Maria Callas The Exhibition

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The Exhibition is the first major exhibition dedicated to the greatest soprano of all time Maria Callas. Curated by Massimiliano Capella, the presentation marks the 40th anniversary of the death La Divina. It includes costumes and props jewelry, Private clothes, especially those by Biki, the Milanese stylist who fashioned the ‘Callas look’ during the Milan years, as well as several opera costumes; there are personal treasures and stage jewellery; hats, wigs and glasses; telegrams, letters, newspaper articles and photographs illustrating the successes, the scandals, and her loves.

The exhibition is on display until September 18, 2016, in Verona and will soon begin its international tour, from Athens to New York, from Paris to Mexico City…. I don’t have information about the international tour yet but I’ll add it at the bottom of this post as soon as I find some!

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The Curator Massimiliano Capella has used 2200 mannequins and has divided the exhibition into fourteen sections starting with America and Greece and ends in a small dark room with a video of Callas’s ashes being scattered on the Aegean Sea.

Here’s a quick background of her life for those of you who are interested:

I’m going to start from her “Milan years” because to me that’s where she rose and gave her greatest performances and, of course, it was at La Scala where she recorded many of the EMI recordings. On 17 September 1947 Callas had auditioned for La Scala with Casta Diva and O Patria mia, but the Artistic Director, Mario Labroca, didn’t think she was suitable. However, a substitution for Renata Tebaldi on 12 April 1950 in Aida launched a relationship that would continue for more than a decade. Between 1950 and 1962 she would sing 23 different operas, appearing on the Milanese stage 181 times.

Although critics and public were mostly enthusiastic about her vocal performances between 1947 and 1953, comments about her physical aspect were less favourable. Although she was quite tall at 1.73 meters (5’ 8”) she weighed almost 100 kilos (220 lbs); quite a large girl. In 1952 a tactless critic wrote, “It was impossible to distinguish between the elephants’ feet and those of Aida.”

So between the summer of 1952 and the spring of 1954, she lost 35 kilos, and in doing so – with the help of Biki – transformed herself into a style icon. Many of her outfits are reunited for the Callas exhibition. (The iconic portrait by Jerry Tiffany in New York for EMI in 1958 demonstrates how the transformation was complete).

In 1952 she made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London as Norma. London would later be the place of her last appearance in a complete opera, in 1965, and one of the dates of her final concert tour with Giuseppe di Stefano in 1973. But London was to also be the setting for a famous… infamous encounter.

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In 1959, when Callas was one of the core members of the international jet set, a party was held at London’s Dorchester Hotel after the opening of Medea at Covent Garden on 17 June 1959. The event was held at London’s Dorchester Hotel after the opening of Medea at Covent Garden on 17 June 1959. The event was hosted by Aristotle Onassis. the picture above was taken at the event!!!! The next month Callas and her husband were already guests aboard his yacht Christina and the fatal relationship began.

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Her relationship with Onassis ended in 1968 when he left her for Jacqueline Kennedy.

In 1969 she did interpret one of her opera characters again for Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film of Medea; though on this occasion she wasn’t required to sing. Piero Tosi’s magnificent costume for the film is part of the exhibition, so is the favourite black leather jacket that Callas wore during this period. Various documents on show illustrate the intimate nature of the friendship between the director and his leading lady.

The final rooms contain some of her hats, bags, shoes, turbans and other accessories which Biki so carefully labelled in the early years to help her young protégé coordinate the right hat with the right gown. Biki continued to dress her when she lived in Paris, as well as Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Hérmes and Alexander for her wigs.

In the early ‘70s she appeared at Juilliard for the legendary workshops, directed I Vespri Siciliani together with Di Stefano in Turin, and Di Stefano convinced her to join him on an around-the-world concert tour which finished in 1974.

27 November 1973: Maria Callas gives a farewell concert at the Royal Festival Hall.

In 1975, Onassis died in a Paris hospital, a few months later Pasolini’s murdered body was found on the beach at Ostia near Rome, and the following year saw the death of another friend and mentor Luchino Visconti, who once said that he’d only started directing opera because of Callas.

She died of a heart attack on 16 September 1977. She was 53.

