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Edition Viva Voce, November 2017

The Opera Guild of Rochester, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a mission to support opera and opera education in the greater Rochester area.

The Guild presents free opera lectures at local libraries, tours to productions of local opera companies and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and our popular Beat-the-Blahs, Haskell Rosenberg Memorial Series, at Temple B'rith Kodesh in Brighton.

Our Website serves as a clearinghouse for local and regional opera, concert, and recital information, with links to other music organizations in our area. Please visit us at operaguildofrochester.org.   

This newsletter is sent via eMail each month, currently to over 3,000 subscribers.  For a free subscription send your contact details, including your eMail address, to operaguildofrochester@gmail.com.

The Opera Guild of Rochester is also on Facebook. For up-to-date information on opera-related news and events, please visit us on facebook.com/OperaGuildofRochester.

Reader Article submission deadline for the next issue is the 15th of the previous month.

TheMonthNovember Banner

EastmanOpera2017-2018Eastman Opera
2017-2018 Calendar

L'incoronazione di Poppea* (1642)
by Claudio Monteverdi and G. F. Busenello    {See essay Click Here}
November 2, 3, 4 at 7:30 p.m.
November  5  at 2:00 p.m.
Kilbourn Hall
Les Enfants Terribles* (1996)
by Philip Glass and Susan Marshall
Adapted from the Jean Cocteau Novel and 1950 French Film
February 1, 2, 3 at 7:30 p.m.
February 4 at 2:00 p.m.
804 Black Box Theatre
Friends of Eastman Opera
Voice Competition
February 9 at 8:00 p.m.
Kilbourn Hall
The Light in the Piazza *
by Adam Guettel  and Craig Lucas
Based on the novella by Elizabeth Spencer
April 5, 6, 7 at 7:30 p.m.
April 8 at 2:00 p.m.
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
May 5 at 7:30 p.m.
May 6 at 2:00 p.m.
804 Black Box Theatre

*Tickets sold through the
Eastman Theatre Box Office
433 East Main St., Rochester NY
Pre-performance Talks one hour
before each Eastman Opera Theatre
performance except April 5
Information about upcoming
Eastman concerts and events can be found at

 Opera Meet-up in the Little Theater Café

 Sunday, November 19, following La bohème, about 2:45 - 4 PM

 Refreshments and informal discussion with other opera-goers.

 All who are interested are welcome!

The Little is located at 240 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14604 (directions)


Enjoy the opera at The Little! Here is the 2017-18 Royal Opera House lineup

Puccini's La bohème
Sunday, Nov 19, 12 PM
Monday Nov 20, 6 PM

Verdi's Rigoletto

Saturday, Feb 17, 12 PM
Tuesday, Feb 20, 6 PM

Puccini's Tosca

Saturday, Mar 3, 12 PM
Tuesday, Mar 6, 6 PM

Bizet's Carmen

Saturday, Apr 14, 12 PM
Wednesday, Apr 18, 6 PM

Verdi's Macbeth

Sunday, May 27, 12 PM
Tuesday, May 29, 6 PM

For more information Click Here


341 Delaware Ave
by Donizetti
A hilarious comic opera about a young man who wants to win over the woman he loves and the con artist who sells him the perfect potion to do it. 
Valerian Ruminski as Dulcamara
Karen D'Angelo as Adina
Jim Judd as Nemerino
Conducted by Matt Marco
A full chorus
TICKETS $25 plus fee
for info call 716 222 3969

For info on Babeville Click Here

2017-2018 'Doomed Divas' season!
Verdi's La traviata
Feb 2 at 8 PM
Feb 4 at 2 PM

Soprano Raquel Gonzalez and tenor Andrew Maughan (Eugene Onegin) return to bring Verdi's gorgeous score to life. Directed by Stephanie Havey (Rigoletto) and conducted by Christian Capocaccia.

Puccini's Madama Butterfly (Opera Guild spring trip)
April 13 at 8 PM
April 15 at 2 PM

Soprano Toni Marie Palmertree, having debuted the role of Butterfly at San Francisco Opera in 2016, will reprise the role for Syracuse Opera. CNY native Dinyar Vania returns to play Pinkerton, with baritone Troy Cook (Eugene Onegin) as Sharpless, the American Consul. Glenn Lewis of Pittsburgh Opera will conduct, with Alison Moritz making her Syracuse Opera debut as stage director.

