Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Iolanta Review by the Wagnerian

Dearest Opera Lovers,

Greetings from the humble pen of the Wagnerian!

Those of you that have followed my previous critiques know that I usually begin my writings by describing the performance while offering my opinion as to which parts where the strongest and which parts needed some form of improvement. It would be futile for me to go into detail concerning this Saturday’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s last opera “Iolanta” which he finished composing barely ten months before he passed away from this earth and into the pantheon of the greatest composers ever lived. Only by attending the performance on Saturday, March 21 at Kentucky Center's Whitney Hall, one could understand the full effect this offering had for the Louisville audience.

I have to admit, I love Opera more than life itself; I live, I breathe, I inhale into the deepest parts of my existence pulsating, invigorating, seductive opera…just like the finest perfume draped gracefully on the silky skin of a lovely lady. However, I always thought that opera concerts were not to my full liking and taste. How can one take away the theatrics, the costumes and stage grandeur of opera and expect the same pleasing effect? Thus, I entered Saturday’s performance with the same mindset…only to be absolutely transformed for life. I will never, EVER again feel that opera concerts are the red headed step child of this performing medium. On the contrary, Kentucky Opera presented an amazingly tight cast of talented performers with a brilliant collaboration between their own studio artists, visiting distinguished soprano from Canada (Anna Shafajinskaia) and distinguished cast from the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and the United States. The Louisville Orchestra performed in top notch fashion (Bravo Maestro Mester – he possessed such grace, control and power), the Louisville Chorus charmed with its presence (Bravo to David Roth for those of you who were paying attention!!) and the Louisville audience showed its appreciation with cheers and loud applause. I personally acquired quite a hoarse throat at the end from the continuous bravo’s that were rolling out of my mouth. I do not need to go into detail concerning each one of the performers individually; I am sure you will read about it in the Courier Journal. I would like to urge you that if the review is excellent please believe it fully; but if not take it with a grain of salt (with no ill will towards our distinguished critic Mr. Adler who most of the time I do not see eye to eye with).

The applause was deafening and continued over and over again; at the end of each aria, at the end of the concert and during the reception. I am thirsty for more and I hope that Kentucky Opera will present another brilliant opera concert this coming year (make sure you keep this coming David). The people of Louisville have spoken louder than I can ever print with this pen (or should I say keyboard?). BRAVO, BRAVO and BRAVO again!! Thank you to Kentucky Opera executive director David Roth and its staff for having the vision to bring such brilliant performances to our city. Bravo to our studio artists for their tenacity and brilliant talent (we shall miss the ones who are departing-best of luck to your new endeavors and come back to visit your friends). Bravo to those of you who continue to support great art such as our Kentucky Opera company and push it to thrive towards new horizons…together we can and shall overcome obstacles presented by this economic crisis and continue to make our society better through art, through my greatest love – OPERA!!

Remember to buy season tickets for the coming sensational performances and I shall see you where voice meets theater, where theater meets music, where music meets the soul. VIVA VOCE! Thank you Kentucky Opera for a season that I will never forget and for tears that have been forged on my cheeks and in my heart forever!!

Christos “The Wagnerian” Dimitriadis

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

King Rene

Wednesday afternoon two of our Iolanta singers were at WUOL for an interview with Daniel Gilliam. Ukrainian by birth, and Canadian by love, Anna Shafajinskaia will be our Iolanta and was so gracious to give her time after one rehearsal and before another. Mikhail Svetlov, who will sing King Rene, was there as well. You can listen to the entire podcast here.

In the interview, I learned that this was Anna's firs time singing this role, and she is very excited to add it to her rep. Mikhail on the other hand has been singing King Rene f,rom the beginning noting this was the first opera he performed in professionally.
Below is a video of one King Rene performance by Svetlov to give you a sample of what we will hear this Saturday, March 21 at 8pm at Whitney Hall. Get your tickets here.

FYI - There are $10 Arts Rush tickets available at the Kentucky Center Box office two hours before the show (6pm).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Today Kentucky Opera had the Lunch and Listen for Iolanta. For those who may not know about this significant program, it's a one-hour preview of whatever opera is coming up. It takes place on Wednesday usually two weeks prior to the production at Louisville Public Media's performance studio hosted by one of the wonderful WUOL hosts such as Scott Dowd, Alan Brandt or Carol Larson. (I would be remiss not to mention Daniel Gilliam who has done many wonderful interviews with Kentucky Opera staff and artists, but has not hosted a Lunch and Listen). The programs are aired live on Classical 90.5 WUOL at lunch time and the small but appreciative live audience can bring their lunch or order a City Cafe box lunch through the opera or the station. The shows are re-broadcast on Classical 90.5 on the following weekend; they are on WUOL’s audio archives and usually broadcast on Metro TV many times. (Unfortunately this particular program was not taped by Metro TV).

David Roth goes over the story and highlights of the operas and introduces the cast, the conductor and director. The main stage artists will perform arias and ensembles to illustrate the plot. It is a unique opportunity for the public to hear the music of the opera and get an in depth description of the libretto. (Look here for a short synopsis and history of Iolanta)

This particular Lunch and Listen was unique in two ways. First, because Iolanta will be performed in concert rather than the full production, the main stage artists are not in town yet. Although the chorus is in rehearsal (David Roth is in the chorus!!) and getting Russian coaching, Anna Shafajinskia and her counter parts will not be in Louisville until a week before the production. Kentucky Opera’s Studio Artists, Heather Phillips and Benjamin Robinson sang for the Lunch and Listen and did a great job.

Another distinctive difference in this Lunch & Listen, the Louisville Orchestra had an ensemble in the studio to perform an excerpt and Rob Birman, the LO’s C.O.O. was introduced as well. The addition of the orchestra was just astounding. This Iolanta concert is collaboration between the two organizations, and this entertaining and educational program exemplified this ideal fusion.

Iolanta will be in concert at Whitney Hall on Saturday, March 21 at 8pm and tickets are available by calling 502.584.7777 or by visiting KYOpera.org.