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Il Trovatore At The Royal Opera House Muscat

Thursday was such a busy day for me!… I am not sure how I managed but I guess that I did!…. Well barely!!!...Anyways after a long hectic day, we went and saw Verdi’s Il Trovatore at The Royal Opera House, Muscat…..This was a modern production of the Opera (set wise)…..it was a high-tech multi-media production that featured massive projected images that created a dynamic 3D effect ….. I have to say that a lot of people didn’t like it!!!… but I loved it!! It was something that you don’t see every day and a nice change…. I got this picture above from the net for you to see what I mean!!! the stage was empty except for the people on it, the rest was all projected!!!… It looked so real… Thought that it was brilliant!!!…

The Opera was Directed by Cristina Mazzavillani Muti, conducted by Nicola Paszkowski,  and accompanied by the Orchestra Giovanile and the Coro del Teatro Comunile di Piacenza.

Celebrating our 10 Years Wedding Anniversary With José Carreras And Ofelia Sala!!!

We had the most amazing night tonight…José sang most of the arias I was hoping that he would sing and Ofelia’s voice was unreal… it was so perfect and beautiful it sounded like a  dream!!!

What a perfect way to start our 10 years anniversary celebration weekend… I couldn’t have asked for something better!

Thankx again ROHM!!!

Carmen At The Royal Opera House Muscat

Last night we went to see Carmen at the Royal Opera House Muscat…..We enjoyed it a lot!

Carmen Painting 

The story is set in Seville, Spain, around 1820, and is about Carmen, a beautiful gypsy with a fiery temper. Free with her love, she falls in and out of love very quickly!!!!

Act 1

A square in Seville. On the right a cigarette factory, on the left a guard house, with a bridge at the back.

Moralès and the soldiers loiter before the guard house commenting on passers-by because they are bored and have nothing better to do!!!!….. Micaëla (a village girl) appears seeking Don José, a corporal from her same village, but is told by Moralès that he is not yet on duty, so why does she not stay and wait with them? She runs away saying that she will return later. Zuniga and José arrive with the new guard, imitated by a crowd of street-children.

The factory bell rings and the cigarette girls emerge from the factory, greeted by young men who have gathered to flirt with them (“La cloche a sonné”). The girls enter smoking cigarettes, and finally Carmen appears, and all the men ask her when she will love them (“Quand je vous aimerai?”). She replies in the famous Habanera which is one of my favorite arias (“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”): “Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame … He has never known law. If you don’t love me I love you, if I love you watch yourself!” When they plead for her to choose a lover from among them, (“Carmen! sur tes pas, nous nous pressons tous!”) she removes a rose from her hair and throws it at Don José, who has been ignoring or avoiding her, before going back into the factory with the others.

Micaëla returns and gives him a letter as well as a kiss from his mother. José longingly thinks of his home, and reading the letter sees that his mother wants him to return and get married. Micaëla is embarrassed and leaves, but Don José declares that he will marry her.

As soon as she leaves, screams are heard from the factory and the women run out screaming. Don José and Zuniga find that Carmen has been fighting with another woman, and slashed her face with a knife. Zuniga asks Carmen if she has anything to say, but she replies impudently with a song (“Tra la la”). Zuniga instructs José to guard her while he writes out the warrant for prison. The women go back into the factory and the soldiers go back to the guardhouse. To escape, Carmen seduces José ……. José resists in the beginning but relents and unties her hands. Zuniga returns, and Carmen allows herself to be led away but turns, pushes José to the ground….José lets her escape and as a result is  put in jail!!!

Act 2

Evening at Lillas Pastia’s inn, tables scattered around; officers and Gypsies relaxing after dinner

Two months have passed. Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès sing and dance. Lillas Pastia is trying to get rid of the officers, so Zuniga invites Carmen and her friends to come with him to the theatre, but she can only think of José, who was demoted and has been in jail since letting her escape, and was released the day before.

The sound of a procession hailing Escamillo the bull fighter passes by outside, and is invited in ….. He flirts with Carmen, but Carmen tells him that for the time being he need not dream of being hers.

When everyone except Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès have left, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado arrive and tell the girls of their plans to dispose something that they have smuggled via Gibraltar. Carmen refuses to accompany them, saying to their amazement that she is in love…and wants to wait for José because he is being released tonight!!!

José’s voice is heard ……..Dancaïre tells Carmen she must try to get Don José to join them. Alone together, José returns a gold coin Carmen had sent him in jail and she orders fruit and wine to be brought.

Carmen starts dancing with castanets for him alone. But while she is singing and dancing for him, the sound of bugles is heard calling the soldiers back to the barracks.

