Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Kids Don't Stand a Chance


Last night I had the honor of getting to sing in a master class for world renowned bass Samuel Ramey.  A master class, for those of you who don't know, is an opportunity for a guest artist to come in and coach students in a performance setting.  (In a nutshell it is basically a one-on-one lesson but done in front of an audience). 

While Professor Katz was giving an introduction to the audience-- "Mr. Ramey is the most recorded bass ever in history" "he is known for his portrayal of the devil in many different operas" "he has sung roles by composers from Mozart to Mussorgsky, from Bellini to Bartok"-- Sam leans over to me and says: "He left out the most important role I've ever done: I've sung on Sesame Street!"

So here you are folks... a collection of all the opera stars that have sung on Sesame Street!!! Oh, and by the way... I've met every single one of them! Now that my Opera/Sesamie Street collection is complete, I can now move on to the cast of Designing Women.  One down (Delta Burke), four more to go!


Samuel Ramey:


L is for Low (to the music of  the Toreador from Bizet's Carmen) Look at those cape twirling skills! Btw I don't think his hair has moved an inch since this video.

Renee Fleming*:

Counting is so much fun! (to the tune of Caro nome from Verdi's Rigoletto) Oh, Renee... there are so many amazing moments in this clip.    I'd like to note that Texas gets a shout out in reference to the pigs from Galveston and, though the way she pronounces "fun" ("fine") doesn't really rhyme with our island city, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt because she pulls off that amazing plaid sheet wrapped around her shoulders.  Honestly, I want one seven. [*Technically from The Muppet Show and not Sesame Street, but whatevs!]
Marilyn Horne:

This isn't so much a picture of me with Marilyn Horne as it is a picture of me with a record of Marilyn Horne and one signed by Marilyn Horne and Martin Katz
What I love most about this video, aside from the obvious inclusion of a cookie literally springing forth from Marilyn's head, is that I can just picture Professor Katz coaching her on this.  "How much do you love this cookie, Marilyn?" "Pretend your coloratura is a landscape of chocolate chip mountains on a soft, chewy landscape!" "I can't tell what's hotter: these snickerdoodles or those slavepuppets?"
Denyce Graves:
The Michelle Obama of the opera world... you should see her arms!
Because what doesn't a seduction aria have to do with getting your kids to sleep? I also appreciate that the dancing sheep are all representatives of different operas.  I think I count Aida, Madama Butterfly, La traviata, Turandot, I Pagliacci, Le nozze di Figaro, Die Walkure and Salome.  I'll be honest...chickens one and three have kinda thrown me for a loop.  On the plus side, though, I would absolutely love to see a chicken do the dance of the seven veils.
UPDATE: Well unfortunately I am going to have to put my stalking of Dixie Carter on the back-burner, because I have been rightly informed that there is another opera singer who has been on Sesame Street!! Janai, when you work with him next year at L.A. Opera, could you introduce us, please?  I have a collection to complete.


Artist: Vampire Weekend / Album: Vampire Weekend

Monday, March 29, 2010

Release the Stars


New banner, new website I love to frequent! Check out HubbleSite's awe-inspiring collection of pictures from the Hubble space telescope. And let's be honest, Hubble totally has a monopoly on the telescope industry.  Can you even name another telescope? Didn't think so.










Artist: Rufus Wainwright/ Album: Release the Stars

Slow Like Honey

Dear Alton Brown,

We get it-- you're REALLY smart. And nerdy. And, sure, even a little adorable. However, there is no way in hell that I care enough about lamb to build a homemade tandor oven from that spare terracotta fern planter I have just hangin' around in my conservatory. And, while I do find it utterly fascinating to discover the genesis of a wide variety of food stuffs, I do not particularly enjoy seeing a puppetized version of taste buds on a gigantic tongue. It's like an epicurean equivalent of that Lamisil toe fungus commercial... you know, except for your mouth.

Just do like the rest of us: call Raja Rani, tip the delivery guy a couple of dollars, and watch that Lostepisode you had saving up on your DVR while biding your time watching Good Eats.

K Thanks,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I will openly admit that the majority of things I have posted about, and most likely will post about in the future, will have been poached in some form from other blogs that I read. Better poached than hard boiled, though, right? (I know, horrible joke, but I'm stickin' with it). I justify it this way: A. Who cares where it comes from, it's still amazing and B. I know that some of you don't read those blogs and will continue thinking I am wholly original and fascinating.

That being said, I came across an animation sequence by Cristóbal Vila, a Swiss born graphic designer currently living in Spain, based on a combination of mathematical sequences and their correlation to nature entitled, appropriately enough, "Nature by Numbers." It explores the concepts of the Fibonacci sequence, the Golden and Angle Ratios, the Delaunay Triangulation and Voronoi Tessellations. I have NO idea what the hell those collection of syllables mean, but the video is shiny, and colorful, and bright and I love it. Basically it's like candy but wrapped in some semblance of education. My only complaint (and it's just me being super picky) is that the video is BEGGING to be accompanied by a piece by Philip Glass. Any piece. However, what he does use is effective in a poppy, semi-minimalist kind of a way, so I'm okay with it.

