The Whole Review- Vol. 3 Issue I Feb-Mar '22

Page 1


Brandie Sutton on living out her fairy tale dreams on the opera stage and the path to her many happy endings.

TEBALDI 100 1922 | 2022 an open letter by Aprile Millo

THE PUSH & THE PLEDGE BLACK OPERA ALLIANCE'S push for equity in opera and more...

FEB- MAR 2022

a Courtney's Stars of Tomorrow publication

VOL. 03


FEB- MAR 2022 EDITOR IN CHIEF Courtney Carey CONTRIBUTING ART DIRECTOR Emily Zier COPYEDITOR Justin Cohen CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Courtney Carey Fikayo John Aprile Millo Richard Oliver Wesley Wade 21 C Media Group (used by permission)

PHOTOGRAPHY Unsplash, Shutterstock, Josef Astor, Courtney Carey, Francisco Fernandez, Museo Renata Tebaldi


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Brandie Sutton on living out her fairy tale dreams on the opera stage and the path to her many happy endings. By Courtney Carey

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8 | The 64th Grammy Awards 18 | The Push & The Pledge Classical Music Nomina- Black Opera Alliance's push for tions equity and accountability in the The 64th Grammy awards will take place April 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. By Courtney Carey

14 | The Gateways Orchestra makes history Gateways Music Festival Orchestra Makes Historic Carnegie Hall Debut with World Premiere of New Jon Batiste Commission. from 21 C Media Group


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opera industry. By Richard Oliver COVER STORY

24 | Cinderella Rising

Brandie Sutton on living out her fairy tale dreams on the opera stage and the path to her many happy endings. By Courtney Carey

2 | Being Well When the 4 Well Is Empty

In Defense of Self-Preservational Therapies for Performers in Contemporary Opera, and Classical Works Featuring Black Trauma. by Wesley Wade

Cover Credits Photographer: Francisco Fernandez Stylist: Emily Smith Makeup: Tim MacKay

Streaming reinvented for classical music Feel the Spirit concerts are available now for streaming in the Idagio Global Concert Hall.


Listen in the way that’s right for you FEEL THE SPIRIT

IDAGIO Free or IDAGIO Premium+ 9.99€ per month




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IN TEMPO PERFORMANCE SPOTLIGHT 50 | Jamie Barton takes on Princess Eboli at the Met. 52 | The Schwabacher Recital Series presents Nikola Printz. 53 | Opera Estudio del Noroeste (OPEN) celebrates its inaugural season. HEALTH & WELLNESS 54 | Should I Wear a Face Mask? (That is the Question!) by Fikayo John FOOD

58 | "What's on the Menu?"

• Cooking with Chickpeas 60 | Smoky Chickpea Soup 62 | Hearty Chickpea and Dino Kale Soup 64 | Curry Pizza with Chickpea pizza crust 68 | Pesto Rotini with Roasted Broccoli



76 | Renata Tebaldi: Love and Hope in Sound

71| TEBALDI 100

72 | Biography by Courtney Carey 74 | Sherrill Milnes on Renata Tebaldi 75 | Placido Domingo & Renata Tebaldi


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an open letter by Aprile Millo

80 | Star Pick

Review- Lament Sidney Outlaw & Warren Jones live from Brevard Music Center by Richard Oliver




hat a start to the year we've all had! After the surge of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus, performance halls across the United States edged frighteningly close to shuttering their doors again. But, we collectively weathered yet another storm, and concerts, recitals, and operas are taking place again, much to the delight of classical music enthusiasts. As we move through 2022, let the Feb-Mar issue serve as your official invitation to join us as we celebrate Black History and Women's History months, respectively. The Metropolitan Opera created its own "Black History moment" on September 27, 2021, when it mounted Terence Blanchard's opera Fire Shut up in My Bones; the first time the company staged an opera by a black composer in its 139 year history. Wesley Wade's piece, Being Well When the Well is Empty, reminds us of the potentially deleterious effects that operas like Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Blue, and Central Park Five, depicting Black trauma, can have on its performers. While championing the diversity

and inclusion these operas afford, he subtly underscores the need to look after the mental and emotional well-being of the performers taking on these demanding operas. In addition to celebrating Black History Month, we are delighted to join in with our colleagues and opera fans around the world for the commemoration of soprano Renata Tebaldi's 100th birthday. We have included brief tributes by her esteemed colleagues Sherrill Milnes and Placido Domingo, as well as a touching reflection by diva Aprile Millo. I would be remiss if I did not thank Giovanna Colombo and the Museo Renata Tebaldi for permitting us to use the photos on the Tebaldi 100 tribute pages. As we honor and acknowledge great women throughout history, I thought it apropos to celebrate a burgeoning artist- Brandie Sutton- who is making major strides in the field. Incidentally, Brandie appeared on the first cover of The Whole Review. I vividly remember calling her and telling her about my plans to start a classical music lifestyle magazine and that I wanted her to appear on its first cover. She, along with Emily Smith (stylist) and Tim MacKay (makeup artist) have delivered a stunning cover for this issue. I am grateful to her for always being so generous and for engaging in such a lively discussion about her life and career up to this point. I hope you enjoy reading her story and all of the others. Until the next issue, Courtney


Wesley Wade | Amplified

Richard Oliver | Amplified

Aprile Millo | Encore

Emily Smith | Stylist

Tim MacKay | Makeup Artist

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64th Grammy Awards


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The 2022 Grammy Awards are leaving L.A. for rescheduled ceremony by Courtney Carey


he 64th Grammy awards will take place April 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The Recording Academy, which presents the music industry's most prestigious awards show, announced the new date and location in an email sent to academy members on January 18. The announcement came nearly two weeks after it said that due to the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant, "holding the show on January 31st simply [contained] too many risks." “We are excited to take the Grammys to Las Vegas for the very first time, and to put on a world class show,” the academy’s CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., said in the message. “From the moment we announced the postponement of the original show date, we have been inundated with heartfelt messages of support and solidarity from the artist community. We are humbled by their generosity and grateful for their unwavering commitment to the Grammy Awards and the Academy’s mission.” Details regarding its other high-profile events- including MusiCares' Person of the Year gala (honoring Joni Mitchell)

and legendary record executive Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party will be announced at a later date. The ceremony, with "The Daily Show's" Trevor Noah as host, will air (8:00-11:30 PM, live ET/ 5:00-8:00 PM, live PT) on the CBS Television Network and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount +. This marks the second year in a row that the Grammys have been delayed due to COVID-19. In 2021, the show was scheduled to take place on January 31 before being moved to March 14. Julliard alum and "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" bandleader Jon Batiste leads nominees for the 64th Grammys with 11 nods in categories including album, record and song of the year. Will Liverman's highly praised Dreams Of A New Day- Songs By Black Composers and Joyce di Donato's Schubert: Winterreise are among the albums in the running for Best Solo Classical Album. We have included a complete listing of the nominees for Best Opera Recording, Best Solo Vocal Album, Best Choral Performance, and Best Contemporary Classical Composition. 

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grammy nominations

•Bartók: Bluebeard's CastleSusanna Mälkki, conductor; Mika Kares & Szilvia Vörös; Robert Suff, producer (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)

2022 Grammy Nominations



Award to the Conductor, Album Producer(s) and Principal Soloists.

