Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fach

I have been searching the web for as comprehensive a Fach (voice category based on vocal timbre, weight, etc.) list I could find (based on the Kloiber buch Handbuch der Oper), and I think I finally found a decent one (CLICK HERE).

Now that I've found the list I have a decision to make. I was told some time ago that in order to have a nice long career it is a good idea to find your Fach and sing one lighter. I believe that I have done that, identifying my "future" self as a Spinto (Jugendliche Heldentenor) Tenor, which means I should sing Lyric Tenor repertoire first (CLICK HERE for the tenor Fach list).

However, I have sung through several arias and even a couple of roles in the Spinto fach, and they feel really good, with a little temptation on some of them to sing heavy. In Germany (where I intend to go and work next fall) they are really picky about choosing things from only one Fach. I am sure that it is harder to find a Spinto Tenor than it is to find a Lyric Tenor, so from a purely marketing standpoint it seems wise to lean that way - plus since I'm 30 my voice is already pretty mature (though there is more to go).

So here is what I think I should do - choose the roles that appear on both lists and prepare those first. Here is what roles that would include:

Berlioz - La Damnation de Faust - Faust
Gounod - Faust - Faust
Puccini - La Boheme - Rodolfo
Puccini - Madame Butterfly - Pinkerton
Smetana - The Bartered Bride - Jenik
Strauss, R. - Capriccio - An Italian Singer
Strauss, R. - Die Frau ohne Schatten - Kaiser (The Emperor)
Stavinsky - The Rake's Progress - Tom Rakewell
Verdi - Rigoletto - Duca

Those become obvious choices, with a few sticking out because they are performed so often, including Faust, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, and Rigoletto.

In Germany it is essential that you come with some Mozart, which means I do have to make a Fach choice here since my preparation has been in both. In this case I would choose Lyric tenor stuff such as:

Cosi fan tutte - Ferrando
Don Giovanni - Don Ottavio
Die Zauberflote - Tamino

(Interestingly enough, Clemenza di Tito is listed under Spinto.)

So, hopefully choosing those roles to start with, including a couple other lyric roles like Alfredo from La Traviata, Nemorino from L'Elisir d'Amore, Walther from Tannhauser, etc. I put myself in the Lyric fach with definite direction towards Spinto.

Any other opinions out there (rhetorical :) )? Thanks for letting me think "out loud".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Muppets - Habanera

Another fabulous Muppet video:



And another:

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Clemenza di Tito Review

After the successful completion of another show, and due to the fact that the reviewer probably attended the performance of the other cast, I thought I would write my own review of the show. This is the true review:

Jessica Marie Dold's (Vitellia) bold sound and glorious high notes kept the audience riveted. She also showed her grasp of color and dynamic range, taking us all on a journey through each of her arias.

Ryan Speedo Green (Publio) looked and sounded about as tough as anyone can on stage, and yet sang with power and beauty. I'm not sure how anyone would dare to mess with Tito with a body guard like that.

Emily Vacek (Servilia) sang with finesse and beauty, and looked just like a Disney princess. Her moments on stage were true gems.

Christina Bakhoum (Annio) showed off the depth in her sound, and played her character in way that put the audience on her side.

Rebecca Grace Fadell (Sesto) charmed the audience with the richness of her voice, and played every side of Sesto. She showed a real ability to bring out the different colors in her voice, all within the context of Mozart style.

The chorus was amazing, blending their voices beautifully, and handling all of those confusing set changes masterfully.

Douglas Fisher showed a deep understanding of Mozart style, and stayed right with the singers at all time. He is trully a singer's conductor.

Matthew Lata's direction gave real theatrical and dramatic depth to a piece that is difficult to perform effectively. Each character had a specific journey, and the overall concept and design was superb.

Great job everyone! It was a real pleasure to work with you all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sabbath Songs on iTunes

Sabbath Songs is now available on iTunes! Just open up your version of iTunes (download at www.apple.com/itunes), click on the iTunes store, then search for either Eric Hanson or Sabbath Songs.

For a hard copy of the CD, CLICK HERE.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cujus Animam

Here is a video of the dress rehearsal of me singing Cujus Animam in Costa Rica.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Che gelida manina

Just a quick note - I've posted video from me singing Che gelida manina in Florida State Opera's 2007 production of La boheme. You can see it at my website (CLICK HERE), or below. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clemenza di Tito

I was recently cast in Florida State opera's production of Clemenza di Tito by Mozart as Tito, and it will run on the 1st and 2nd of November in the Opperman Music Hall at FSU. I'm not sure which night I will sing, but it is one of those two nights. I will keep you posted.

This is one of Mozart's more obscure operas written at the same time he wrote The Magic Flute, and is actually the last opera he ever wrote. It is quite difficult to pull off dramatically. So, to prepare you for the show I thought I would run through the plot and show you some of the interesting parts (see if you can keep up):

It's in two Acts,

Act I:
This is a classical operatic love triangle story with a twist. Vitellia (really mean girl) is the daughter of an ex-emperor (not sure how he became an "ex") and she really wants power back. The emperor now is me (Titus or Tito) and he's a really nice guy, but Vitellia doesn't like him because he has all the power she wants. She does have an opportunity though - Sextus (or Sesto) who is Titus' great great friend is in love with Vitellia, which she uses as a chance to get revenge on Titus. Titus was going to marry Berenice (a Roman Jewish queen - daugher of King Herod - yes, that King Herod) but decides not to marry her because he needs to marry a Roman Roman girl (not a Roman Jewish one) - even though he is in love with Berenice. Vitellia tells Sextus to act against Titus, but to wait until after Titus chooses a new bride in hopes that it will be Vitellia (the less violent way of becoming queen).

