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This summer, the Cincinnati Symphony will perform La Forza del Destino during a two week choral extravaganza – May Festival. It’s pretty daunting on the staff, with about 5 – 10 different guest artist (and their lap dogs) each week, short rehearsal time, excruciatingly long pieces to prepare… but alas.

I had heard that Forza is considered to be the most cursed opera in the rep and knew of the story of the tragedy at the Met – I checked the MetOpera Database – a great online catalog of ever performance – and the review from Musical America had some really amazing details.


Leonard Warren died in Act II after his aria Urna Fatale del mio destino.
In the first violin part of the Concertmaster, the exact spot is marked:
one measure after the Letter I, following the words Ora egli viva... e di mia man poi muoia...]

Review of performance and account of Leonard Warren‘s death by Raymond A. Ericson in Musical America
In one of the most dramatic and tragic events to take place on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, Leonard Warren was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage and died during a performance of “La Forza del Destino” on March 4
In the middle of Act II (as given at the Metropolitan), the duet for Mr. Warren and Mr. Tucker, “Solenne in quest’ ora” brought another crescendo of applause and bravos. Mr. Warren then was left onstage alone to sing the recitative that begins “Morir! Tremenda cosa!” (“To die! Tremendous moment!”). How ominous this phrase was to prove! Mr. Warren continued into the superb aria that follows, “Urna fatale” (0 fatal pages”), and he had never seemed in better form as his remarkable voice rode the long legato phrases and soared excitingly through the cadenzas to the climactic high notes. At the end, he stood quietly until the shouts of approval had died away. Moving to stage left he completed his next few lines of recitative and then fell forward heavily, as if he had tripped.
Roald Reitan, as the Surgeon, entered, singing his single phrase, “Lieta novella, e salvo” (“Good news I bring you, I saved him”). No response came from Mr. Warren, as Thomas Schippers, the conductor, waited with upstretched arms to bring the orchestra in.
Uncertainty and wonder gripped everyone for a few seconds, and the audience stirred uneasily. Mr. Reitan then went quickly over to Mr. Warren, knelt by his side. The audience did not know that Mr. Reitan raised Mr. Warren’s head slightly, that the stricken baritone uttered faintly the word “Help!” and then went limp. The audience was only aware of Mr. Reitan’s looking anxiously into the wings and at Mr. Schippers, and of a voice in the auditorium saying clearly, “Bring the curtain down!”
The great golden curtains came down. Mr. Schippers waited at his post and the audience waited in their seats for several minutes until Rudolf Bing, general manager of the Metropolitan, appeared before the curtains to announce that the performance would continue. Shortly thereafter, another member of the staff appeared, saying there would be an intermission until the replacement (Mario Sereni) who had been called to substitute for Mr. Warren arrived for the opera.
Backstage, meanwhile, the gravity of the baritone’s condition immediately became apparent. Dr. Adrian W. Zorgniotti, the house physician, who was in the audience, ran backstage, examined Mr. Warren and called for oxygen. An ambulance and a police emergency truck carrying oxygen were called. Oxygen supplies kept in the Metropolitan’s first-aid room were rushed backstage. Osie Hawkins, Metropolitan bass, and two staff attendants attempted to breathe into Mr. Warren’s mouth.
Mr. Warren’s wife, Agathe, had attended the performance and was at her husband’s side during his final moments. She alone, at one point, had seen a peculiar expression on Mr. Warren’s face and realized that all was not well with him. Also present was Mgr. Edwin Broderick, of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, who left the audience to come backstage and administer the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. And at some point after 10 o’clock Mr. Warren died.
About 10:30, warning bells rang in the lobbies, and the audience filed back to their seats. Mr. Bing reappeared before the curtain, his expression grave.
“This is one of the saddest days in the history of opera,” he began. “I will ask you please to stand,” he continued, as the shaken audience uttered gasps of disbelief, in memory of one of our greatest performers, who died in the middle of one of his greatest performances.”After the audience had arisen, some of the members openly sobbing, Mr. Bing concluded: “I am sure you will agree with me mat it would not be possible to continue with the performance.” Slowly, a dazed and saddened public departed.
Leonard Warren, who was 48 years old, died at the height of a career in which he was acclaimed as one of the great operatic baritones of our time. Only four days before his death he had received some of the highest praise ever accorded a singer for his performance of the title role in a new production of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra.”
Fate.