• Glass: AkhnatenKaren Kamensek, conductor; J’Nai Bridges, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zachary James & Dísella Lárusdóttir; David Frost, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus) • Janáček: Cunning Little VixenSimon Rattle, conductor; Sophia Burgos, Lucy Crowe, Gerald Finley, Peter Hoare, Anna Lapkovskaja, Paulina Malefane, Jan Martinik & Hanno Müller-Brachmann; Andrew Cornall, producer (London Symphony Orchestra; London Symphony Chorus & LSO Discovery Voices) • Little: Soldier SongsCorrado Rovaris, conductor; Johnathan McCullough; James Darrah, David T. Little, Lewis Pesacov & John Toia, producers (The Opera Philadelphia Orchestra) •Poulenc: Dialogues Des CarmélitesYannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Karen Cargill, Isabel Leonard, Karita Mattila, Erin Morley & Adrianne Pieczonka; David Frost, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)

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grammy nominations

2022 Grammy Nominations



• ConfessionsLaura Strickling; Joy Schreier, pianist • Dreams Of A New Day - Songs By Black ComposersWill Liverman; Paul Sánchez, pianist • Schubert: WinterreiseJoyce DiDonato; Yannick NézetSéguin, pianist


• MythologiesSangeeta Kaur & Hila Plitmann; Danaë Xanthe Vlasse, pianist (Virginie D'Avezac De Castera, Lili Haydn, Wouter Kellerman, Nadeem Majdalany, Eru Matsumoto & Emilio D. Miler) • Unexpected ShadowsJamie Barton; Jake Heggie, pianist (Matt Haimovitz)

Award to: Vocalist(s), Collaborative Artist(s) (Ex: pianists, conductors, chamber groups) Producer(s), Recording Engineers/Mixers with 51% or more playing time of new material.

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grammy nominations

Cover Art: Steven Bradshaw

2022 Grammy Nominations



Award to the Conductor, and to the Choral Director and/or Chorus Master where applicable and to the Choral Organization/Ensemble.

• It's A Long WayMatthew Guard, conductor (Jonas Budris, Carrie Cheron, Fiona Gillespie, Nathan Hodgson, Helen Karloski, Enrico Lagasca, Megan Roth, Alissa Ruth Suver & Dana Whiteside; Skylark Vocal Ensemble) • Mahler: Symphony No. 8, 'Symphony Of A Thousand'Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Grant Gershon, Robert Istad, Fernando Malvar-Ruiz & Luke McEndarfer, chorus masters (Leah Crocetto, Mihoko Fujimura, Ryan McKinny, Erin Morley, Tamara Mumford, Simon O'Neill, Morris Robinson & Tamara Wilson; Los Angeles Philharmonic; Los Angeles Children's Chorus, Los Angeles Master Chorale, National Children’s Chorus & Pacific Chorale) • Rising w/The CrossingDonald Nally, conductor (International Contemporary Ensemble & Quicksilver; The Crossing) • Schnittke: Choir Concerto; Three Sacred Hymns; Pärt: Seven Magnificat-AntiphonsKaspars Putniņš, conductor; Heli Jürgenson, chorus master (Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir) • Sheehan: Liturgy Of Saint John ChrysostomBenedict Sheehan, conductor (Michael Hawes, Timothy Parsons & Jason Thoms; The Saint Tikhon Choir) • The Singing GuitarCraig Hella Johnson, conductor (Estelí Gomez; Austin Guitar Quartet, Douglas Harvey, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet & Texas Guitar Quartet; Conspirare)

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grammy nominations


2022 Grammy Nominations



A Composer's Award. (For a contemporary classical composition composed within the last 25 years, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year.) Award to the librettist, if applicable.

• Akiho: Seven PillarsAndy Akiho, composer (Sandbox Percussion) • Andriessen: The Only OneLouis Andriessen, composer (Esa-Pekka Salonen, Nora Fischer & Los Angeles Philharmonic) • Assad, Clarice & Sérgio, Connors, Dillon, Martin & Skidmore: ArchetypesClarice Assad, Sérgio Assad, Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin & David Skidmore, composers (Sérgio Assad, Clarice Assad & Third Coast Percussion) • Batiste: Movement 11'Jon Batiste, composer (Jon Batiste) • Shaw: Narrow SeaCaroline Shaw, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Gilbert Kalish & Sō Percussion)

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gateways festival orchestra makes history

Gateways Orchestra makes history Gateways Music Festival Orchestra Makes Historic Carnegie Hall Debut with World Premiere of New Jon Batiste Commission from 21C Media Group

FESTIVAL DETAILS The Carnegie Hall concert crowns a full week of festival activities in April, with orchestral concerts, chamber recitals, talks, panel discussions and film screenings in both New York City and Rochester.

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he Gateways Music Festival Orchestra will make its Carnegie Hall debut on April 24, marking the first featured performance by an all-Black classical symphony orchestra in the venue’s recorded, 130-year history. Led by Anthony Parnther, the concert will showcase the world premiere of a new Gateways commission from 202122 “Perspectives” artist Jon Batiste, the Oscar-winning, Grammy-nominated music director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Batiste’s new work shares the program with Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Florence Price’s Third Symphony and Sinfonia No. 3 by George Walker, the first African-American laureate of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, whose centennial falls next year. The concert concludes with James V.

Cockerham’s Fantasia on “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a signature piece for the ensemble, whose distinguished members hail from the foremost orchestras and conservatory teaching faculties nationwide. For professional classical musicians of African descent, the Gateways Music Festival represents a welcome haven from the isolation many face in their working lives. To give these musicians a supportive artistic home, the festival was founded in 1993 by eminent concert pianist and educator Armenta Adams (Hummings) Dumisani, whose string of honors includes Musical America’s Musician of the Year and the first Leeds International Piano Competition Special Prize. Originally based in North Carolina, the festival relocated to Rochester, New York in 1995, when Dumisani

gateways festival orchestra makes history


Gateways Music Festival Orchestra (photo: Keith Bullis)

was appointed to the faculty of the Eastman School of Music. Since then, Gateways has formalized and strengthened its partnership with Eastman while remaining independent and steadily increasing in size and reach. At recent festivals, the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra comprised 125 instrumentalists, many drawn from such major orchestras as the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Cleveland Orchestra and the National, Boston, Houston, Phoenix and Detroit symphonies. Over the course of each six-day festival, the musicians give a full orchestral concert and participate in numerous chamber recitals, open rehearsals, professional development activities, lectures, panel discussions and film screenings at 50 venues in and around the city of

NOTEWORTHY FACT While Carnegie Hall has presented several all-Black ensembles over the course of its history, Gateways Music Festival Orchestra is the first known all-Black classical symphony orchestra to be featured at the venue.