Now follow me here - Titus does choose a bride, but it isn't Vitellia (uh-oh), it's Servilia.  To make matters worse Servilia is actually Sextus' sister (so, he's marrying his best friend's Roman Roman sister).  So Titus orders Annius (or Annio - Sextus' other friend) to tell Servilia the "good" news.  But here's the problem that Titus doesn't know about - Annius is actually in love with Servilia.  

So far:

Titus = loves Berenice, she's not Roman, chooses Servilia
Vitellia = wants power, hopes to be Titus' bride, not chosen
Sextus = Titus' good good friend, loves Vitellia
Annius = Sextus' friend, works for Titus, loves Servilia
Servilia = Sextus' sister, loves Annius, chosen to be Titus' bride

With me so far?  Take a moment to catch your breath if you must.  If you get all of that the rest isn't so hard - it's kind of like playing dot to dot.  

Servilia and Annius are bummed out because they love each other which means Servilia doesn't want to get married to Titus, so she decides to tell Titus.  However, being the faithful good Roman that she is she also decides that if Titus insists that she marry him, she will go through with it.  She tells Titus, and since he's really a great guy he says he would never come between her and Annius.  

Now here is a classic opera "oops" moment - during all of this Titus being nice stuff Vitellia has heard about him choosing Servilia and she's REALLY mad now!  So, she convinces Sextus (Titus' good good friend) to assasinate him.  Sesto sings a famous aria about it (Parto, parto):



(Check out Vitellia's hair!!)

Now here's the part I'm sure you were expecting - as soon as Sextus leaves to do the deed, Annius shows up with some news.  Titus has chosen Vitellia to be his new bride (OOPS!! - what has she done).  She feels just a little bit guilty, but it's too late - Sextus is gone.

Sextus himself is off trying to decide if he really wants to go through with this, but cannot stop himself and his friends from burning down the capital.  Everyone (but Titus) comes in and reacts in horror to the burning capital - as any of us would.  Sextus comes in and announces that he saw Titus get killed, which of course increases the shock and horror in true Mozartian fashion.  Sextus is about to admit he did it, but Vitellia stops him.  The chorus mourns.    

Act II:

Annius comes in (once again with news) and tells Sextus, guess what...Titus is alive!  Hooray!  Annius saw him walking around the smoke and rubble, which means Sextus mistook him for another.  Publius comes in (oh yeah, he's Titus actual good good friend - probably because he's paid to be, his body guard and head of police) and arrests Sextus.  He tells Sextus that he had stabbed one of his own co-conspirators dressed as Titus (why was he dressed as Titus?....).   

Sextus appears before the senate and is tried while Titus waits in shock.  Remember, he thought Sextus was his good good friend.  Sextus, feeling very guilty admits his guilt and says he should be put to death.  Titus agrees and has him sent away.  Now, you may have noticed that the title is "Clemenza" di Tito, which probable implies there will be some clemency somewhere.  Just you wait!

Titus has a raging struggle within himself (which isn't easy to do with just recitative, so luckily he has an aria as well):



(in this clip Stuart Burrows really shows the raging internal struggle...   ...    ...   ....)

and decides (yes all of that was one long extended parenthesis) that he will not rule by fear, because he doesn't want servants and subjects devoted falsely because of fear.  He tears up the execution order!  See, he really is a great guy!

Vitellia is also tormented by guilt, and sings about it.  

They gather at the ampitheater where Sextus is to be thrown to the wild beasts, and Vitellia steps forward to admit her part in the plot, which bums out Titus - I mean come on, show the guy some love!  But because he is even awesomer than anyone thought, he grants Vitellia clemency as well!  What a guy!

Everyone sings about how wonderful he is, and the curtain falls as Victor Borge says - not fast enough.  

For more info and fun facts CLICK HERE for the Wikipedia article.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

12 Tone Hits

My teacher just sent me the link to this little gem. Hilarious!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Siegfried Jerusalem

The other day in the car my good friend Jamison Walker pulled out one of his Great Tenor CDs and played Siegfried Jerusalem singing "In Fernem Land" from Wagner's Lohengrinn. I have seen DVDs of him singing smaller roles in Wagner Operas, but had never really heard him sing. I was completely blown away, and have been seeking out every bit of him singing that I can find. He has everything that I wish more Wagner singers had. There is so much vibrancy in his sound, and it is so consistent! It is possible to sing beautifully legato and still have power.

For his wikipedia article, CLICK HERE.

Here is a sample of him singing Sigmund's aria:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Me in Flickr pictures

At my wife's suggestion and for just a little fun I did a fun mosaic using Flickr pictures. Here's how you do it:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using ONLY the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker. Choose 3 columns with 4 rows.

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name. (kid version: favorite animal?)
I used the "kid version" here because my flickr name brought NO results....imagine that...what would you expect to find under eaaheh?!

And here is mine:

1. Eric in the "blue room", 2. Nachos, 3. Concerned Lion, 4. __IR_Cachoeira__, 5. Scralett Johansson Cinderella Leibovitz, 6. Raspberry Bomb, 7. Great Dixter, 8. Apple Pie, 9. Neuschwanstein @ night, 10. Eternal Family, 11. I Spy Sky Eyes, 12. Savoir Vivre... hmmmmmm

Why don't you try it?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sabbath Songs - It's Finally Here!!!

Well, I can finally announce the release of my CD Sabbath Songs! I have put a lot of hard work and effort into this, and am very pleased with the final product. The arrangements are wonderful, and I worked with some of the best in the business!