He makes up for it, though, in his animation tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water complex in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. This gorgeous video not only shows a progressive construction of the complex, but provides a sweeping and view of the property appropriately set to Bedrich Smetana's "The Moldau." It's light, frothy, and flowing... just perfect for Wright's maison de l'eau.

As a bit of a side note, I went to Chicago last year with my mother and we did a tour of both Wright's studio and the Frederick C. Robie house and learned some interesting tid-bits:

Did you know that Wright was so anally specific about how his houses were to be maintained, even after construction ended, that he would design dresses for the women of the house to wear during social engagements? It was also told that months after completing one house he sent the current owners a vase he made with a note attached informing them he thought it would look great on the mantle of the fire place. "What a fabulous gift!!!" they thought. (To be fair, they probably didn't think "fabulous," but who am I to be anti-semantic) It wasn't until several months later when he sent them a bill requesting payment for the non-commissioned work that the owners realized they were expected to pay for it! AND Wright built a house for his mistress quite aways from his Chicago life-- and Chicago wife-- in order to give her some semblance of a family. However, one night she was giving a glamorous dinner party when one of the servants locked all of the doors except for one and proceeded to light the house on fire. When everyone was rushing to escape he hacked them to pieces with an axe. WHAAAATTTTT!!!!????!!!!!

Obsession, passion, intrigue, murder... my god, why isn't there an opera about this?!?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Here's to Life

What are you doing? What, what, WHAT are you doing tonight? If the answer isn't: "watching the premier of Life on the Discovery channel," then you don't deserve to be my friend. I have been excited about the follow-up to Planet Earth, a collaboration between The Discovery Channel and the BBC, ever since I saw a clip from the British version last year.

My ub-session with Planet Earth actually began when Oprah devoted an entire episode to the series on her show. I now own it and it's by far the most re-watched DVD in my collection. Well, that and Clue: The Movie.  She became such an advocate for the show that the producers hired her to narrate Life in the US, though I'm a little sad we won't get to hear the gravitas-laden voice of David Attenborough explaining the mating habits of Bornean orangutans with a certain eloquence only a Brit can muster. Smart move, mind you, because with her involvement it is bound to win a gazillion awards. Or we'll see the historic election of our first TV Documentary president in 2012.

Oh yeah, and blah blah blah topical comment about Life and the impending health care vote tonight.

Update: I completely buried the lead in my original post. My old roommate, Lembit, is friends with a guy who wrote some of the music for Life. How cool is that?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Picture Show

Oh... I also want to give credit where credit is due concerning the picture at the top of the blog. I'm hoping to change the header photograph frequently and will make sure to letcha know where each one comes from and why I chose it.

This one happens to be cropped from a picture of the work-in-progress United Kingdom pavilion for the Shanghai Expo 2010, perhaps better identified as the futuristic, yet nostalgic sounding: Shanghai Worlds Fair! Check here for the full sized aforementioned picture as well as some other stunning photographs from Hu Jintao's backyard.

When I was younger I always thought the World's Fair sounded like one of the most amazing things imaginable. They never failed to evoke that old Tex Avery cartoon "The House of Tomorrow." Sure it may be a taaaaaad misogynistic and re-enforces negative gender stereotypes. BUT, it has a machine that shuffles bologna sandwiches AND a hot 50's pin-up girl, soooooooo ya win some ya lose some I guess. For an even longer trip down memory lane (and in Louis XIV inspired mauve-mobile no less) check out "The Car of Tomorrow" and "The Farm of Tomorrow."

I didn't even realize that World's Fairs- excuse me- Universal Expo(sitions) were even held any more, but apparently they are going as strong as Evan Lysacek's resolve to convince America he's not a complete tool. The last one held in the US was New Orleans in 1984, and for those of you yearning for an ol' fashioned bowl of kimchi just like mama used to make, look no further than the 2012 Yeosu, South Korea Expo!!! That is, unless the Mayan calendar succeeds in making humanity obsolete by then. That was a movie, right?

Now, off to bed for me before I turn into "The Pumpkin of Tomorrow". . . . . . . ;)

A Foggy Day

If you've ever listend to a mix CD while riding in my wonderfully Texan truck, affectionally heretofore referred to as "The General", then you probably know I have a particular affinity towards singers of the British and female persuasions.