Rochester. This prodigious growth was achieved under the auspices of Lee Koonce, who has served as Gateways’ President & Artistic Director since Dumisani’s retirement in 2009. Koonce’s long association with the nonprofit festival dates back much further, however, for it was he who instigated its celebrated three-week quartet residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1997, when he served as that orchestra’s Director of Community Relations. Now, almost a quarter-century later, he explains what Gateways’ historic Carnegie Hall debut means for the festival and the communities it serves: “Gateways Music Festival’s journey to Carnegie Hall has been 28 years in the making. To be the first allBlack classical symphony orchestra

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gateways festival orchestra makes history

to headline a performance there* is momentous, especially at this time of racial reckoning in our country’s history. Hearing and seeing the Gateways orchestra on Carnegie’s revered main stage will show Black children that they can perform classical music at the highest level, while reminding people of all backgrounds that this music belongs to everyone. We are grateful to Carnegie Hall for its belief in our mission and its commitment to showcasing the artistry of Black classical musicians. It’s a sign of hope and heralds a brighter future." Clive Gillinson, the Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, comments:“We are delighted to be presenting the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra this season in the ensemble’s Carnegie Hall debut. We have long been inspired by the festival’s commitment to extraordinary artistry as it celebrates the many contributions that musicians and composers of African descent continue to make to classical music. We look forward to introducing the Gateways musicians to our audiences as they embark upon their residency, connecting with music lovers throughout New York City.” The performance will be conducted by Anthony Parnther. Parnther takes the place of long-time Gateways music director and conductor Michael Morgan, who passed away in August of this year after complications from a kidney transplant. Lee Koonce, Gateways’ President & Artistic Director, says: “Anthony is an extraordinary person and musician and we are delighted that he will lead the Gateways Orchestra for its historic Carnegie Hall debut. He has a wonderful sense of humor, impeccable artistic standards and a wonderful rapport with the musicians. I might add that he was the first choice of Gateways’

Artistic Programs Committee, a group of around 20 musicians, many of whom have worked with him previously in Hollywood on various projects, including Black Panther.” Parnther comments:“The invitation to conduct the Gateways Orchestra at such an important concert is both humbling and exhilarating. I am especially moved by this opportunity to build upon the strong legacy left by Michael Morgan, a long-time friend and mentor. Additionally, I have worked with many of the extraordinary Gateways musicians, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to reconnect with many of them who have become friends over the years.”  Above: Anthony Parnther (photo: Konstantin Golovchinsky)

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THE PUSH & THE PLEDGE Black Opera Alliance's push for equity and accountability in the opera industry. by Richard Oliver


n August 2021, the Black Opera Alliance (BOA) and The Results Group for the Arts (TRG Arts) released an insight report detailing trends and insights collected over three data sets to expose racial inequity and underrepresentation of the African diaspora and to promote reform within the opera industry. The information reflected in this report establishes the framework by which more specific requirements and timelines might be established as the industry endeavors to achieve true, sustainable change in the ways of racial justice, inclusion, and accountability. The crux of this data collection and analysis is The Pledge. Released in September of 2020, The Pledge for Racial Equity and Systemic Change in Opera was drafted by members of BOA and disseminated to 113 opera companies in the U.S., taking them to task in identifying the breadth of their moral lapses and defining

them in quantitative terms. It is, by any measure, the most substantive initiative set forth in the intersecting spaces of classical music and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), not only because of the meticulous, comprehensive nature of its language, but also because of the rigorous, unrelenting implementation of the insights uncovered through the nature of its very existence. We have the Black Opera Alliance and the unyielding work of its members to thank for that. Founded in the summer of 2020 in the midst of the yet prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, the BOA represents the broad confluence of Black opera professionals and their affiliates—from singers and arts administrators to stage directors, costume designers, and family members and fans of the art form—boasting a membership roster of nearly 1,000 individuals and counting. Their mission: To “empower Black classical artists and administrators by exposing systems of racial inequity and underrepresentation of the African diaspora in all facets of the industry and challenging institutions to implement drastic reform.”

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the push & the pledge

“It began as a virtual cookout,” says bass-baritone Dr. Derrell Acon, activist, arts leader, and one of the organization’s founding members. Acon now works as Project Manager in the Alliance’s research department. “It was not intentional … that it would become an organization. The original structure was that it would really be an opportunity for folks to put questions forth, reflections, and use the pause of the pandemic to engage with each other as Black folks in the classical music industry, and opera specifically.”

It became very clear that there was a need to have a space for us to come together so that we didn’t feel so siloed around the world. Operatic soprano and life coach Jayme Alilaw is BOA’s Administrative Manager and a member of the group’s leadership council. “When you look at the number of people who showed up,” says Alilaw, “and the nature of the conversations—the thirst and hunger that Black people expressed in wanting to be connected with other Black people, and be supported and be support to each other—it became very clear that there was a need to have a space for us to come together so that we didn’t feel so siloed around the world.” Quickly, this collection of voices began to evolve into a structure and took a more substantive, concrete form, expanding its inward-facing, community-based scope outward to engage with the industry. It was then that the conversations shifted focus. Says Acon, “We must heal ourselves and have intracommunity conversations, but we also must em-

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power ourselves to really hold the industry accountable and engage in advocacy and activism that is going to effect some change.’” The change, as the group sees it, needs to address a multitude of impediments to the success of Black artists within the industry. There are those that are glaringly obvious—the overt kind of racism that makes for titillating gossip and grabby headlines—but there are some that are far more insidious, so profoundly systemic that it took the gathering of a hundred shared experiences to root them out and call them plainly by name. “We noticed [recurring] themes in what members expressed [as relates to] their experiences in the industry. Whether they were performers (singers or instrumentalists), administrators, part of the tech crews, or composers, we started to notice certain themes of oppression showing up in our space, adds Alilaw. ” “Personally, I have seen many of the pitfalls for Black artists in the industry,” says mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, BOA co-founder and member of the Social Media and Marketing Team. “From economic hardship, lack of resources, lack of being seen by major companies in America—who want to pigeonhole you into a Porgy and Bess chorus— the struggle of sitting in a makeup chair and being shown a row of too-light foundations and being told to choose one, fatphobia, and everything else.” These themes are by no means new. Black people, in the opera sphere and elsewhere, have been aware of them and suffered through their effects for centuries. However, the implementation of initiatives around these themes has become more global and tactfully aligned among Black folks in the recent past, especially since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in 2020—and the

the push & the pledge

pervasive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that have been disproportionately ravaging our communities, both here in the U.S. and abroad. The BOA’s targeted approach in codifying these themes, at least in the opera community, and addressing them through observable action items and quantifiable metrics helps to bring them into stark focus. To that end, the organization’s mission of empowering Black artists encompasses a sweeping, multi-pronged strategy. “We do that by intracommunity work—education, master classes, financial literacy seminars, monthly community connections, building the infrastructure to intervene financially for our members (whether that be for application fees, recording equipment, travel, etc.),” says Acon. “And then what we are known for is the more outward-facing advocacy, which has looked like, most recently, The Pledge. The amount of skill, experience, and insight that we bring to all of these issues—from the art making to the advocacy—is so much more sophisticated than the white supremacist culture that prevails right now,” says Acon. he specifics of The Pledge outline eight distinct points—barriers—identified by the BOA that serve to hinder professional and artistic growth for Black artists and administrators in opera, as well as a call to action—a commitment on behalf of the leaders within the industry (general directors and other senior level staff, board members, and the like). “For most of these folks, the conversation is showing them that there’s a problem, and getting them to acknowledge the issue,” says bassoonist Garrett McQueen, BOA Communications Team Lead and member of the leadership council. “That’s the first major hump.” Currently, about 45% of Opera America-affiliated companies are signatories of The Pledge, and a great number of others are “in progress,” according to McQueen. “We still have a lot of room to go as far as getting [some] companies to acknowledge the problem. Each of these signatories is the result of