For purchase information and clips, CLICK HERE.

If you have any questions about the project let me know. Once my distributor releases the CD on their website and when it goes to Deseret Book I will let you know.

Special thanks to everyone who helped make this possible: to Dr. Clayne Robison and his compiling of the books and continued support throughout the project. To all of the performers who worked with me: Deanna Lunt for her sweet soprano sound, John Allen Kovalenko and his amazing fiddling fingers, and Larry Blackburn for his incredible accompanying. To the arrangers, particularly Dan Carter who did the majority of the pieces, and whose pieces will most likely make up the majority of Sabbath Song III. To Clive Romney and his recording studio, to Cyrus Gardner for his mixing & mastering. And finally to my family and parents for their wonderful support.

I hope you enjoy the CD.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Salut, demeure chaste et pure, & Faust plot summary

On my continuing quest to find and prepare the best arias for auditions, I have recently learned "Salut, demeure chaste et pure" from Gounod's Faust. What a beautiful aria, and what a crazy opera! I guess if you have read Goethe's Faust Part I you know what I'm talking about.

Here is an Eric Hanson summary of the opera:

So this old guy, Faust, decides that he wants to kill himself because knowing stuff doesn't bring him any pleasure. He curses being old and decides that real happiness only comes to young people. Then poof, the devil shows up (Mephistopheles), Faust makes a deal with him that if he can be young again he will give the devil his soul (is this ever worth it to anyone?).

Of course the devil is pleased, Faust is made young, he goes to a town square full of young people, meets this girl (Marguerite) who is sister to a man about to go off to war (Valentin). The devil sings with a few of those guys including Valentin who he taunts by not showing his sister enough respect (huh?). As soon as Faust sees Marguerite he decides he must have her (that sounds familiar). As you must have guessed, another man is also in love with Marguerite (Siebel - who in real life is actually a woman as this is a pants role, but they choose to ignore that for the duration of the opera).

Faust goes to her garden, and thinks the poor little shack she lives in is just great, and sings to it (so ladies, if the tenor serenades your house, does that really work?). That is the aria I'm working on now.

To sum up the rest: After hearing Marguerite sing Faust must have her and runs to her (I'm sure the shack was full of jealousy - no aria Gounod?), she is full of guilt afterwards, her brother Valentin returns from war and finds out that Faust knocked her up, they duel, Valentin dies and while he dies he curses his sister, she goes crazy and kills her baby right after she's born (whoa), Faust visits her in prison and she goes so crazy upon seeing him that she feints and dies, and Faust ends up in the devil's service.

You see, selling your soul to the devil never works out in the end.

Here is a recording of Araiza singing the aria:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Costa Rica - An Educational Success

I know that I've been back from Costa Rica now for almost two weeks, but now that I've separated myself from the experience a bit I can look at the whole thing a little more objectively. It should be a requirement for every aspiring/studying singer to do a concert a two abroad before graduating. Just like the recording process, I learned more about my voice in my week at Costa Rico than several years of instruction could have taught me.

As an attempt to sum up, here are three lessons I learned:
  1. Trust your training/teacher: several months ago Stanford and I had a really good conversation about what to do when you travel. The main thing I took away from that message was how important it was to hydrate. As Stanford suggested I took nasal sprays, mucinex, and thought about drinking a lot of water (and then really did it when it became necessary). The Cujus Animam (the tenor aria in Rossini's Stabat Mater) I've been told is one of the most difficult arias in all of the tenor repertoire. Now I actually believe! It ends with a glorious (at least intended to be glorious) D flat, which just happens to be a half step out of my range. I had no trouble whatsoever singing it in the confines of my voice studio, but as soon as they put me in front of an entire orchestra and we began competing with each other I couldn't even squeak it out. The last rehearsal before dress rehearsal just before I sang I reached down and took a giant swig of water, and next thing I knew it was there. I took the cue, drank a ton of water the day of the dress rehearsal, and it was great.
  2. Follow your instincts: the night of the first performance came, and I was pleased to see that the stage manager had put water bottles by our chairs so I knew I would be safe. In the beginning of the Stabat Mater there is a big number with the chorus, and then it leads right into the aria. When the first chorus number was over my throat screamed at me to turn around and take a drink of water, but for some reasons I ignored the feeling, thinking that it would be rude of me to stop the whole show just to get some water. As soon as I started singing the Cujus Animam I knew I was in big trouble. The D flat squawked miserably and I quickly came off of it, but of course the damage had been done. I sang the rest of the concert extremely well, but it didn't matter - that was the tenor note everyone had come to hear, and I blew it.
  3. Learn from mistakes, don't get discouraged, and don't make them twice: luckily for me we had one more performance Sunday morning, and this time I went to the conductor and told him I would be taking a drink of water before my aria. He said that would be just fine, and asked why I hadn't done that Friday night (oops). So I did, and it was amazing. The D flat was the best it has ever been, and the entire ensemble performed with great energy. I was proud of myself for not letting Friday night's fiasco get me down.
I think every singer reacts differently to travel, but apparently my body gets very dry. Last year in Graz, Austria I became frustrated because every time I sang it sounded like I was fatigued even though I knew I wasn't. I thought it was allergies, so I took some medicine and it still didn't get better. Now I know that it was a hydration problem, and thankfully I won't ever make that mistake again!

