I am slowly drifting back to earth now after my excursion into the Cherylsphere (thank you for putting up with me) and feel inclined to blog about something else for a change. And yet, nothing substantial occurs to me for the moment, though there are a few good prospects on the horizon. In the meantime, if only to remind myself of the big wide world, let's just have a good old fashioned bullet pointed miscellany.
- The six finalists for this year's Lexus Song Quest (New Zealand's most significant singing competitions) have been announced. No Dunedinites this year, so I have heard none of the six live, but most of the names are familiar. Most of the buzz I hear seems to be about Aivale Cole, who was nominated for a Helpmann last year and has recently made an auspicious début with the West Australian Opera as Aida. Julia Booth was recently singled out for praise in a competition review in NZ Opera News and she definitely wins the Best Website prize. Kristen Darragh is NZ Opera's 2009 Young Artist. Andrew Glover and Polly Ott are both new names to me: Glover is a London-based tenor, while Ott, at 21, is the youngest of the finalists, with the kind of choral background which has stood so many finalists and winners of this competition in such good stead. Wade Kernot was runner-up in the 2007 Song Quest and has been winning numerous accolades elsewhere; he also has a (slightly untidy) website. The competition website provides clips of all six singers in action, with piano accompaniment. Based on just those samples (which I know from experience are not a wonderful indication, and are made all the worse by my tinny laptop speakers) my favourite is Kernot by far; Cole is the other standout, although I suspect she comes across rather more thrillingly in person and with an orchestra.
- Opera Australia have announced some rearrangements in the upcoming Melbourne season. It all begins with Emma Matthews, or rather the lack of her — a respiratory infection has forced her out of the Melbourne season of I Capuleti e i Montecchi. She'll thus be replaced by Hye Seoung Kwon (who was already scheduled to sing the last two performances of this opera in its Sydney season). That means Hye Seoung is out of Die Zauberflöte, so she'll be replaced as Pamina by the lovely Sarah Crane. The domino effect continues: Crane is now replaced as First Lady by Amy Wilkinson, who is in turn replaced as Papagena by Annabelle Chaffey. Got all that?
- Speaking of I Capuleti, it's one of this season's cruellest injustices that Melbourne gets Brad Cohen conducting its season, and we don't. But while we wait for his return to Sydney, allow me to recommend his rather comprehensive website and his YouTube channel. Richard Bonynge (it was spelt like that on the van) eat your heart out.
- And speaking of YouTube, you ought to see this. It's Joyce DiDonato singing "Crude furie degli orridi abissi" and it's every bit as spectacular as you'd expect. Is there no end to this woman's brilliance? I'm still stuck on her Handel arias disc. And her performance in the title role of Alan Curtis' new recording of Alcina is also a must. Curtis is clearly a genius — surely nobody in the world would ever have thought of casting Joyce in the soprano role, and yet it works so preposterously well that once you've heard it, it seems like the most obvious thing in the world — and you certainly wouldn't want her relegated to the pants role, when she's so well suited to the magic and madness of Alcina. And you've probably already seen this — I may even have linked to it before — but it bears repeated viewing.
- The onetrackedness of my mind is incorrigible. The Fool & The Opera now has the extended interview available as a podcast. Recommended listening.