Tickets from $26 to $206, student tickets, $10.
To buy tickets call (315) 476.7372 or go to SyracuseOpera.org
Tri-Cities Logo

      2017 - 2018 Season

Tom Cipullo Glory Denied
November 10, 17  7:30 PM
November 12, 19  3:00 PM
Tri-Cities Opera Center
Savoca Hibbitt Hall
315 Clinton St
Binghamton, NY 13905

Terrence McNally Master Class
February 23, 24  7:30 PM
February 25, 3:00 PM
Tri-Cities Opera Center

Peter Brook and Georges Bizet The Tragedy of Carmen
April 27, May 4, 7:30 PM
April 29, May 6, 3:00 PM
Tri-Cities Opera Center

For tickets and information call (607) 772-0400 or go to http://www.tricitiesopera.com

MetHD17-18Metropolitan Opera HD Season 2017-2018

See our docents' essays on the composer and background of the operas in the Viva Voce issue published in the beginning of the broadcast month. These essays can also be found on our Website.  Click Here to peruse the collection.  

Thomas Adès, The Exterminating Angel
Sat, Nov 18, 2017 12:55 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
The American premier inspired by the Luis Bunuel film of the same name. It is a surreal fantasy about a dinner party from which the guests cannot escape. The composer (who also wrote The Tempest) will conduct.

Giacomo Puccini, Tosca
Sat, Jan 27, 2018 12:55 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
A new production by Sir David McVicar, starring Kristine Opolais as Tosca, Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi and Byrn Terfel as Scarpia. Andris Nelsons will conduct.

Gaetano Donizetti, L'Elisir d'Amore

Sat, Feb 10, 2018 12:00 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
A Bartlett Sher production, starring Pretty Yende as Adina, Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino, David Luciano as Belcore, and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Dulcamara. Domingo Hindoyan will conduct.

Giacomo Puccini, La Bohème
Sat, Feb 24, 2018 12:30 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
Franco Zeffirelli's classic production, starring Sonya Yoncheva as Mimi, Susanna Phillips as Musetta, Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo and Lucas Meachem as Marcello. Marco Armiliato will conduct.

Gioachino Rossini, Semiramide
Sat, Mar 10, 2018 12:55 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
Its first appearance at the Met in almost 25 years, starring Angela Meade as Semiramide, the murderous Queen of Babylon, Elizabeth DeShong as Arsace, Javier Camarena (the current "King of the High C's") as Idreno, Ildar Abdrazakov as Assur and Ryan Green as Mitrane. Maurizio Benini will conduct.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Così fan tutte
Sat, Mar 31, 2018 12:55 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
A new production by Phelim McDermott set in Coney Island in the 1950's, starring Amanda Majeski as Fiordiligi, Serena Malfi as Dorabella, Broadway star Kelli O'Hara as Despina, Ken Bliss as Ferrando, Adam Plachetka as Guglielmo and Christopher Maltman as Don Alfonso. David Robertson will conduct.

Fun cartoon synopsis: Click Here

Giuseppe Verdi, Luisa Miller
Sat, Apr 14, 2018 12:30 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
Its first Met performance in more than 10 years, starring Sonya Yoncheva as Luisa, Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo, Olesya Petrova as Federica, Placido Domingo as Miller, Alexander Vinogradov as Walter and Dmitry Belosselskiy as Wurm. James Levine will conduct.

Jules Massenet, Cendrillon
Sat, Apr 28, 2018 12:55 PM
Synopsis and Cast: Click Here
Its premier at the Met in an imaginative, new storybook production by Laurent Pelly, starring Joyce DiDonato as Cendrillon (Cinderella), Alice Coote (in a trouser role) as Prince Charming, Kathleen Kim as the Fairy Godmother and Stephanie Blythe as Madame de la Haltiere. Bertrand de Billy will conduct.


The Elixir of Love
The Abduction from the Seraglio
FEBRUARY 7 TO 24, 2018
The Nightingale and Other Short Fables
APRIL 13 TO MAY 19, 2018
Anna Bolena
APRIL 28 TO MAY 26, 2018

To buy individual or subscription tickets Click Here



1441 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14610

Sundays at 2 pm.  Nov. 19, Jan. 21, March 4, April 8

Rebecca Penneys, piano
Stefan Reuss, cello
Mikhail Kopelman, violin

Doors open at 1:15. Tickets are $35 at the door for non-members and subscriptions are available.