Unfortunately for me, the reviewer came Friday night. I think his review said something to the effect (and I'm paraphrasing), "the tenor Eric Hanson did not satisfy, and I'll just go ahead and skip the embarrassing details." I just laughed, then yelled, then laughed. Oh well, you win some you lose some :). In the end I came away with a real feeling of victory and gratitude for education.

Here are some pictures:
Here we are with the maestro
(Me, Young Ju Lee, Karen Esquivel, Zamira Barquero, Chosei Komatsu)

This is the view from my hotel room


Young Ju really wanted Korean food, so Gustavo found this place (Little Seoul). You must try toasted rice!

The Costa Rican National Theater

The stage we performed on - small but beautiful

The ceiling of the National Theater

There we are!

And again!

This is a group of Karen's old students we taught a master class to, they were great!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My First Book!! - How to Listen to Music

I'm very excited to announce that I have published my first book! I have been working for some time now on a guide to getting more out of listening to music. In my experience most people just listen to gain an immediate emotional response, and unfortunately discard a lot of music that if they gave it some time would get an even greater response from. I wrote it for non-musicians, but I think anyone can gain some insight reading it. It includes some basics about the composition process, ways to listen for rhythm, melody, harmony, form, etc., and much more.

CLICK HERE for more info.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

I am initiating a world-wide search for music that uplifts. It can be funny, celebratory, etc. We spend entirely too much time depressing ourselves with our art, so I wanted to find music that raises our spirits. What piece could possibly be more appropriate to start with than "Ode to Joy", Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

The story behind this piece is wonderful! Beethoven took approximately 12 years to write it, and of course was completely deaf throughout its composition. He and the Kappelmeister at Vienna were in charge of directing it for its premier, but because Beethoven could not deliver coherent instruction that was follow-able, the Kappelmeister instructed all of the performers to ignore Beethoven. That being said, Beethoven still conducted the premier at his pace, while the performers followed at their own (I have no idea how they pulled that off).

Here is an excerpt from wikipedia's story of the account:

When the audience applauded ... Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause. According to one witness, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them." The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures. The theatre house had never seen such enthusiasm in applause.

Ever since Beethoven composed his ninth symphony composers have been intimidated at the prospect of writing their own. This was the first symphony to include singing in the last movement, and here are the words as written by Friedrich Schiller, a famous German poet, author, and philosopher (the words in italics were written by Beethoven):
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
pleasant and more joyful ones.
Joy! Joy!
Joy, beautiful spark of gods,
Daughter of Elysium (Heaven)!
We enter, drunk with fire ,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magics again bind
What custom has strictly parted.
All people become brothers,
where your gentle wing alights.
Whoever succeeds in the great attempt
To be a friend of a friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Let him add his jubilation!
Yes, whoever calls even one soul
His own on the earth's globe!
And who never has, let him steal,
Weeping, away from this group.
All creatures drink joy
At the breasts of nature;
All the good, all the evil
Follow her roses' trail.
Kisses gave she us, and wine,
A friend, proven unto death;
Pleasure was to the worm granted,
And the cherub stands before God.
Glad, as his suns fly
Through the Heavens' glorious plan,
Run, brothers, your race,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, you millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the star-canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.
Finale repeats the words:
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods
This symphony celebrates those who love and are loved as being touched by God. Such a simple concept, to have someone to love, and yet for Beethoven that love was divine.

A couple of fun resources:

CLICK HERE for the entire wikipedia article (very informative).
CLICK HERE to "explore" Beethoven's ninth with conductor Robert Kapilow.
CLICK HERE to see actual scanned copies of the original score.

Here is Leonard Bernstein conducting the famous last movement:









Go to my forum (CLICK HERE) to discuss this piece and suggest more that strike you as uplifting in any way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alfredo Kraus Master Class

I just read the transcripts for a create Alfredo Kraus master class. CLICK HERE for the link.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fun Joke

One of my students sent me this joke. It may be a little confusing to non-musicians, but I think it's still a hoot:

C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve minors," and E-flat leaves. C and G have an open fifth between them and after a few drinks, G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes into the bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me, I'll just be a second."

A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor and sends him out. Then the bartender notices a B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and shouts, "Get out now. You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight."

Next night, E-flat, not easily deflated, comes into the bar in a 3-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender (who used to have a nice corporate job until his company downsized) says: "You're looking pretty sharp tonight. Come on in. This could be a major development." And in fact, E-flat takes off his suit and everything else and stands there au naturel. Eventually, C, who had passed out under the bar the night before, begins to sober up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest.

So, C goes to trial, is convicted of contributing to the diminution of a minor and sentenced to 10 years of DS without Coda at an up scale correctional facility. The conviction is overturned on appeal, however, and C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless.

The bartender decides, however, that since he's only had tenor so patrons, the soprano out in the bathroom and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest and closes the bar.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hello from Costa Rica - Hidden Talent

I always enjoy traveling to places I have never been. I create in my mind a picture or expectation of the place I am going to see, basing it on the concept I have of places that I think are similar that I have already visited. In this case I referenced my experience on my mission in Torreon, Mexico which I finished 9 years ago. Torreon (and the outlying areas) are all I know of latin america, and though I knew that Costa Rica is tropical and Torreon is desert, the rest I expected to be about the same.

For the most part my expectations were right. It is much greener here, and San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica) is surrounded by beautiful tropical mountains. There are waterfalls nearby, and other tourist attractions such as active volcanoes, beaches, and more. There is also extreme poverty just like in Mexico: houses made out of of cardboard or tin, low wages, old clothes, etc. The state of music however, is much different.