It all began with Amy Winehouse... you know, before the beavers moved into her hair weave and started construction on a semi-aquatic rodent equivalent of the Empire State Building. Then came Adele, a more demure, introspective, sober, and yet no less soulful doppelganger of Ms. Winehouse. Just think of it as a mirror with two faces. You know, one squeaky clean and the other covered with dust. And by dust I mean cocaine. Next came Duffy... whose voice is just SCREAMING to sing the next Bond theme song. Sexy, gritty, sweepingly haunting. And just for good measure I've thrown in a little Shirley Bassey, who HAS sung Bond songs and could beat you to a bloody pulp with fabulousness and class and most likely a double prescription of Boniva. Take that Sally Fields!!! She's 73 and sings Pink better than Pink WISHES she ever could. I mean, "Get This Party Started" is veritable Cuisinart of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut meets J. Strauss' Die Fledermaus meets Bond title sequence meets Snow White's "mirror, mirror on the wall" meets Marie Antoinette via Alexander McQueen. And that's quite a bit of introductions to manage concomitantly.

Now, though, I am completely ub-sessed with Florence and the Machine. Their CD "Lungs" is FULL of great songs. It's the rare type of CD in which I can listen to it over and over again and each time I think I have a favorite song until the next track starts. Well, to be frank I don't quite like track 2, but the rest are buh-rilliant.

Below is what I can only imagine is Florence and the Machine's ode to Rusalka, as well as videos from those other great dames of Anglo-Saxon singing mentioned above. It's all great, so WATCH THEM-- you'll be a better person because of it. Sure, some of these may been more antiquarian than au courant, but it doesn't make them any less amazing.

Florence and the Machine- You've Got the Love:

Amy Winehouse- Tears Dry on Their Own:

Adele- Hometown Glory:

Duffy- Mercy:

Shirley Bassey- Get This Party Started:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Starting Here, Starting Now

Wwwwwell hello folks, I've finally bit the proverbial bullet and started a blog (and you all's knows I don't like thinning out my stockpile of ammunition). I have been contemplating this for a while, but in all honesty don't really think my day to day life is all that interesting. No.... seriously, though.

Then I had the idea about starting a blog and having it titled "Letters to my Nephew," on which would be a collection of letters to my 17 month old nephew, but I'm not quite sure any of my advice would be good. Or age appropriate. Orrrrrr legal?

Part of the problem is that I am already worried about in, updating persistently enough that people will keep reading. Nothing's worse than frequenting a blog and seeing that same, sad post about a trip to the apple orchard in the fall. COME ON! The tulips are blooming, the least you could do is tell me what you got for Christmas!! Of course I'm being a bit hyperbolic. I suppose there are worse things: locking your keys in the car, burning your toast in the morning, and running out of toilet paper (you know... ... ... when you need it the most). Now THAT'S the worst. Oh yeah, and warfamineracismredheadsagonypestilencedeathtyranny. Honestly, though, haven't we at least gotten rid of pestilence by now?

The one thing that seems to be a constant in my life is that I am perpetually ub-sessed with new things. Movies, TV, books (pictures, not words of course), music, architecture and every other form of glittery indulgence that falls under the PopCulture umbrella. An umbrella that is most likely made by Prada. And by Prada I unfortunately mean Target.

SO, for my inaugural post I wanna talk about beginnings. More specifically, how ub-sessed I am with television title sequences. Following are just a couple of favorites that I resist the urge to fast forward thru on the DVR. I'll stick to current shows, as there is a litany of choices from years past. Bewitched anybody?

First of all, any show with Jessica Walters automatically deserves a place on my DVR. Nobody plays boozy, brassy socialites like ol' Jessie. Well, her and Nathan Lane. Besides that, though, this opening sequence is by far my favorite. Deal with it, Bond. Scroll down a fourth of a way to watch. If interested in further perusal on the subject, the linked blog also looks at title sequences from both movies and television in fascinating detail.

Parks and Recreation:

This jaunty, rural-sounding theme song make me want to volunteer for trash pick up at the Arb. It reminds me of boy scouts, the outdoors, fresh air, melanoma, second degree burns from ungodly hot playground slides. Well, not so much "reminds me of" but "fits into my notion of what those things might be."

The Graham Norton Show:

The Graham Norton Show Title Sequence

Russ | MySpace Video

I love this mostly because it makes no sense and ESPECIALLY because... it makes absolutely no sense.

30 Rock:

The sequence, with music by Tina Fey's husband, clocks in at a crowd-pleasing 18 seconds-- just 6 seconds more than Lost, which oddly enough seems to last four times as long. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but a catchy theme song and the inclusion of Judah Friedlander blows the tepid charcoal and white floating letters of Lost out of the water. . . Just like their plane. HEYO!

The United States of Tara

Because... who doesn't love a good animated pop-up sequence. PS, if you're not watching this show, download/rent the first season, watch it, tune in for the season 2 premiere this next Monday. DO IT!

So there you have it. Thanks for attending my first blog post EVER!!! There is punch and cookies outside, and please leave your programs at the door for future performances. I can't promise extremely frequent posts, or that they'll be good, or that you'll leave feeling satisfied in any way...

Oh, that's it... there's no "but".