A few years ago, when she I heard a song by Kristin Chenoweth when she performed with the Cincinnati Pops. There really is something to the relationship with caffeine addicted 20/30 somethings and their Baristas.

Today, I had to say goodbye to my Taylor. I initially started going to the CE after a year moving to the Nati, mostly because it was close to where I lived. As luck would have it, the downtown location was within walking distance from the hall. During those long summer nights of opera season post-redbull crush, I became a regular at the CE. I would be lying if I said it didn’t have anything to do with a particularly cute barista with exceptionally green eyes and a slightly odd accent, perhaps New England and Irish. Yes, odd. Of course the draw for me, besides the obvious, is that they do brew the best coffee in Cincinnati (fairtrade of course), and serve a mean breakfast burrito, cheese and eggy goodness. With iced Americanos in the hot summer months, the CE took care of me – the craziness of work, a few relationships that had gone quite awry, to name a few (yes, it was the very place where someone told me that their body was telling them ‘no’ – I’m still working that one out). Despite whatever drama I was causing, I could always count on the CE and that smile. Sadly I had to say goodbye to my friendly face as he is on his way to Boston to do the Med School thing. I’ll miss him sure, but please – I’ll probably visit the CE every Sunday and you know I’m not giving up my coffee any time soon.

Back by popular demand. I know everyone is waiting to see what the next one will be…

v. Act modern and still traditional at the same time.

So this one I stole for the original 7 steps, and with good reason, I quite like it. It is a bit vague, I know, but it really does make a lot of sense. I interpret this as the difference between chivalry and chauvinism. This might mean that I might not take your last name if we were to marry and there probably isn’t going to be any dowry involved (although I wouldn’t be too surprised if my mom threw in a toaster oven just as a bonus). I will bake, iron shirts, expect you to walk on the outside of me, and move heavy things – and this isn’t just because it’s the nice thing to do, it is how each person is built. If I wasn’t 5’3 with little girl-like hands and was a mechanic by trade, I’d reconsider my stance. Let’s use a little common sense and lesson in respecting people’s strengths.

Also, having a baby isn’t entirely negotiable. If I have to carry it inside of me, ultimately I have the final say.

Disclaimer:  Anna Netrebko has become an undisputed force in opera.  I was doing a bit of research of Dvorak’s Rusalka, and I stumbled across this video of her singing the famed Song to the Moon Aria.  This is a one of the most celebrated ‘moon’ arias (yes, there is more than one) in Czech and really any operatic genre.

mtv does opera, I think.

Her singing is fantastic, if I were a contestant on Project Runway I’d probably say fierce even.  But I’m not quite sure what to make of this video.  I think it’s aiming for mainstream themes, but I think I kept waiting for Twista to show up with some ladies in short shorts and drop a sick beat.  I suppose that in some ways there is a correlation between the opera and what happens in the video, but there is something just a bit off with it.  I’m all for reinventing, but, well, see what you think.

About a year and a half ago, in the midst of having my own set of crises during the summer (probably had to do with the insanity that is Opera season and working with singers) and a bout of insomnia I received a call from a distressed future bride marrying into my family of friends.  I’m sure the wedding stress and whatnot probably played a factor, and I honestly never meant to put any of it in motion.  I have pretty clear guidelines that once someone I love loves you, you’re in, you’re family.  But on this occasion, in the midst of seriousness, she used the phrase

“I really didn’t want to do it, but I had to put on my big girl panties and call.”

Not to make light of the situation, my first reaction, for the second in a year, was that I had just been pants.  Yes, I realize the obvious parallel.  Through my surprise, I thought what a great phrase.  The funny things is that big girl panties really aren’t… big, in fact they are generally the least amount of fabric that still qualifies as an article of clothing. I have on occasion blatantly stolen this phrase, much like today when having to talk to on of my 5 bosses.  I don’t actually like doing the adult thing even though I usually feel better about it afterwards, as much of my lifestyle would suggest, but at least I have a cute and funny saying to get me through.

I will never forget the first time I ever walked into music hall, or the first time I walked out on-stage. Part of this is because it happened in my not so distant memory, but it is a pretty big deal. I recently did some research for the program writer looking at programs from the 1909 – 1910 season. This happens to be Leopold Stokowski’s first season as music director of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, when he was quite young and unfamiliar. The note in the front of the book described the reasons he was selected – to anyone remotely aware of American orchestral conducting, he has become a legend, and especially growing up hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra, it is almost laughable that it needed to be explained why he was selected. Incidentally, the performance in question was about Rachmaninoff conducting his own Piano Concerto Nr. 2, I honestly can’t imagine how great that concert was.