1. American Lyric Theater

11. Chautauqua Opera



2. Annapolis Opera

12. Chicago Opera Theater



3. Austin Opera

13. Cincinnati Opera



4. Baltimore Concert Opera

14. Cleveland Opera Theater





5. BARE Opera

15. Des Moines Metro Opera



6. Beth Morrison Projects

16. Eugene Opera



7. Boston Lyric Opera

17. Experiments in Opera



8. Boston Opera Collective

18. Festival Opera




19. Fresh Squeezed Opera

9. Catapult Opera




10. Central City Opera

20. Grace City Opera



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the push & the pledge

21. Guerilla Opera

41. Opera Philadelphia



22. Haymarket Opera Company

42. Opera Roanoke



23. Heartbeat Opera

43. Opera San José



24. Helios Opera

44. Opera Saratoga



25. HERE

45. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis



26. InSeries Opera


46. Orchestra of New Spain



27. Lamplighters Musical Theatre

47. Pittsburgh Opera



28. Long Beach Opera

48. Portland Opera



29. Lyric Opera of Chicago

49. Promenade Opera Project



30. Minnesota Opera

50. Seagle Festival



31. NEMPAC Opera

51. Seattle Opera



32. New Orleans Opera

52. The Dallas Opera



33. On Site Opera

53. The Glimmerglass Festival



34. OPERA America

54. The Industry L.A.



35. Opera Birmingham

55. The Metropolitan Opera



36. Opera Carolina

56. Santa Fe Opera



37. Opera in the Heights

57. Toledo Opera



Pledge for Racial Equity and Systemic Change in Opera



39. Opera Modesto

59. Washington National Opera



40. Opera NexGen

60. Wolf Trap Opera



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Derrell Acon

Jayme Alilaw

Garrett McQueen

Raehann BryceDavis


the push & the pledge


So far, 1% of these companies have responded “No” to signing The Pledge, a comparatively low number when considering the big picture. However, there are those who argue that the mere existence of any resistance to social justice is grounds for a reevaluation—and possible dismantling—of the entire system that facilitates it. After all, following that line of logic, no observable and sustainable change throughout history has ever been won without the aid of radicalism. So the question remains: Is this enough? “There are a million things [to do] and I have a million ideas,” says Bryce-Davis. “[This] speaks to the perfection of racism,” says McQueen. “One of the things that we have to acknowledge is that racism requires some of us to be participants in the most guarded of structures and systems so that that participation can be used as a reason to not destroy those systems.” It is the diversity of Blackness and Black thought that gives way to this push-and-pull dichotomy. However, it’s also this diversity of thought that yields innovation and the unflinching fortitude to continue forward. By positioning itself as an institutional pipeline for the dissemination of these diverse views, the Black Opera Alliance has, in effect, laid the groundwork for a new cultural identity within the classical sphere—not one based solely on principles, values, or morals, but concrete, inalienable truths rooted in measurable impact. If not for this work, and the information gleaned from The Pledge, accountability will remain an abstract thing. And until we’ve achieved a socially, economically, and culturally balanced Utopia—across the board—accountability must remain a clear pillar of measure. In that world, as Bryce-Davis sees it, “Opera reflects the global majority and wrestles with the moral issues of our day.” 

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Cinderella Rising

Brandie Sutton on living out her fairy tale dreams on the opera stage and the path to her many happy endings by Courtney Carey

Photography Francisco Fernandez Stylist Emily Smith Makeup Tim MacKay

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he Cinderella story is a classic, and certainly one of the most famous fairy tales in existence. Over its thousand-year history, over 700 versions have flourished worldwide. Who doesn’t love a good “once upon a time” story with a beautiful princess and a happy ending? Of its many iterations, Frenchman Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon (Cinderella in French)—featuring a pumpkin, glass slipper, and a fairy godmother—is the enduring, timeless version we all know and love today. His is the version upon which Disney based its 1950 animation. Tulle Robe Designer: Kelaixiang Cost: $120

There is something powerful and motivating about a story whose underlying theme is triumph over adversity. Brandie Shoes Inez Sutton’s rise to prominence Designer: Steve Madden in opera is a real-life version of Cost: $100 the Cinderella story. Overcoming extreme shyness and rejection, she’s followed her instincts and

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used her good wits to outsmart the naysayers on the path to her own happy ending. The road to happiness is not always easy, but with a dose of prodigious talent and a heap of magical influence from supportive mentors and fairy godparents, Sutton is finally stepping into the spotlight.

brandie sutton


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brandie sutton

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brandie sutton



WR: What was it like growing up in Huntsville, Alabama? I had a great childhood. I grew up around a ton of musicians. I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That was definitely interesting [laughter], but I definitely appreciate the upbringing because of the affiliation. And, I met some of my closest friends during my matriculation at Oakwood Elementary, Oakwood Academy, and Oakwood University. [Each is a Seventh-day Adventist school.] WR: So, you are Oakwood through and through? [laughter] Oh, yes, through and through! WR: Who were some of the great musicians you grew up around? Oakwoodites! I grew up hearing the special music at church—which would include Take 6, Wintley Phipps, and also people who aren’t necessarily famous, like Joyce and Robert Pressley, an amazing brother-and-sister duo. There was also Melvin E. Bryant Jr., who sang in a group called Joy. There weren’t a lot of opera singers, but I do recall this one lady who kind of sang in the operatic style in church, but that was it. I really looked up to the Aeolians [of Oakwood University under the direction of Dr. Lloyd Mallory], especially when they featured soprano soloists like Anika Sampson and Reyna Cargill. WR: Tell us about your family. Do other members of your family sing? Well, my sister can sing, but no one really tries to [perform] in public. My mom forced my brother and me to sing a duet in church one Sabbath. WR: How old were you? We were—I think—seven and eight years old, respectively. We didn’t really do anything else together vocally after that [laughs]. If you ask my sister to sing, she’s going to say, “No!” She always says that if people know she can sing, “People are going to expect me to live up to you, and I’m not doing that.” But she has a great voice, though. My dad also sang in choir in high school and he sang with Sly and the Family Stone. WR: What was the first musical experience you can recall? My grandmother, Mary Inez Lang Booth. WR: Is that where you get your middle name? Yes, my mom changed it just before leaving the hospital with me. It was Nicole at first.

