such as Mounia and Kirat exemplified to perfection in the 1980s.  Three designers have already tackled the demanding Saint Laurent mantle—Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz had a brief stint in 1999, followed by Ford in 2000, preceeded by Stefano Pilati in 2004, each of whom had a modicum of success that was hardly spectacular—only to be dismissed when their vision for the brand fizzled or failed to excite Saint Laurent aficionados. Slimane is the fourth designer to be given the job. Judging from the merits of this show, he has plenty of magic to perform if he intends to have the sacred house of Saint Laurent—essentially a twentieth-century establishment—prosper and flourish in the twenty-first.[...]

Perfect Symmetry


Fashion is a vicious cycle. The clothes that came down the runways in New York, where the collections originated, and those that marched down the catwalks in Milan, destined to be worn next spring, seem light years away, now that the Paris collections are in full swing. The clothes that the French are currently offering fashion editors, buyers, and celebrities alike will, in about six months’ time, be a distant memory once the cycle begins again. Only a handful of these collections will remain etched in the minds of those who follow fashion as religiously as one might follow the presidential election on TV. I think it’s safe to say that Raf Simons’ début ready-to-wear défilé for Christian Dior is one of those rare collections that will have a lasting impact, one that would mature and perhaps even endure in the collective consciousness. The Belgium-born Simons, Maison Dior’s newly-appointed creative director, replacing the disgraced John Galliano, sent out a 53-piece collection that seemed fresh and young, innovative yet unpretentious, unburdened by the weight of history as baffling as the frilly eighteenth-century and the anything-goes chic of the 1920s that Dior’s former designer advocated season after season. The clothes that Simons showed are quite simple: not deceptively but genuinely. They require no further inspection other than the knowledge that they are lovely to look at. A belted cocktail dress looked arrestingly modern as is, but the designer attached an overlay of pink organza shaped like a triangle, an obvious nod to Dior’s famous “A-line” silhouette that took the world by storm in 1955, a look that will certainly be reinterpreted in myriad ways in 2013. The perennial tuxedo jacket was given star billing in the show: hourglass-shaped blazers that did not scream YSL circa 1966 but, instead, recalled a leggy, tuxedo-clad Judy Garland in the finale of Summer Stock, belting out the feel-good ditty “Get Happy.” Eveningwear echoed the pared down attitude of the daytime pieces, which included a black long-sleeved jersey sweater paired with an ankle-grazing iridescent ballskirt printed with large 3D roses in pastel shades: a post-modern homage to Dior’s penchant for extravagant ballgowns. The opening ensemble—a slim tuxedo pantsuit—set the tone brilliantly, but it was the airy dresses that succinctly encapsulated the message Simons so elegantly imparts: freedom. A standout evening dress of sequined midnight-blue with a tent-like overlay of tulle was an outright tribute to Dior’s 1958 “Trapeze” collection designed by a child prodigy with the name of Yves Saint Laurent.  No one was more miscast than Monsieur Dior in the role of fashion revolutionary; he looked more like a country bumpkin or, to be charitable, a middle-aged provincial doctor. But, as those in fashion only know too well, looks are deceiving. Simons, a forty-something straight man who resembles a Sorbonne professor, will have more opportunities to prove his worth at Dior. But, as he has shown in this highly promising collection, he is one of the chosen few who will point fashion in the right direction. [...]

Ah, Give Me Paris in the Springtime


Paris Fashion Week 2013 (yes, for those who don't know, high fashion is always six months ahead) is being unveiled this very minute in the City of Light. This morning, two standout collections will have fashionista tongues wagging: Balmain and Balenciaga. The former, designed by Olivier Rousteing, left photo, seems to have been inspired by the oeuvre of Claude Montana: big, Joan Crawford shoulders with cropped hemlines worn with wide-legged 1940s-style trousers in bold, eye-catching prints. The painstaking detail of Rousteing's clothes almost raises the level of their craftmanship to couture. Nicolas Ghesquière's Balenciaga collection for spring/summer 2013 was all about tailoring, as it always is: edgy, cool, precise, modern. Ghesquière seems to have raided the stellar Balenciaga archives for inspiration and was overwhelmed by what he saw: marvel at his flirty black and white flamenco skirt, right photo, and cropped origami top in glacial white. Other noteworthy pieces in the show include graphic dresses emblazoned with barbed wire motifs; an off-white peacoat cut with the freedom that only a kimono sans obi can give; a post-modern take on the sports bra paired with tuxedo pants, which opened the show; a pristine white lace shirtjacket over what appears to be a tweed miniskirt borrowed from the closet of Mademoiselle Chanel. Ghesquière further elaborated on the Chanel reference by sending out a half-dozen skirtsuits in heavy flecks of black and white tweed that make one wonder if they are at all conducive to wear in ninety-degree climates. Both shows are triumphs of construction. It's interesting to see as to who will have the guts to wear them come spring.[...]

Pensée du jour


"Time has reduced her to an essence: as a grape can become a raisin, roses an attar."
Truman Capote on Out of Africa author, Isak Dinesen.


Isak Dinesen:
"Love, with very young people, is a heartless business. We drink at that age from thirst, or to get drunk; it is only later in life that we occupy ourselves with the individuality of our wine. A young man in love is essentially enraptured by the forces within himself."