I digress.

In some last minute preparations after the Friday morning concert I walked out on stage and realized that this stage is no longer a huge vast scary thing. Actually, completely empty, it’s probably one of the most peaceful places I know. The one thing that hasn’t changed however is what the loudest sound is. I’ve heard quite a lot – some huge brass chorales, adding church bells to any Russian composition – but no matter how loud the cheering, how many people or instruments are on-stage, there is nothing louder than my heels walking across the stage.  I can never get over how loud they are when crossing an empty stage and an empty hall – but the sound is absolutely deafening with a packed house, and no music.  Every time I happen to be out there, I want to look around to see if people are covering their ears over the noise, and wonder if someone put taps on my shoes when I wasn’t looking.  Seriously, listen for it next time – it is so much louder than any old cowbell.

Continuing on the 7 Steps to Succeed with Women…

V. Don’t smell like a boy.

I feel like again I am stating the obvious but this one has shockingly been an issue, something that I thought I’d never have to even consider once I turned 17. I was wrong. The smell of boy is quite unmistakable – I always think it is the smell that accompanies my dad’s old army bag every time he comes back from camping or the smell of the boy scout cabin of the troop of which my brother belonged. Either way, lets be honest, it comes from ignoring hygiene and it is not hot. I’m sure it comes from thinking that it isn’t always necessary to shower after working out, or thinking that maybe that shirt on the floor is really clean, or perhaps that no one will notice.

For myself and I’m pretty confidant that I can speak for Ixi as well, it is important that the woman be in the pretty one in the relationship. That being said, I would hope that my time and effort in getting all of me looking good would be appreciated – from the products to flat irons to finding the perfect pair of heels. All we ask is that some slight amount of thought is reciprocated, and at the very least, shower.

Continuing on the 7 Steps to Success with Women…

I am going to have to disagree with the initial 7 steps posted. I would never turn down a meal or dessert made for me by a man, obviously taking my dietary restrictions into consideration. Cooking your way into a woman’s heart is feasible, but not nearly as useful for a woman to win over a man. My take is…

IV. Know my favorites, use them to make me happy, and it is acceptable to use for your own gain.

Seriously, I’m pretty transparent about what will make me happy and what won’t. The largest staples of my diet consist of cheese, eggs, cheesy eggs, and of late, pesto. And things with covered in cheese. After a long day, I would rather come home to my favorite dish (tofu pad-thai spicy level 2.5 from Mt. Adams) than eat an experiment of leeks, cardamom, bacon bits and a secret sauce that you thought I might like.

I do so love my gmail, yes I do. Probably because I no longer get close to 100 bits of spam, but it’s also all the little stuff. I love the gchat, where I can harass my brother at work, get the details of the haps in the ‘ville, but most importantly, catch up on life with the JP in Germany. Jennifer Porto continues to impress audiences and academia in Leipzig and Berlin, care of the Fulbrights. Sadly for me, with the time change, pace of life, and banning all chat programs at work I miss this staple in my life. Then came gchat.

Last night in the midst of an insomnia fit in which I was watching a show about some genetic syndrome on Discovery Health that I’ve now convinced myself I have, my little pop-up window from JP appeared. Even though she contacted me, a message appeared: Jennifer is busy. You may be interrupting her.

At first, I found it amusing that gmail cared that much about my relationship that they would warn me. Then I thought, hey, she sent me the message! Maybe I’m busy! Maybe she’s interrupting me! I should at the very least be asleep, if nothing else. How dare gmail try to police my chats! They don’t know me. After I moved past my initial irrational thought process, I warmed to idea that gmail is teaching manners, and reminded people that interrupting is rude. Where else would someone say it? I can definitely get on board with that.

Continuing with the 7 Steps to Success with Women…

III.  Don’t be embarrassed by me.

Most things I do aren’t too terribly embarrassing, honest, mostly because I have a low threshold in general.  But still, pretend like it doesn’t bother you that I spit when I run, can’t remember what stories I’ve told which people, and that I know nothing about cars and meats and intend to keep it that way.

January 2008
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