Carmen’s temper flares when José says he must leave, he tries to make her listen by producing the flower she threw at him two months ago, which he kept with him while he was in prison and is proof of his love…..Carmen is unmoved and asks him to join her gypsy life if he really loves her.

Her picture of a life of freedom tempts him but he finally refuses saying he will never be a deserter. He begins to leave when Zuniga enters hoping to find Carmen. Don José draws his sword on his superior officer, but before they can fight the smugglers burst in and disarm both of them. Zuniga is made a prisoner and José has no alternative but to flee with Carmen.

Act 3

The smugglers along with Carmen and José are travelling with the contraband……. but by now Carmen has grown tired of José, and does not conceal this, taunting him to return to his village.

At night Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès read their cards: Frasquita and Mercédès foresee love and romance, wealth and luxury; but Carmen’s cards foretell death for both her and José!!!!…..This naturally scares her….. The smugglers ask the girls to come and charm the customs officers and everyone goes off, leaving José to guard the goods.

Micaëla arrives seeking José again!!!……. She sees José firing a gun, and hides. It was Escamillo the bull fighter….it was a close call but José misses him…….José welcomes him, but when he finds out the the bull fighter is also in love with Carmen,José gets furious…

José challenges Escamillo to a knife-fight, but Escamillo fights defensively, infuriating José.  Escamillo is saved by the return of the smugglers and Carmen. Escamillo leaves, but invites Carmen and the smugglers to his next bullfight in Seville.

Remendado finds Micaëla hiding, and she tells José that his mother wishes to see him . Carmen mocks him and at first he refuses to go but Micaëla tells him that his mother is dying. Vowing that he will return to Carmen…… he leaves.

Act 4

A square in front of the arena at Seville: the day of a bull-fight; bustling activity

It is the day of the contest to which Escamillo invited the smugglers and Carmen. The square is full of people, with merchants and Gypsies selling their wares. Zuniga, Frasquita and Mercédès are among the crowd and the girls tell Zuniga that Carmen is now with Escamillo.

The crowd and children sing and cheer on the procession as the cuadrilla. Carmen and Escamillo are greeted by the crowds and express their love to each other, Carmen adding that she had never loved one so much.

After Escamillo has gone into the fight, Frasquita warns Carmen that José is in the crowd, but Carmen scorns their fears. However before she can enter the arena she is confronted by the desperate José.

He begs her to return his love and start a new life with him far away. She calmly replies that she loves doesn’t love him anymore.

Cheers are heard from the bull-ring and Carmen tries to enter, but José blocks her way. He asks her one last time to come back, but she scornfully throws back the ring that he gave to her.

He finally looses it and stabs her …… she dies. Don José kneels in despair beside her. The spectators flock out of the arena and find José, confessing his guilt over her dead body.

NOTE:

The horses that were used in the final act were beautiful and so well trained….which I am not surprised about since they were borrowed from The Royal Stables Of Oman!!!

Eugene Kohn In Muscat

Quick Post:

I have to mention Mr. Eugene Kohn. He conducted for Mr. Bocelli tonight and conducted for Mr. Domingo (along with the Omani Orchestra) last time he was here…. This was his 3rd trip to Muscat and I hope that we’ll get to see him more often now that we have our own Opera house!!!….I have said this before and I will say it again! We are so lucky to have this Opera house right here at our door steps!… It has been a great season so far.

Andrea Bocelli In Muscat

Just got back from the Bocelli concert…. what can I say?… I just loved it …especially the second part of it!!!….Bocelli’s voice, more specifically his interpretation of Opera, has been regularly criticized by classical music critics all over the world. Some even said that he has “poor phrasing, uneven tone and a lack of technique.” now I am certainly not a music critic but I completely disagree with those critics. Bocelli mesmerized us tonight and completely seduced his audience with his beautiful voice …. What an incredible night….

Having said that … I wish he sang Besame Mucho! … No one sings it better than him!!!

The video below is the reason why my little one is already a big fan!

Renée Fleming & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The people’s diva and celebrated soprano, Renée Fleming & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the dynamic Joanna Carneiro preformed tonight at the Royal Opera House Muscat…. we really did enjoy the performance. So glad we went even though we were all exhausted from last night !!!