B Red Gown Designer: Abdul Sall Couture Cost: $1100

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WR: Sorry for the interruption. Now, back to your first musical experience. [laughs] That’s okay. But yes, my grandmother, Mary Inez Lang Booth, went to Oakwood [University] in the ’30s to teach. She was the chair of the music department for 29 years, and she remained at Oakwood for forty-four years altogether. She had private piano students, and she played organ and piano. She was also there when her good friend Eva B. Dykes, in 1946, started the Aeolians. She always played at home, and she played for me all the time. That’s really what attracted me to [music]. I really wanted to take piano lessons and I begged her to teach me. She wouldn’t teach me at first because she thought I was too young, but I guaranteed her that I could do it. So, eventually she broke and started teaching me. Now, when I look back on it, I realize how easy it was for me. I see how good my ear was. When I sang in choir later on, and had to read music, I could read the music so easily. I feel that my grandmother opened me up to that. WR: How did you feel singing in those early days? I was so shy! That’s why my mom had to make us do it. Even to this day, there are still things I’m shy about doing in public. So that’s why a lot of people don’t know what this voice can really do, because I’m too scared to do it in public. WR: Did you have any early mentors, or role models? I would say Ricky Little, Lloyd Mallory, and Julie Moore Foster. Ricky Little was my high school voice teacher, and Julie Moore Foster started teaching me in college. She was the one who really heard the gift and helped me to open it up. She suggested that I pick up music as a minor, because I was a biology major at the time. [As a result of her influence], I ended up switching to a biology minor and music major. I’m so glad I did! She really mentored me, and made me enter into competitions. I applied for eight and won seven—including N.A.T.S. (regional and national) and the Birmingham Music [Club] Guild competition. Lloyd Mallory taught me the importance of stage deportment, and he emphasized the importance of grabbing your audience's attention as soon as you walk out onstage. I think about that every time I go out to perform.

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WR: Is it true that the singer Little Richard was a family friend? Little Richard was really close to my mom and my grandmother because he was at Oakwood while my grandmother was there. Every Friday night she invited some of the students over to her house for dinner, and he was one of the students who came. I think he started coming when my mom was about four. One time, when I was maybe 14 years old, my mom tried to get me to sing for him. I was acting very shy, and he said, “Oh, leave the child alone. Don’t ask her to sing in front of everybody on the spot. She’ll sing when she gets ready to sing.” He totally shut my mom down. I remember I loved him so much more for that because he had shut my mother down, which I felt like no one in the world could do. She didn’t bother me anymore after that. Something about that experience made me say, “Maybe I should sing, but I’m going to do it when I’m ready.” Some years later, his nephew was getting married, and they had the wedding at his house. He and his sister had a duplex that they were splitting. I went to the wedding and I sang “O mio babbino caro.” I remember he said, “She reminds me of my good friend Leontyne Price,” and I almost passed out [laughs]. He was a really close family friend, and I affectionately called him Uncle Richard. When he passed away, I went home to sing at his funeral service. He was a very special man. WR: After graduating from Oakwood, what came next? Well, I was told that the classic track was to get a master’s degree, do auditions, get into a YAP (Young Artist Program), get an agent and then boom, career. It didn’t happen like that for me at all. WR: What happened? Well, I did go off to get my master’s degree at Catholic University [of America] in Washington, D.C. As soon as I finished my master’s I moved to New York. I had considered New York for graduate school and had auditions at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, but ultimately, I decided that it wasn’t the time for me to come to New York. I moved to New York City in 2009 … it was like starting from scratch. Ronald Liburd, who was the Music Chair at Ephesus [Seventh-day Adventist Church], found out I was coming to NY, and he remembered me from my having sung with the Aeolians at Ephesus. He invited me to come to the church to sing a solo. I’m big on signs, and that was a big sign that I was going to be okay. Then, I had my son in 2012 and that put a pause on things— even though there was really nothing going on in my career up until that point. But after I had my son Judah, that’s really when the “yeses” started coming in, starting with [the] Martina Arroyo [Foundation’s] Prelude to


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Performance program, in which I participated in 2013 and 2015.

What they say...

WR: What roles did you sing in Prelude to Performance? I sang Giulietta in Les contes d’Hoffmann in 2013 and Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly in 2015. The repertoire was not really appropriate for me, but my teacher at the time advised me to do it because the experience would be invaluable. He was right! I have to say, I learned so much in that program, and I was especially lucky with [Madama] Butterfly because I performed it with a reduced orchestra, in a small house, with a sympathetic conductor. Ken Benson, Artist Manager



n the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella, the wicked stepmother prevents Cinderella from attending the ball by making her sort lentils—a long, tedious process. In her despair, Cinderella sings a sweet chant: You sweet little doves You little turtledoves And all you birds in the sky, Come help me sort the good ones into the pot And the bad ones into your crop. From out of nowhere, “two white doves fly in through the kitchen window, and then a flock of turtledoves, and finally all the birds of the sky come flapping into the kitchen, settling down by the cinders to help.” With the wave of a wand—or, in this case, a phone call—Sutton’s help arrived.

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When did you first hear Brandie? Did she find you or did you scout her? Brandie and I found each other in the best possible way- with my hearing her in a live performance. That's the situation that I believe all artists and managers would prefer, without the pressure of an audition! She was singing the leading role of Rautendelein in Respighi's very rarely heard opera, La Campana Sommersa. The role is very difficult. It struck me as a blend of late Verismo, Impressionism and more than a touch of Richard Strauss. Not only did Brandie sing it impeccably, but while singing this very complex music, she scampered charmingly all over a hilly, very raked set. I was completely taken by her! I did a bit of investigating, and found that she was not represented. So, I invited her to lunch and we really hit it off.

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I call Mark and Sadie [Rucker] my fairy godparents because they are so supportive. [Mark Rucker is the Administrative/Artistic Director of Prelude to Performance, and Sadie Rucker is its Publicity Manager. Both have been affiliated with the program since its inception in 2003.] They introduced me to Michael Capasso [General Director of the New York City Opera]. WR: You have quite a history with Michael Capasso. Tell us about your relationship with him and New York City Opera. Mark and Sadie heard that he needed another Bess for a production of Porgy and Bess that he was taking to Mexico City. I went in to audition for him, and afterward he was kind and said, “Thank you.” The next thing I knew he called and offered me [the role of] Bess. So, I went to do Bess and I was double-cast with Kishna Davis [Fowler]. Later on, in 2017, he hired me to sing La campana sommersa. Now, that was really a great opportunity. It gave New York audiences a chance to finally hear me in repertoire that was appropriate for me, instead of heavier things. WR: From the time you moved to New York until now, how would you describe your career trajectory? Some singers say theirs was a fast, meteoric rise. Others say theirs was slow, progressing at a snail’s pace. How would you describe yours? My feeling, having the enlightened mind that I have now, is that I am right where I am supposed to be. I have enjoyed every step, whether it be slow, quick, or however it’s happened. I’ve readied myself, whether consciously or subconsciously. I made those things come to me. I can’t say that I wish I had done this or I wish I had done that. There’s enough of that on the outside with people saying, “Oh, you’re not this until you’ve sung here.” I don’t want to conform to that thought process of “Oh, don’t go into the Met as a cover, or you’ll never graduate,” or “Don’t go in as a small role, or you’ll only sing small parts.” I’m someone who loves challenges. So, I’d love to go in as a cover and defy the odds, or as a small role and defy the odds. Because if you go in and sing at the highest level, your gift will make room for you. Eventually, they’ll all take notice and get on board.