In Northern Mexico the popular music celebrates terrible singing. The hymns that they sing in church are the same five or six sung over and over again. I had no idea what to expect from a national symphony orchestra and chorus from here, and was so pleasantly surprised that I am already hoping that I get an opportunity to sing with them many more times. They love great music, and are extremely emotional and proficient in their performance of it. They appreciate and recognize artistry, and create art themselves.

I am traveling with Karen Esquivel, an American from Costa Rica who sings contralto with us and used to live and teach here. When she arrived many of her old colleageus and students rushed to greet her with great affection, and her husband Gustavo told us of what an impact she had and still has on the lives of all the young singers here. She is studying at Florida State University now to try and create opportunities for these singers to study in the United States, and those opportunities should be provided. They simply cannot afford the travel costs or the risk if they do not get accepted. We can help them create those opportunities (more on that later).

I have had a wonderful time here. The hotel is very nice with a lovely view of the mountains, and it has been a real treat brushing up my Spanish skills. The local paper "La Nacion" interviewd us a couple of days ago, so CLICK HERE if you would like to read more (sorry, it's in Spanish). I will have pictures when I return home.

(If you would like to join in a discussion on how to help those in places like Costa Rica CLICK HERE to go to my website forum)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Photo Blog & Alfredo Kraus

Recently my family and I made a couple of trips around the Tallahassee area while my parents were visiting, and I took some really fun pictures. If you would like to see them CLICK HERE to visit my photo blog (the new entries start on May 30th).

Also, Jamison (the endless source of great tenor videos) sent me another great one with Alfredo Kraus singing the Pearl Fishers aria. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jonas Kaufman & The Student Prince

I was talking with my friend Jamison tonight about my wonderful memories in Heidelberg (where I grew up), and what I great experience I had singing in the Student Prince. I told him about the two tenors that sang the role of the Prince, and how one of them was a great actor and the other had an incredible voice. Then it dawned on me that in my memory one of them (the one with such an amazing voice) looked a lot like Jonas Kaufman, one of my favorite tenors. I looked up his biography and much to my surprise, it WAS Jonas Kaufman.

So...I already sang with Jonas Kaufman!! I rehearsed with him every day for a couple of months, and remember enjoying that time immensely. What a fun realization!

I just looked on YouTube, and found a video of him singing the Student Prince with Dawn (our soprano) in the courtyard of the castle right where we performed it. These are the original costumes and everything (I wore the exact style and color he is wearing in the video). I was swept with all kinds of emotion from all of the memories. Here is the video:



It surely is a small world.

Rolando Villazon: Funny & Great

I wanted to post a few of my favorite Villazon videos (I am sure there will be many more to come).

First, one of my favorites (that's Thomas Hampson who gives him the high fives at the end):



Here he is learning "Lensky's Aria" (one that I am working on) from the opera Eugene Onegin. This has some great insight into the process (Russian, holy cow!):



And finally, a duet with him and Anna Netrebko. They really pull off this duet from La Boheme:



Enjoy!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Be Good for Peace Monkey's Sake! - Misheard Carmina Burana lyrics

I just had to post a video Abby showed me last night. To any who have sung or know Carmina Burana, this will have special meaning. Apparently the woman who did this was/is in charge of supertitles at Opera Colorado. Enjoy!



Be good for peace monkey's sake!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Art Music in your Living Room

(this is also posted in my website forum - to discuss this topic and others CLICK HERE)

When art song was young, the way people like Franz Schubert made it popular was to
invite influential people to his home or the home of wealthy friends and hold "Liederabends" or "Evenings of Song". I thought it would be interesting to brainstorm ways in which we could do this today.

So many of the most important movements in music happened because a group of great minds came together and decided an ideal existed which was not being explored. The most obvious example to me is the "Camerata" in Italy which invented opera.

Here in Tallahassee I have my own little "Camerata" (incidentally, if you are a singer/performer/composer in Tallahassee and wish to come to our weekly get-togethers let me know), and we come together once a week to watch opera, listen to music, talk about performance opportunities, brainstorm, and much more. It is a lot of fun (especially since we usually have refreshments) and I think little groups like this are great for moving ideas.

While I was attending BYU we also had a small group of singers that would get together each week and perform for each other. This way we could try new pieces for our colleagues, and work out the kinks in old ones. It was a safe place to explore and invent. We could and were encouraged to use our music, and go as far as we could with certain ideas just to see if they had merit. (I am interested in forming such a group in Tallahassee - let me know if you are interested)

One thing I have not tried is the whole "wealthy salon" approach, and I believe there is a lot of untapped potential in this idea. I know that here in town there are many people with salons or living rooms big enough to hold small performances who would love having the best singers in town in their homes performing beautiful music. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to find these people? I am sure that my small group of singers would love to have more performance opportunities, especially if interesting people are there. How do we bring those who are passionate about art music to the same place?

Those are just a couple of ideas that I have to help bring more art music to more people. Most marketers of art music think that the only way to generate more interest in art music is to find ways to fill opera and recital halls. I think the real interest will come if we can get people excited on a smaller scale.

What are your ideas? Are you interested in any of the preceding ideas? Have you found success doing anything similar?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Best Way to Listen to Opera

(This is also posted on my website forum - to discuss CLICK HERE)

I was just listening to Das Rheingold this weekend, and was struck by how much I enjoy listening to opera in a certain way. I know a lot of my colleagues enjoy listening with a score in front of them, but not me. There is a set of books that go along with The Ring that provide the ultimate experience in my opinion. They are published by Phaidon, and they are translated by Rudolph Sabor. Each book has the libretto, a translation, and then points out specific themes and important background information while you are listening. It is just enough information to aid in listening, and can be used by non-musicians as well.