Go to www.raom.org or contact Lydia N.C. Nicolson at 585-271-1314 or lydia.nicolson@ram.org for more information.


As an Amici, your contribution in any amount is greatly appreciated. All donation levels  receive an invitation to the Annual Recital; those listed below will be given priority until a date specified on the invitation. 

Chorus: $60-$99
Comprimario: $100-$149, one additional recital invitation.
Primo: $150-$199, $20 discount on trip (except to New York City).
Maestro: $200-$299, $30 discount on trip (except to New York City).
Impresario: $300 or more, $30 discount on trip (except to New York City); two additional recital invitations. 
To donate online go to  http://operaguildofrochester.org/donate.html

You may also mail a check to Opera Guild of Rochester, P.O. Box 92245, Rochester, NY 14692-0245. Please include an email or other address for your tax receipt.

Return to Contents

ReaderArticlesMet Opera Essays

This section brings you articles written by Opera Guild docents. Previously distributed at HD performances, they are now published in Viva Voce in the beginning of the broadcast month, and are available on the Website. 

SurrealismAtTheOperaSurrealism at the Opera
Art Axelrod
The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès had its world premiere in July, 2016 in Salzburg, Austria. This production by the Met is its North American premiere, directed by Tom Cairns, who also wrote the libretto, with the orchestra conducted by Adès himself. The opera is based on the 1962 film of the same name by the Surrealist director, Luis Buñuel.
British-born Thomas Adès (pronounced "ahh-DAYSS"), born 1971, is a distinguished pianist and conductor, and is considered one of the most influential composers of the 21st century.  Exterminating Angel is his third opera, after Powder Her Face (1995) and The Tempest (2007).  The Tempest, based on Shakespeare's play, had its North American premiere at Santa Fe in 2006 and was produced at the Met in 2007 where it received both critical and popular acclaim.

Luis Buñuel (pronounced "boon-WELL") was a Spanish-Mexican filmmaker, one of the most eminent members of the mid-20th century Surrealist movement. Born in 1900 in a small town in the Aragon region of northwest Spain, he emigrated to Mexico and renounced his Spanish citizenship in protest against the Fascist regime of Francisco Franco.  When he died in Mexico City in 1983, his obituary in the New York Times characterized him as "a leader of avant-garde surrealism in his youth and a dominant international movie director half a century later."

Briefly, the plot of the Buñuel movie is this: 12 guests arrive at a dinner party given by the aristocratic Señor Nóbile, following a performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. They gradually discover that a dark force is at work, as one by one, the servants abandon them. Then they realize that they are inexplicably unable to leave, and civility begins to decline, leading to tragic, often explosive, results. The plot of the Adès opera closely follows that of the film.

In surrealist literature, situations were portrayed that are full of supernatural elements and non sequiturs. According to André Breton, one of its founders, the aim of Surrealism was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality," and to express the subconscious in tangible artistic terms. 
Surrealism is an art form and cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. In the graphic arts, artists painted disconcerting and seemingly illogical scenes with photographic precision. 
A familiar example might be Salvador Dalí's 1931 painting Persistence of Memory.    

Buñuel never attempted to explain his work, and discouraged anyone else from doing so. But the late American film critic Roger Ebert, based on his study of both the film and  the life of Buñuel, wrote, "The dinner guests represent the ruling class in Franco's Spain. Having set a banquet table for themselves by defeating the workers in the Spanish Civil War, they sit down for a feast, only to find it never ends. They're trapped in their own bourgeois cul-de-sac. Increasingly resentful at being shut off from the world outside, they grow mean and restless; their worst tendencies are revealed."  Today, the explicit references may no longer seem relevant, but Ebert's analysis gives us a clue as to how we might approach interpreting the seemingly absurdist plot.

Exterminating Angel, both film and opera, employ an established literary technique: the "locked room" drama.  The author arranges a group of people in a closed and isolated environment and then explores human nature and the human condition by watching their interactions over time.  For example, in No Exit, the 1944 play by the French Existentialist author and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Hell is portrayed as a locked room holding three people who torture each other psychologically but are unable to leave. Agatha Christie's murder mystery And Then There Were None, 1939, places ten people on an island isolated by a storm who die one by one; only at the end does the reader discover the reason and the perpetrator.  In the 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, William Golding has a group of English schoolboys stranded on a desert island, trying unsuccessfully to govern themselves until they are rescued.  More recently, novelist Ann Patchett won several prizes for her novel Bel Canto, 2001, which explored the relationships among people being held hostage by insurgents in the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru.