Plácido Domingo Sings To Oman

Domingo receiving Medal Of Honour from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said

Plácido Domingo was just extraordinary tonight… Even at 70 his voice is still so versatile and so strong…… He sang with almost no effort…. Seeing him perform tonight was a dream come true for me….. and meeting him later…… just blew my mind!!!!…..I feel honored and blessed!!!… I cannot believe how kind he was to everyone and how sensitive he was with us!!!! What a gentleman! What an artist!!!……. I have never asked any celebrity for an autograph before! I’ve never even bothered with taking pictures with any of them even when the opportunity came… never felt the urge or need to!!! Except for tonight… this is my first!!! ….and you know what they say!….You never forget your first  😉

Turandot – Royal Opera House Muscat

We just came back from a lovely evening… and I must say that Turandot was just amazing …. Franco Zeffirelli was the directer and the set design as well…. the set was honestly out of this world … but the star of the evening was Plácido Domingo he was the Maestro tonight.


The Story:

Turandot is the beautiful cold-hearted femme fatale princess who basically lures love-struck princes to their death. Anyone who wants to marry her is asked three riddles: If he answers them right he gets to marry her, but if he doesn’t he is beheaded. This is stated at the very beginning of the opera as “the law” (“La legge è questa”).

ACT I.

In front of the imperial palace (Peking)

In a square filled with people near the Forbidden City, a Mandarin reads an edict: any prince seeking to marry Princess Turandot must answer three riddles – and if he fails, he will die. Her latest suitor, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the rise of the moon. Bloodthirsty citizens urge the executioner to go ahead, and in all this chaos a slave girl called Liù, cries out for help when her aged blind master is pushed to the ground. A handsome Prince recognizes him as his long-lost father the King Timur, who fled a long time ago. When the old King tells his son, Prince Calàf, that only Liù has remained faithful to him, the Prince asks her why. She replies it is because once, long ago, he Prince Calàf smiled at her…… The crowd cries for blood again….. the moon emerges, and everyone falls into sudden, fearful silence. The doomed suitor passes on the way to execution,the crowd feels sorry for him and asks Princess Turandot to spare his life. Turandot appears and, with a small gesture, bids the execution to proceed. The crowd hears a death cry from a distance…… Calàf, falls in love with the princess at 1st sight, and is determined to win her heart, striding to the gong that proclaims the arrival of a new suitor. Turandot’s 3 ministers and advisors Ping, Pang and Pong try to discourage the unknown Prince, they warn him that he will die…..Timur and Liù also warn him and beg him to change his mind…… But despite their pleas, Calàf strikes the fatal gong and calls out Turandot’s name.

ACT II.

 Scene 1: A pavilion in the imperial palace. Before sunrise

Ping, Pang, and Pong prepare themselves for either a wedding or a funeral!!!

Ping longs for his country house in Honan, with its small lake surrounded by bamboo…..Pong remembers his grove of forests near Tsiang, and Pang recalls his gardens near Kiu. The three share fond memories of life away from the palace but are shaken back to reality. At the palace trumpet sounds, the ministers prepare themselves for another spectacle as they await the entrance of the Emperor Altoum (Turandot’s father)

Scene 2: The courtyard of the palace. Sunrise

The Emperor Altoum, urges the the unknown Prince to withdraw from this challenge but the Prince refuses ….. Turandot enters and tells the story of her ancestor Princess Lou-Ling and how she was brutally treated by a prince who later murdered her …… and as a result Turandot has sworn never to let any man possess her. She warns the Prince to withdraw, but again he refuses. The Princess then presents her first riddle:  What is born each night and dies each dawn? she asks….. the Prince correctly replies, “Hope.” The Princess, unnerved, presents her second riddle “What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?”…. The Prince thinks for a moment before replying, “Sangue” – “Blood”. Turandot is shaken. The crowd cheers the Prince, provokes Turandot’s anger. She presents her third riddle “What is like ice, but burns like fire?”……. As the prince was thinking, Turandot taunts him “what is the ice that makes you burn?” The taunt makes him see the answer and so he answers…. “It is Turandot!”

The crowd cheers for the triumphant Prince. Turandot throws herself at her father’s feet and pleads with him not to leave her to the Prince’s mercy. The Emperor insists that an oath is sacred, and it is Turandot’s duty to wed the Prince. As she cries out in despair, the Prince stops her, saying that he has a proposal for her: “You do not know my name. Bring me my name before sunrise, and at dawn (all’ alba), I will die.” Turandot accepts. The Emperor declares that he hopes to call the Prince his son come sunrise.