Unfortunately, these books are very hard to find. Here they are on amazon:



I was just wondering if anyone else had any favorite ways to listen. Personally, I think a DVD is the closest way to get the real experience. But when I am just listening, you cannot beat the Rudolph Sabor books. Anyone know of anything similar for other operas?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to Make Recitals More Accessible

(I put this discussion on my forum, so to see the original post and to make comments, CLICK HERE)

For several years now I have been thinking of ways to make recitals more exciting and/or accessible. I think sometime we get so wrapped up in etiquette that we forget to make compelling programs. We actually feel our stress level rise over something as trivial as when the audience should applause. If you listen to the big stars in their recitals, people applaud after every song! They don't wait for sets. So, if you are going to stick to etiquette, then at least put the rules clearly in the program - some of these people have never been to recital, and we want them to come back!

Some of my ideas to spice up recitals:

-Use supertitles instead of translations in programs - I don't know about you, but when I sing in another language I hate dealing with the "translation head-bob" as all of the audience members keep looking down to read (in the dark). I have used supertitles for recitals in the past, and had a very good response to them.

-Sing in English! - there is a great aversion to translations because somehow the "poetic value" is lost. I agree with that, only if the audience understands what you are singing. What poetic value is there if they have no idea what the words are? Look for good translations, or better yet, do them yourself. At first the stuffy people in the audience will hem and haw, and then they will enjoy it. The exceptions of course are when you are singing popular favorites like famous arias, then use supertitles.

-Change it up - keep it fresh throughout the program. Sometimes this can be as simple as putting up a different color flower arrangement or changing your gown/vest & bow-tie during intermission. This could also mean putting up a few simple props depending on the set your are performing. For example, if you are doing a Debussy set, maybe it would be a good idea to put a Monet painting up on the stage. Think of things that the stage-hand could switch on and off as quickly as you walk on and off to catch your breath between sets.

-Use different textures - in other words, be creative with performers. Do a set with a harp or a string quartet. Sing a duet or two. Do a joint recital with a different voice type. Create some variety.

-Plan effectively - this may sound simple and silly, but I have been to so many recitals where the theme was so vague it could have applied to any music, or was very specific and yet only one worked for one song. My coach right now (Valerie Trujillo - wonderful!) had a great suggestion: plan a recital the way you plan a meal. Program a "main course", a set that is the focus of your performance. Then plan the other sets around it. This way not every set will be as heavy as the main course, and also means the focus will stay centered. This also makes marketing much easier.

There are a few of my suggestions. What do you all think? Do you have other ideas that you have used or want to use? If you have any under-developed ideas maybe we can look at them here.

(to discuss, please go to my website-forum: CLICK HERE)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Discussion Forum - Get Your Ideas Out!

Hello Readers!

Well, I'm really excited about a new feature I just added to my website - a discussion forum. I wanted to create a place where we could all brainstorm ways to do more for art music, get more people interested, and much more.

As of right now there is only one discussion forum available, but there will be many more soon. If you have any ideas for more topics please let me know.

To get to the forum CLICK HERE. If you have ideas, get them out there!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Holy Sonnets of John Donne by Benjamin Britten

I have been hard at work learning the music for my master's recital next spring, and because it is on my mind I thought I would introduce you to the "main course" of my recital. I will be singing "The Holy Sonnets of John Donne" by Benjamin Britten. These songs are very challenging and quite beautiful, and I thought I would give you some background info so you can already be thinking about it for next spring (early planning!).

These songs are less accessible than Britten's Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, but still very emotional and thought-provoking. John Donne lived from 1572-1631, and as a Roman Catholic at that time was persecuted until he finally joined the Anglican Church. After joining the Church of England he actually became a priest, and is now famous for his poems and sermons.

His Holy Sonnets which Benjamin Britten set deal with his struggle with death and his relationship with God. He sees life as an endless struggle with suffering and sin, in which we can only find peace and redemption if we accept God. John Donne was considered a master of metaphysical poetry in which extended metaphor and imagery are used.

Britten's setting was written for his partner, tenor Peter Pears; one of their many collaborations. He set these shortly after taking a trip through war-torn Germany. During that trip he saw concentration camps, met many survivors, and was moved by the horrors of the post-Nazi regime. Those memories played heavily in his mind as he wrote, as did a fever he was suffering while he composed the last six songs.

Here are the texts for the sonnets which he set (the other sonnets not set to music are also available at the sites linked):

1. Oh my black Soule!
2. Batter my Heart
3. O might those Sighes and Teares
4. Oh, to vex me
5. What if this present
6. Since she whom I loved
7. At the round Earth's imagined corners
8. Thou hast made me
9. Death, be not proud

These are listed in the order of the song cycle, not the order of the sonnets (which you probably figured out by now).

For an example of the song "Thou hast made me" CLICK HERE to hear Ian Bostridge perform with Graham Johnson. This will give you a sample of one of the more biting pieces, and also of the virtuosity of the piece for both the pianist and the singer. There are a few songs like this in the cycle, but also some that are beautifully introspective.

More info:
In depth study by Bryan N.S. Gooch on the cycle
Wikipedia article on John Donne

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fantasy Songs

I am involved in a massive worldwide search of songs about fantasy. Okay, maybe it's not that intense, but I am looking. I guess there are less of them than I thought. These would be songs about dwarves, elves, nymphs, castles, dragons, talking animals, etc. Here are a few that I've found:

  • Elfenlied by Hugo Wolf
  • Vom Shlaraffenland by Robert Schumann
  • Ein Mannlein steht by Engelbert Humperdinck (okay, this is an aria, but it was a song first - I think)
  • The Little Pigs by Prokofiev
  • Erlkoening by Franz Schubert
Does anyone out there know of any other fantasy songs that are really good? I'm working on a set of these and want a few more to choose from.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

L'elisir d'amore - Netrebko and Villazon again!