We may find Adès's opera challenging, perhaps disturbing.  But about one thing we may remain at ease: after the performance we will all be able to leave the theater and make our way home. 
Happy Birthday, Claudio!   
Carol Crocca
From Nov. 2-5, Eastman Opera Theater will be presenting L'incoronazione di Poppea at Kilbourn Hall.  This year is the 450th Anniversary of Monteverdi's birth.

The first opera of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Orfeo, composed for the court in Mantua in 1607, was one of the works responsible for the spread of the new genre of opera, and its growing popularity with the aristocracy.  After becoming established in Rome, opera was brought to Venice in 1637 by two Roman impresarios, Ferrari and Manelli, who came with their troop of singers.  However, they did not come to provide entertainment at court, but to perform for Carnivale.

Unlike other Italian cities, Venice was a republic - self-governed by a council of its noble merchants, which had maintained political and cultural stability based on its trading wealth since the 5th century. The significance for the development of opera was that here it was a public entertainment.  Thousands of tourists came to Venice to celebrate Carnevale, and dramas and operas took place, not at court, but at public theaters. As commercial ventures where the audience included all classes, drama per musica became responsive to the tastes of the paying public.

Opera was initially conceived as a drama in which the music enhanced but did not dominate the text - there are no 'arias' in Orfeo. The Venetian public, however, loved songs much more than recitative and this led to a high demand for both arias and good singers.  The popularity of the new genre also demanded many new works, which drove the creation of conventions that enabled their rapid production.  These trends began quite soon after opera's arrival in Venice, and accelerated as the century progressed.  Monteverdi moved to Venice from Mantua to become the maestro di cappella at St. Mark's in 1613 and he responded to this environment in his opera compositions.

L'incoronazione di Poppea, his last opera (1643), was the first to be based on Roman history. The Venetians had an historical identification with the Romans: they wanted to see themselves as the inheritors of that military and cultural legacy. Even further, they believed themselves destined to surpass it. How did the story of Poppea and Nero, a story in which the adulterous affair of the two principals leads to attempted murder and divorce, but is literally crowned with success, fit into this picture?  

The characters in the opera's prologue are personifications of Virtue, Fate and Love, and they are going to be visible during the action and enlighten us by their reactions to the drama.  Fate is usually resigned, Virtue horrified, and Cupid triumphant.  It is clear that in this story, Cupid, or Eros, the personification of love, will prevail over chance, honor and duty, and in fact will directly interfere to determine the outcome of the drama.  Therefore, the lesson of this cautionary tale to the Venetians: in the decadence of the late Roman Empire lay the seeds of its downfall.

The story is that Poppea (wife of Ottone), and the Emperor Nero (husband of Ottavia), are having an affair.  In their post-coital love duet in Act 1, the sensuousness of both the music and the lyrics is indicative of the trend in Venetian opera.

Ottone, Poppea's husband, loves Drusilla, Ottavia's maid, but is in a jealous rage over Poppea's infidelity.  He agrees to kill her at Ottavia's behest.  The plot is foiled by Cupid, who comes down from above to stay Ottone's hand.  When the attempt is discovered, Drusilla is accused because Ottone has worn her clothes to gain entry to Poppea's chamber.  Nero is summoned and expresses his rage.  Although Monteverdi did not write a full 'rage aria,' as they came to be developed later in the century, Nero's extended angry outbursts in lyrical recitative punctuate the scene.  They serve to illustrate how the function of the aria was starting to emerge as that of expressing one emotion or one aspect of character at a time. The same is true of Ottavia's lament later in the act, when the dispossessed queen bids Rome an extended farewell.  

It had also become the convention to end the opera with a love duet, and there is a beautiful one at the end of L'incoronazione.  