Just a side note:

I know that it doesn’t look like a smart move from the Prince, I mean he has already won right?  So why should he give her another chance to get away?….  You see, nothing in this opera makes sense if taken literally…… the Prince’s statement here is poetic. He actually wants to “lose” !!!!  he wants her to tell him his name and he wants to “die.” The Prince tells Turandot “Bring me my name before sunrise, and at dawn I will die.”…. Notice that he does not say IF you guess my name…. He doesn’t want to force her to marry him he wants her to fall in love with him….so in other words he wants her to find out his name and to choose not to execute him!!!!

ACT III.

Scene 1: The palace gardens. Night

In the distance, heralds call out Turandot’s command: “This night, none shall sleep in Peking! The penalty for all will be death if the Prince’s name is not discovered by morning”. The Prince waits for dawn and anticipates his victory: “Nessun Dorma– “Nobody shall sleep!…(this is my favorite aria)

Ping, Pong, and Pang appear and offer the Prince women and money if he will only give up Turandot, but ofcourse he refuses. A group of soldiers then drag in Timur and Liù. They were seen speaking to the Prince, so they must know his name. Turandot enters and orders Timur and Liù to speak. The Prince tells her that they know nothing. But when the guards begin to treat Timur harshly, Liù declares that she alone knows the Prince’s name, but she will not reveal it. Ping demands the Prince’s name, and when she refuses, she is tortured. Turandot is taken aback by Liù’s resolve and asks her who put so much strength in her heart. Liù answers “Love!”. Turandot demands that Ping tear the Prince’s name from Liù, and he orders her to be tortured even more. Liù tells Turandot “You are like ice but  you too shall learn to love”…… (The words of that aria were actually written by Puccini. Waiting for Adami and Simoni to deliver the next part of the libretto, he wrote the words and when they read them, they loved it and decided to keep it.) …….Anyway Liù somehow gets a dagger from a soldier’s belt and stabs herself…. and then she walks towards the Prince and falls dead!!! (she does this to make sure that he knows her sacrifice for him and that she loved him!!!) ……the crowd  screams and asks Turandot to speak the Prince’s name….. Since Timur is blind, he had to be told about Liù’s death, and cries out in anguish when he finds out. Timur warns the crowd that the gods will be offended by this outrage,….. the crowd is suddenly subdued with shame and fear….. The grieving Timur and the crowd follow Liù’s body as it is carried away. Everybody leaves, and so the Prince and Turandot are alone. He tells Turandot how cruel she is but then takes her in his arms and kisses her in spite of her resistance. (Puccini dies before completing this opera and this is actually where his work ends. The remainder of the music was completed by Franco Alfano.)

The Prince tries to convince Turandot to love him by kissing her. At first she is disgusted ofcourse, but after he kisses her, she gets overwhelmed and admits that, ever since he came, she had both hated and loved him…… She begs him to ask for nothing more and to just leave, and taking his mystery with him. But the Prince, reveals his name to her, “Calàf, son of Timur” and places his life in her hands!!!

Scene 2: The courtyard of the palace. Dawn

Turandot and Calàf approach the Emperor’s throne. She declares that she knows the Prince’s name……. “Amore” ……The crowd cheers.

THE END

Here is a translation of my favorite aria Nessun Dorma though in my opinion the libretto of Opera Turandot in general doesn’t translate easily because it’s very poetic….. I don’t mean just the lyrics, but the entire plot doesn’t make much sense if taken too literally…. but for what it’s worth here it is!

The Prince
Nessun dorma, nessun dorma … 
Tu pure, o Principessa, 
Nella tua fredda stanza, 
Guardi le stelle 
Che tremano d’amore 
  E di speranza.
No one sleeps, no one sleeps… 
Even you, o Princess, 
In your cold room, 
Watch the stars, 
That tremble with love 
  And with hope.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me, 
Il nome mio nessun saprà, no, no, 
Sulla tua bocca lo dirò 
Quando la luce splenderà, 
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio 
  Che ti fa mia.
But my secret is hidden within me; 
My name no one shall know, no, no, 
On your mouth I will speak it 
When the light shines, 
And my kiss will dissolve the silence 
  That makes you mine.
Chorus
Il nome suo nessun saprà 
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir.
No one will know his name 
And we must, alas, die.
The Prince
Dilegua, o notte! 
Tramontate, stelle! 
All’alba vincerò!
Vanish, o night! 
Set, stars! 
At daybreak, I shall conquer!