I had to tell you about one of the best productions of L'elisir d'amore I have EVER seen. It's a 2005 Vienna State Opera production, and the entire production and cast are great. The set doesn't change, but it doesn't have to because it's so beautiful. Leo Nicci is fabulous as Belcore - his voice has still got it, and his comic timing is really good.

Of course Netrebko does an amazing job, but in comparison to La Traviata where the whole opera rested on her shoulders, in this opera it is Villazon and his singing of Nemorino that is incredible. This may be the perfect role for him. Personally I think he looks like Mr. Bean, and in this show he gets to act like him too. He is hilarious, and yet really pulls out all the stops on his singing as well. This is most evident when he sings "Una furtiva lagrima" in the third act, and the audience gives him such an applause that he sings it again! During the second ovation he can't hold his emotions and you can see the tears in his eyes.

Here is a video of him singing the cavatina from the first act (you'll have to see "Una furtiva lagrima" on your own):



And here is a translation of the words:

How beautiful she is, how dear she is
the more I see her, the more I like her
but in that heart I'm not capable
little dearness to inspire
That one reads, studies, learns
I don't see that she ignores anything
I'm always an idiot
I don't know but to sigh
Who will clear my mind?
Who will teach me make myself beloved?

If you're interested in picking it up on Amazon (which I highly recommend), here is a link:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Props to Opera Singers (cool quote)

Abby is reading a book about opera called "What's All the Screaming About" by Roger Englander, and though it is a little dated it's a lot of fun. It's a good one to recommend to someone thinking about getting into opera but isn't sure where to start.

She read a quote to me that I thought really captured what it means to study to be an opera singer:

"Great opera singers are worthy of public acclaim. Consider their training and their responsibilities. They must study all facets of music: not only its literature, but also its theory and history. They must learn vocal production and breath control. They must learn many languages, master good diction, know stage deportment, and acquire acting techniques. They must learn how to create character makeup. They must be able to memorize lengthy musical scores and texts. They must maintain hearty constitutions to sustain themselves through daily work that is physically and mentally strenuous. The amount of energy expended in the performance of many operatic roles is equal to that expended by an athlete in the Olympics."

I always get a kick out of people who give me that funny look when I tell them I'm a singer--that look that says, "really? all you do is sing?". Well, guess what, I have a heartier constitution than those people! And I've worked hard to get it!

Here's the book:



Have a good one!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ideas for Chldren's Art Songs?

I am in the process of programming a recital for children, and I am surprised by the lack of art music that I can use. There are, of course, the children's songs by Russian composers like Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, etc. But other than that it seems like I am on a wild goose chase.

I have found the few German Art Songs I think would be appropriate (I read through the entire Fischer-Diskau book), and also found several French songs. Does anyone know of any American Art Songs that would be great for kids?

In general, the rules I set for myself were that they have some kind of narrative, and also some kind of character. So songs about an animal behaving in some human way are great (i.e. Die Forelle), or songs in which children could use their imagination. I am trying to steer clear of some of the scarier pieces like Erlkonig.

So, let me know if you have any ideas.

Also, I am brainstorming how to pull off a performance for kids and make it interesting. Any ideas? I know I am going to make it a Saturday afternoon recital so it won't be so late. Also, I was thinking about using power point slides of illustrations/paintings that would play during each song. I will be singing all of the pieces in English, otherwise I am sure that the pieces will go right over their heads.

I think this will be a really fun exercise in performance practice and diction, as the most important goals for me are understandability, entertainment, and communication. And seriously, shouldn't those always be our goals anyway?

I look forward to seeing your ideas!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Salzburg 2005 - La Traviata (Netrebko, Villazon) Review

I am usually not a big fan of minimalist works when it comes to opera. I think all too often the director is using the production as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on his/herself and not on the work. But I recently saw one of the most amazing modern productions of La Traviata ever!

Anna Netrebko sings the role of Violetta and Rolando Villazon sings Alfredo, with Thomas Hampson singing Germont. The cast is already great, and Willie Decker's staging puts the work into a light all its own. It may not be what you are used to, but it is certainly worth your time. The test for a modern production for me is if I leave thinking about the piece are just scratching my head because it went so far above it. In Decker's production, the message is made so much clearer with the staging.

The singing is fantastic with all three of the leads doing a phenomenal job. Netrebko may be my new favorite soprano! She does such an incredible job in this opera, and never misses a beat. Her "Sempre Libera" is unique in that she delivers it in death's face with such defiance. When she turns and shatter her champagne class against the wall right below the doctor (who represents death in this production) it paints a picture of Violetta that I had never seen before.

Here is the aria:


You've got to check this one out. Amazon has it on sale (click below).


Happy watching!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sing for the Summer

Hello readers!

I wanted to let you all know about a summer program I am running called "Sing for the Summer". I originally designed this program to give high school age singers an opportunity to keep their skills sharp while they were away from school. However, I soon realized that it was also a wonderful opportunity for beginners of all ages to get a taste of how lessons work and decide whether or not they would like to take lessons themselves.

Since I have a special program for children many parents have seen this as a chance to get their kids started. I have also had many mothers and fathers use this program to finally take those voice lessons they have always considered.