Many critics are sure that Monteverdi did not write the final duet, and possibly some other scenes in the opera as well.  But this also would have comported with standard practices of the day. Often composers borrowed arias from other composers; those who revived an opera added and/or subtracted elements according to their judgment, or to satisfy a powerful singer.  Eventually, the exacerbation of these practices, among others, led to a reform movement at the end of the century.  Monteverdi, however, gave us the best opera at the beginning, and participated in the crucial development of Italian opera in mid-17th century - without producing anything which distorted opera as a genre, or required reform in any way.  I'm pretty sure that's why we are celebrating the 450th anniversary of his birth this year.

Disclaimer: Commentary on this, or any other opera, given in advance of a certain production, cannot take account of particulars of that production, which may vary from versions familiar to the writer. Many operas are available in several versions, and while not subject to the abuses of integrity common in the 17th century, may be cut or presented in nonstandard ways. Your indulgence may be required.


Over the last two months, a total of 122 persons responded to our survey, which sought your feedback on a variety of topics related to the mission and the activities of the Opera Guild.  Herewith a summary of those responses, based on the questions asked.

81% are 'somewhat familiar' to 'very familiar' with our mission statement.  We like the suggestion for succinctness, as follows:  "The Opera Guild of Rochester promotes interest, education, performance, and appreciation of opera in the Greater Rochester Community."  Many wished for more opera in Rochester, and so do we, but we do not produce it ourselves and can only encourage others to do so.

For 68% of responders, we met or exceeded expectations for a guild; we fell short for 14% and 18% had no opinion.

79% of responders read Viva Voce frequently or always, and the newsletter was rated 4.2 out of 5 for overall satisfaction.  76-89% rated the coverage appropriate for the different categories of content (local events, out-of-town events, reader articles, Guild news, Met HD schedule).

Fewer of you seem to use the website - only 2/3 of responders answered the question.  One said, "What? You have a website?" which seems to sum up the written comments pretty well.  Rating by those who are familiar with it is 3.8 out of 5.

Opera Guild Activities: 41% to 31 % have attended these activities once or more than once: lectures, Beat the Blahs DVD presentations, trips, donor recital.  The rest either never attended (44% to 51%), had no interest in attending (4% to 6%) or were not aware of the event (7% to 11%).  Our events could be the subject of another short survey.  Obviously we want to spend our time and effort on what you would like to do.

A big majority of responders (63% to 67%) think that outreach to college and high school students is very important.  A number of the written comments added elementary school students to the group. Actually, we have ideas for outreach to students, and are held back only by lack of personnel.  If you want to get involved in such a project, contact us!

Next month the rest of the survey will be covered, along with our own response and action items.

From your Opera Guild 
The Opera Guild of Rochester is sad to have lost Ettie Rubenstein on October 4, 2017 at age 102. Ettie and her late husband Philip were enthusiastic supporters of the Rochester Theatre Guild, the precursor of our current Opera Guild of Rochester, back in the 1990's. After Ettie's husband died, Agneta Borgstedt, Lillian Bonnani, and Rosalie DiPasquale sometimes took Ettie and her private aides out to lunch.  Later, they continued to celebrate her birthday in her last years in her apartment, as has been noted in previous issues of the newsletter. We would like to thank Cathleen Brauen and her aides for the loving care they gave Ettie and the help they gave us, so that Ettie could enjoy the company of fellow opera lovers.

Computer Skills Needed

Electronically publishing the newsletter requires a few fairly sophisticated computer skills and we are fortunate to have two accomplished volunteers working in this capacity.  But since it is a job requiring 2-3 days per month on a regular basis, two technical publishers are not enough to make sure we have coverage for times of illness, vacation, computer malfunction, etc.  If you have computer skills, please consider helping with this valuable project, even if you cannot, or would prefer not, to work every month.  Thanks for your consideration!  Just see the beginning of the newsletter to find a job description and how to let us know of your interest.

Please consider the Opera Guild of Rochester among your charitable organizations for 2017. Donations to the Opera Guild of Rochester are fully tax deductible and donors will receive an invitation to the Annual Recital in May 2018, which includes a dessert reception with the artists.

To donate online Click Here.  

Enjoy our free Lecture/Listening series, which you can download from the Website at operaguildofrochester.org by clicking on Reading Room. While at our Website you can also learn about our opera program at Temple B'rith Kodesh, our opera trips to regional opera companies including the Glimmerglass Festival, and our Metropolitan Opera trips.

Cindy New Ad 2016

Submission deadline for the next issue is the 15th of the previous month

Free subscription on-line at operaguildofrochester.org

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