As Madama Butterfly

Credit: Jen Joyce Davis/Prelude to Performance

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FAIRYTALE DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE WR: Here comes the big question. How did you get the Met to take notice of you? I sang an audition for NYIOP that I did not want to do. My mother made me do it, and said she would pay for it. I remember standing at the copy machine one day, just blindly photocopying the music [for my audition binder]. I finally got myself together and went to the audition, and the president, David Blackburn, was in the audition. After the audition the proctor came out and said that the panel wanted to have one-on-one conversations with the singers, and asked if I could stick around. He came out and Lenore Rosenberg (from the Met) came out with him. She introduced herself and said, “We’d love to have you come sing some more for us in the house.” That’s how I got my Met audition. WR: Did they give you a contract after the audition? The funny thing is, after I did that first audition, she said, “Your voice is too small for the Met and there’s nothing I can offer you.” I was really blown away, because I had long had this feeling in my mind and my body that I was going to sing there. WR: You clearly didn’t give up, so what happened after that? I talked to Russell Thomas, who is a friend and mentor. He suggested that I change my audition repertoire. He found an obscure bel canto aria from Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro for me to sing. No one ever knows it! He said, “You don’t want to sing anything for them to compare you to somebody else. Give them something they don’t know so they can sit there and listen to you.”

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WR: Did it work? [laughs] Well, I had gotten another audition for Lenore Rosenberg, and I sang the Donizetti aria and she asked for the “Willow Song” (from The Ballad of Baby Doe). And this time, after the audition I didn’t hear anything. I even wrote to her to ask her for feedback, like I did the first time, but I received no response. Later, I wrote to her to invite her to attend La campana sommersa at New York City Opera and she wrote me back saying, “Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it, but I am pleased to offer you a cover contract for one of the flower maidens in Parsifal.” And of course, I said “yes.”

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What they say...

Ronald Liburd, Music Department Chair- Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church I always call Brandie the "reluctant diva." Behind that tremendous talent is a humble, completely unpretentious young woman who, when she sings, opens up her heart and envelopes you with a wash of beautiful sound. When you hear her sing, you hear everything she has been through. If you could grant her one wish, what would that wish be? My greatest wish for Brandie is that the world experiences the depth and breadth of her talent. She is vocally so gifted, and I want the entire world to hear her in live performance and on recordings.

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WR: How did your mainstage debut at the Met come about? I found out they were doing Porgy and Bess, and I asked my manager to reach out to them. The opera was already cast, but they said that they needed a cover, and invited me to sing for that. Joshua Winograde hired me for that. When they decided to add three more shows to the run, they offered me a performance and that’s how I got my Met debut in 2020. WR: Were you nervous? I was so glad that my debut there was in a role I had done so often that I could sing it in my sleep. That role is a special one for me because it has opened so many doors. I do not shy away from singing Clara—it’s gotten me so many other contracts. WR: Earlier you spoke about your fairy godparents, and just last month you got to play the Fairy Godmother in Massenet’s Cendrillon at the Met. Yes, and that was a miracle straight from God, the universe, the cosmos or whatever you want to call it, because that one came out of the blue. Keith Wolfe at Opera Birmingham offered me the role, and as soon as I started learning it, I said, “Oh my God, I’m going to kill this. This is perfect for me.” Before I left to go down to Alabama, I called my manager and told him to contact the Met and have someone come down to hear me sing this part. Unfortunately, COVID hit the week before we were scheduled to open and the performances were canceled. That was March 2020. So, no one from the Met got to hear me sing that run of Cendrillon. Then, in September of the same year, I was in Vienna singing Porgy and Bess, and while I was there, I had lots of epiphanies and realizations. One day I was coming in, probably from rehearsal or something, and I kept saying to myself, “I am going to sing that role at the Met.” I remember speaking that out loud to myself in my apartment. I kept saying, “I’m going to sing this role at the Met. It’s going to happen!” That was when I was coming into this whole manifestation period in my life. I was speaking things and believing they were going to happen. [Cendrillon was on the performance lineup for the 2021–2022 season as a part of its holiday season offerings for families]. Sometime later, while I was still in Vienna, my manager wrote to me and said, “They didn’t think there would be a chance for a performance, but congratulations, the Met wants you to come cover the Fairy Godmother and sing one performance.” It’s crazy! I still get chills when I think about it because I really spoke that into existence. It wasn’t like months or years before it happened, it was literally a few days.

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“Cinderella sat on a footstool, removed her heavy wooden clog, and slid on the slipper, which fit as if made just for her.” So, too, is Brandie Sutton on a perch— the precipice of a great career. This is her moment, and she is basking in the reflective glow of success, all the while singing roles which fit, as if made just for her. 

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Being Well When the Well Is Empty In Defense of Self-Preservational Therapies for Performers in Contemporary Opera, and Classical Works Featuring Black Trauma by Wesley Wade

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n 1961, a host on WBAI radio in New York asked the renowned African American writer and activist James Baldwin for his thoughts about being Black in America in the context of the polarity between his race and his art. Baldwin responded in a now infamous quote: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time—and in one’s work. And part of that rage is this: it isn’t only what is happening to you. But it’s what’s happening all around you and all of the time in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference.” These words, spoken over 60 years ago, still ring true for many Black folks and Black artists in America

primarily poor and most often people of color. To be Black in America, ultimately, requires constant offense to demand basic constitutional and civil rights and constant defense to prevent their further erosion. This reality is one with which most white Americans rarely must contend. Black artists share in the communal experience of this anti-Black fervor, along with the average Black citizen, but are also burdened with being the creative conduit through which that trauma is recast for cultural examination. For those who consider themselves “relatively conscious,” as Baldwin quipped (or “woke,” in today’s parlance), the responsibility of creating work that reflects their lived experiences may be at once a release valve and a source of re-trauma-

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time—and in one’s work. And part of that rage is this: it isn’t only what is happening to you. But it’s what’s happening all around you and all of the time in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference.” today. Between the continued fight against injustice and police brutality, right-wing voter suppression efforts to further disenfranchise minority populations from the democratic process, the glaring disparity in healthcare and health outcomes exposed by the ongoing pandemic, and relentless efforts to block public school pedagogy informed by critical race theory (a study of the historically unfair and racist policies embedded in America’s political and social institutions), there are more than enough opportunities to be enraged. At each turn, the slew of attacks seems endless and inescapable. Both in policy and politics, decisions aimed to create “law and order”— which in reality keep the powerful on their desired perch—undermine the peace and sovereignty of the powerless, who are 44 FEB- MAR 2022

tizing. There’s a natural impulse to share these stories that will otherwise go unmentioned—and who better to tell them than Black writers, composers, producers, and performers? The best artists create work that reflects the zeitgeist, which is also a hallmark of classical opera—either celebrating or bemoaning the events of its era, largely in Europe. Therefore, more modern interpretations among African American writers, composers, and directors are no different, withstanding arguments of purists that the European art form shouldn’t be “bastardized” with storytelling and musical arrangements that didn’t come out of the concert halls of Florence, Paris, or Vienna. But more on that shortly. While there may be an abundance of other subject matter to explore, for Black artists, Black strife can

be more accessible and revelatory to an audience. By that, I mean telling stories which an artist may find personally familiar has the appreciable burnish of greater authenticity when done well. Contemporary art, therefore, is particularly poignant. It can feel now. But it can also injure those whose task it is to portray it. Accomplished mezzo-soprano Briana Elyse Hunter, who developed such roles as Mayme in Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel at Lincoln Center, and Ruby in Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons’ Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the first work the Metropolitan Opera has featured by a Black composer in its 140-year history, can attest to the demands of inhabiting a role that hits close to home. The same is true of the role of Mother, which she created in Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s Blue, which debuted at The Glimmerglass Festival in 2019. “In my experience, tackling this piece forced a lot of things I had buried in a deep place to bubble to the surface just so I could get through the day. We