The course is intense and lots of fun, designed to get you started or keep you going. The fundamentals we focus on apply to any style. In other words, not everyone comes out of the eight lessons sounding like an opera singer (unless that is what you want). We work on fundamental techniques that every singer needs to work on, and then apply those techniques to whatever style you are most interested in.

The program also includes two master classes (taught by two of Florida State's finest singers), and for my students in Tallahassee, a recital on August 9th. One of my students will also win a free iPod nano!

An exciting new development this year is I am also offering this program online. I have been successfully teaching online for about a year now and have found it to be quite effective. So, if you have a webcam and a good internet connection this can be an option for you as well. You can use the eight lessons to see if it works for you, then go from there later.

If you have an interest, you can email me at eric@erichansontenor.com and I can discuss this with you more. Again, it's a lot of fun, and slots are filling up really fast so let me know if you are interested ASAP!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sabbath Songs - Examples on My Site

Just as an update, I am starting to put musical examples from my upcoming album Sabbath Songs. Just click on the media link on my site, or CLICK HERE. I only have one clip up right now, and more will be coming shortly.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bach - I've made a new friend

Yesterday I had the opportunity to perform Bach's "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben" from the Christmas Oratorio in Florida State's bi-weekly vocal seminar. It was my first time performing Bach in public, and I have to admit I was quite nervous. I am used to believing that in my fach I wasn't able to move my voice at those kinds of speeds. But now that I have pulled it off successfully, and seen what working on this piece did for the rest of my technique, I have decided I have to explore Bach further.

It appears that there is some truth to the idea that if you can sing Mozart and Bach, you can sing anything. I would encourage all "bigger" voices to look at ways to make your sound more flexible. I for one am tired of listening to heavier Verdi and Wagner being sung by voices that have vibratos wider than a mack-truck. One of my favorite recordings is Ben Heppner singing Idomeneo, flying through the coloratura. He is probably the most important American Heldentenor around, and yet listening to him sing Wagner is a delight because his voice still has such vibrancy.

So, though I spent most of my career thinking that Bach simply wasn't for me, I have changed my tune - literally :).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Website Update - Friday, March 14th 2008

Hello everyone,

For those of you keeping up on my website I've updated a couple of things:

Calendar: I've entered in a couple of performance dates. In June I will be making my Costa Rican debut! I will be singing the Tenor Soloist in Rossini's oratorio "Stabat Mater". CLICK HERE for more information.

Biography: With Stanford Olsen's help my bio has been updated. Check it out (CLICK HERE) and let me know what you think.

Also, for those of you patiently awaiting information on my upcoming CD (Sabbath Songs) release, we are moving right along. I am in contact with a couple of publishers and we will hopefully make a summer release.

Thanks for listening!

Website Update - Friday, March 14th 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sabbath Songs Recording Project: Part II

Once again, it takes me more than a month to get back on here.

Here is an update on my new recording project: Sabbath Songs. The recording process is quite a harrowing one, perhaps especially for a classical singer. I came out wondering if all opera singers hide behind distance as much as I do. In other words, as long as I'm on stage about 15 feet or more from the first row my voice sounds fantastic all of the time. Once you put a microphone 2 feet or less from my voice, all of my faults are exposed to the world :).

I think most classical singers prefer to record in a large hall, even on more intimate recital-sized projects like the one I'm working on. Of course, I could not afford a large hall, and I also feel like I learned a lot more about my voice this way. I had to be so picky and exact with myself to get it to record correctly and in tune, but I learned a lot more about what that technical price is. And Clive Romney (my recording engineer) was great! He played that Pro Tools like it was a musical instrument!

Then, I went to a man named Cyrus to do the mastering, and the first thing he said to me when I walked into his studio was "well, you know this is the worst recording you'll ever make". I stopped and thought about that, and realized that it can only get better from here-that's what he means right...? He confirmed that a few moments later. The mastering process was vigorous, especially because you get used to hearing every tiny little mistake over and over again, and it is hard to hear the overall mix.

When I arrived home I gave my ears a little break from the whole thing and went at it again later with fresh ears. Suddenly everything sounded amazing! I had distanced myself from some of the picky things, and was able to hear it more for what it was. So, the mastering is not quite finished, and we're still tweaking the order, but we are very close!

I have to give credit to all of my co-performers. Larry did AMAZINGLY well! He played with great touch and sensitivity. Adding the fiddle with John on a couple of those tracks made all of the difference as he also played fantastic! And Deanna was a real treat to sing with--I think you'll find that our voices fit very nicely together.

So, stay tuned to release dates. I've got an incredible designer working on my cover - Tim Anderson. We should be ready soon!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back to Work, and to Blogging

Well, I realize it's been awhile, but it's time to get back to blogging. School is back in session, and I can't help but feel, "man, I'm getting to old for this!". But hey, I guess you're never to old to learn something new. And, I get to teach all of my students again, which is always a good thing!

The most exciting upcoming event is definitely the recording of Sabbath Songs in a couple of weeks at Clive Romney's studio. Stay tuned for clips! It turns out that just about every one of the arrangements on the album will be by Dan Carter, an extremely talented arranger and composer. It's a whole lot of fun, and a couple of my friends from BYU will be performing with me: Deanna Lunt (soprano), John Allen Kovalenko (fiddle), and Larry Blackburn (piano).

Also, I get to sing for the final round of BYU's Singer of the Year or Young Artists of Voice competition. Come and hear a couple of the songs that will be on my Sabbath Songs CD! It's on Saturday Jan. 19, at 7:30pm at the Madsen Recital Hall. Should be a lot of fun!