had the opportunity to sit in that space of communal grief and hold on to one another. There is a cost to being the conduit for a story like this and sitting in that emotional space for such a long period, essentially re-traumatizing yourself each time. I learned all of this the hard way.” Kevin Miller, who was the vocal coach on Blue, is spared that experience, insomuch as his job as vocal coach is to protect the music. But he has seen its effects among cast members in Blue and similar works, “People have broken down and cried, and we've had to stop rehearsal. You have to let them deal with that emotion.” To invoke charged feelings on stage that are a part of your everyday life may require picking away at the scabs of festering wounds. It may create an insidious feedback loop in which pain and performance commingle, forming an infinite cycle of pain that results in an adulatory performance which enacts greater suffering. So there can be a mental and spiritual toll from regularly tapping into a place where there exists some degree of conscious or subconscious anguish. Despite this fact, there’s little recourse. Orson Van Gay II, who created the role of Raymond Santana in Anthony Davis’ Central Park Five with Long Beach Opera, recognizes the potential for re-traumatization, but thinks it’s a necessary part of being an artist. “Being Black in America means living with trauma, albeit slight or great. It’s living and using all of it for something few can ever really understand but will most certainly see and mimic. Often, artists, we find ourselves alone. Trauma reverberates. But it is our calling to tell the truth, to discover it within ourselves.” People of col-

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Orson van Gay, II

Briana Hunter & Kenneth Kellogg Credit: Karli Cadel / The Glimmerglass Festival

being well when the well is empty


being well when the well is empty

Long Beach Opera’s production of The Central Park Five, Credit: Keith Polakoff

or are still underrepresented and underutilized in productions among the world’s largest opera houses and big budget B houses for the very idea that these European stories, featuring European characters, are unchanging. Gatekeeping, which makes it difficult for people of color to land roles for which they’re more than qualified to play—albeit European-centric ones—takes away most opportunities to get greater exposure and hone one’s craft at the highest levels. So works such as the award-winning Blue or Fire Shut Up in My Bones need to be created to give Black artists a creative avenue, as well as to tell those stories in an authentic way where ancestry is a central part of the story and where Black characters are essential. “I think it is our duty to be sensitive, to appropriately represent what is happening in our lives and in our culture,” says Van Gay. “It is true that opera has its roots in the European setting, but that isn’t the case

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anymore. So, I think it is important not to approach things in a puritanical kind of way but to give people that sense of truth and honesty. It is systemic racism that persists that stifles progression. It is a foolish notion kept for those to see the world as they paint and not for the beauty that it is.” The few works that have been afforded regional or national recognition produced by Black composers and writers largely depict Black trauma. Central Park Five is a tale about the wrongful prosecution and sentencing of five Black and Latino teenage boys, who served more than six years in prison for an assault and rape they didn’t commit. The verdict was later vacated. Fire Shut Up in My Bones is an adaptation of New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow’s memoir about growing up bisexual and suffering sexual abuse in the Deep South. The award-winning Blue tackles police brutality with verve and nuance in the


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killing of an unarmed Black teen and activist whose father is a police officer. Van Gay sees the common thread among many recent contemporary operas but understands its necessity. “I wish that the narrative could be shifted into something that is beyond the trauma that we’ve experienced for the last several hundred years, that we have such a large legacy. But we can’t move forward until we are able to properly address the grievances that have been systemic for so long. What better way to do that than to portray what’s been going on in an artful and meaningful way through the medium of opera?” Miller, the vocal coach on Blue, appreciates the pioneering work that he’s been a part of. He agrees with Van Gay, but has a desire to see more thematic

tive to their population size.) But it also speaks to a codependency between both communities, where what one group does affects the other, typically with Black folks bearing the brunt or carrying the burden because of their marginalized status. In my opinion, this notion is no different than what we see play out on the opera stage. Showcasing Black trauma is itself the result of marginalization because of the inherent need to humanize the Black experience to audiences for whom these real-life traumatic events might not be immediately familiar nor relevant. It also soothes Black audiences and has transformative powers that require a degree of self-sacrifice on the part of the storytellers. Additionally, when you have limited opportunities to cre-

“I wish that the narrative could be shifted into something that is beyond the trauma that we’ve experienced for the last several hundred years, that we have such a large legacy. But we can’t move forward until we are able to properly address the grievances that have been systemic for so long. What better way to do that than to portray what’s been going on in an artful and meaningful way through the medium of opera?” diversity in deference to the broad canon of classical opera, “Where is the comedy and the romance when they’re telling our stories? There’s never a regular comedy anymore. We’re going farther and farther away in opera. For the new pieces that are coming out now, there’s no comedy in anything. So, why are we steering away from that part of opera?” There’s a popular saying that “When white folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia.” This term has been used to signify the severity with which Black Americans suffer from the same maladies relative to white Americans, owing largely to a disparity of care and access. (We’ve seen this play out during the coronavirus pandemic, with the deaths of African Americans in larger percentages than whites rela1

ate seminal work that is moving, puts butts in seats, and that can get approval from powerful gatekeepers, I wager it might be easier to pull at the heartstrings; for who makes up the majority of patrons at opera and classical music performances? So, it stands to reason that for the sake of progress, performance trauma experienced by Black artists is par for the course. Every year since 1976, the organization now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has adopted a theme11 for Black History Month. This year’s theme is “Health and Wellness.” Its aim is to recognize the achievement of African Americans in the fields of medicine and healthcare, but also to bring a focus to the lack of

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access to care in the Black community and promote a sense of urgency about the importance of physical, emotional and, more increasingly, mental health care for overall well-being and self-preservation Historically, with the dearth of public and private sector efforts to promote and prioritize health and wellness in the African American community, the ASALH lists several organizations and institutions of higher learning that African Americans have pioneered to fill the void. They include various community clinics spearheaded by such organizations as the African Union Society, National Association of Colored Women, and the Black Panther Party, as well as medical and nursing programs at Howard University College of Medicine, Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College. Such grassroots programs have been instrumental in achieving better outcomes than less targeted strategies that don’t prioritize the unique needs of more marginalized communities. In recognition of the African American community’s rich history of banding together to meet its own


needs, I challenge Black art makers in positions of power to create a diverse array of stories that show the fullness of the Black experience beyond trauma. As well, they should normalize self-preservational therapies, which have been traditionally taboo in Black circles, and make them available to their cast and crew, especially when handling subject matter that can be emotionally exacting—and even rage-provoking—for performers and staff. Blue’s Hunter, who incorporates reflection, long walks, and mental moments to escape mentally as coping mechanisms, suggests that artists, too, can prioritize therapy as a fulcrum for their own well-being and sanity, “Honestly, finding a good therapist is essential to this career long-term and, let's be real, for living on planet earth today. There are now so many different ways to access mental health care without breaking the bank. I highly recommend it. If that's not an avenue for you, then make sure you have a community around you or a quick phone call away who are ready to surround you with love and help you reconnect with yourself.”  Above: Credit: Karli Cadel / The Glimmerglass Festival

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NEW YORK SPOTLIGHT Jamie Barton is stepping in to sing the role of Princess Eboli in The Metropolitan Opera's new production of the original five-act French version of Verdi's Don Carlos, replacing Elīna Garanča, who has withdrawn.


Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts a star cast, including tenor Matthew Polenzani in the title role, soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth de Valois, Etienne Dupuis as Rodrigue, Eric Owens as Philippe II, John Relyea as the Grand Inquisitor, and Barton as Eboli. Barton was scheduled to star in The Met's performances of Handel's Rodelinda, but the company announced that “due to scheduling challenges caused by the pandemic, the performance of Rodelinda planned for March 31, 2022, has been canceled.”  * Performances of Don Carlos are February 28, March 3, 6, 10, 13, 18, 22 and 26; Patrick Furrer will conduct the March 18 performance. The March 26 matinee will be transmitted live to cinemas around the world as part of the Met's Live in HD series.

Photo Credit: BreeAnn Clowdus

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SAN FRAN SPOTLIGHT The Schwabacher Recital Series*, presented by San Francisco Opera Center and Merola Opera Program, returns Tuesday, March 15 with a program dedicated to the wide spectrum of gender expression in song. Two 2021 participants of the Merola Opera Program, mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz and pianist Erica Xiaoyan Guo, will share the stage with guitarist Tatiana Senderowicz.

SOMETHING COOL Nikola Printz; Photos courtesy: San Francisco Opera

Printz described their concept for the concert: “This program is a love letter to all forms of gender expression told with a narrative or finding and flailing through the thin veil between femininity, masculinity and all that glitters in between. Like breaking the binary—I wanted to step out of the traditional mold of recitals and put my story in three parts. I like to think of it like an opera where the main character I am playing is myself!”  * The series of four recitals (March 15, April 6, April 27 and July 28) at San Francisco’s Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater and San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall

Erica Guo

Tatiana Senderowicz

presents emerging artists from around the globe in the intimacy of a recital setting.

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Opera Estudio del Noroeste (OPEN) OPEN is the third Opera Studio in Mexico and opens its doors with a generation of 9 members, young people under 30 who aspire to a brilliant operatic career.

in tempo


The General and Artistic Director, Armando Piña, announced that the season will continue on February 24 with a mariachi show called “IDOLOS DE MI TIERRA” (Idols of My Land), with the most representatives songs of the Mexican Idols: Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Javier Solis, Lola Beltran and many others. They will close the season in June with Donizetti’s “L’ Elisir D’ Amore”. The “First Generation” of Opera Estudio del Noroeste (OPEN) is made up of sopranos Zyanya Cruz (26 years old/CDMX), Carolina Herrera (25 years old/Guanajuato) and Abigail Favela (27 years old/Sinaloa); Mezzosoprano Elvira Márquez (26 years old/Zacatecas); Tenors: Luis Sánchez Cornejo (23 years old/Sinaloa) and Osvaldo Martínez (25 years old/Guanajuato); Baritones/Basses: Juan Carlos Villalobos (22 years old/Michoacán), Raúl Morales (27 years old/Veracruz) and Mario Vega (29 years old/Chihuahua), with the accompaniment of the Pianist Katia Salgado (26 years old/BCS) and the Director Musical and pianist: Miguel Brito. 

“IDOLOS DE MI TIERRA” (Idols of My Land) Feb 24


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SHOULD I WEAR A FACE MASK? (That is the question!) by Fikayo John


OVID-19 has changed the way we live, and it has also affected all facets of our lives. When the pandemic was at its peak, events were put on hold to prevent the virus's continued spread, and musical concerts were also suspended due to the lockdowns. Thankfully, life is slowly returning to normal, and we can now have some of these con54 FEB- MAR 2022

certs. As the pandemic persists, safety protocols remain in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. One such safety measure is wearing face masks. The question always arises if singers should wear masks while performing. If they do so, which type of mask should they wear? Here, we answer all of these questions in detail.

Why We Need Masks

• Sometimes, it is important to remind ourselves of the need to put on masks to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus travels from one person to another. For example, whenever an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, they release droplets that can travel as far as six feet. These tiny droplets can then make their way into the noses and mouths of others. • And remember, you can't tell who is infected with Covid-19 and who isn't. Almost 40% of people who contract the virus don't know they do because they are asymptomatic.1 1 2 3

While there isn't concrete data yet, available evidence overwhelmingly points to the fact that masks add a layer of protection against the virus. This is because they can filter these droplets from making their way to your mouth and nose. Following this, data clearly shows that they prevent 95% of deaths. 2 • Apart from protecting yourself, you're also helping others, as you may be the infected one. You should note that getting vaccinated isn't a reason to stop putting on masks, as the vaccines are not 100% protection against the virus. Vaccinated persons are also more likely to be asymptomatic.3

How many SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic? ( Modeling COVID-19 scenarios for the United States | Nature Medicine Why to Keep Wearing a Mask After the COVID-19 Vaccine – Cleveland Clinic

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face masks

health & wellness

Which Types of Masks are Recommended? While masks are essential, you should note that they aren't created equal. There are different masks, offering various levels of protection against the COVID-19 pathogen. They include: • Cloth Masks These are made of fabric intended to prevent droplets from escaping when a person coughs or sneezes. These masks can become even more effective if they contain layers of tight fabric materials such as cotton. Sadly, this type is not the most recommended form of protection. Yet, if you need to use one, ensure there aren't spaces around the sides and that the fabric is tightly woven. • Face Shields Face shields are made of strong transparent plastic glass material and typically cover the entire face from the eyes down to the chin. You can wear solely without the need for a mask, but the standard style is to use them along with a mask. • N95 Respirators The US CDC says these are the most effective because they are able to trap even tiny particles.4 Researchers say an N95 mask is still the most effective form of protection as Delta variant and Omicron concerns linger. • Surgical Masks Like the N95, surgical masks are those we see medical workers use. 4

Effectiveness of Face Mask or Respirator Use in Indoor Public Settings for Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 Infection —

California, February–December 2021 | MMWR ( 56 FEB- MAR 2022

face masks  health & wellness

Should Singers Wear Masks? The question always comes up regarding whether these mask precautions should apply to musicians while they are on stage. This is worth contemplating, especially if we consider the fact that mask-wearing can be uncomfortable, as it traps airflow to some extent. Do Singers Need Masks? Any singer who prioritizes preventing the spread of COVID-19 should wear a face mask during a performance. Concerts are often crowded, creating a potentially high concentration of the pathogen. Masks can provide immediate protection. What Types of Masks Should Singers Wear? Any face mask adds some layer of protection against COVID-19. There are, however, some special considerations. For instance, the singer should preferably go for a mask type that allows for sufficient breathing. Face masks designed for singers are available on the market. These masks are available for purchase via online stores such as Amazon using the search term "singer's vocal mask." Downsides to Singers Wearing Masks While putting on masks for performance, singers 5

should be prepared to make trade-offs apart from the restricted airflow. These include: • Drop-in Pitch and Volume If you're the singer that sings at high frequencies, be prepared to have some of that toned down when performing with a mask. The standard measurement for sound pitch is the decibel (DB), and an Opera singer can go up to 90 DB. Sadly, the mask can take away between 3 and 15 dB, depending on the type and material. 5 • Muffled Voice Frequencies Then, masks may also weaken words such as unvoiced consonants, which will make it seem like you are mumbling when singing. As such, listeners may have a hard time making out your lyrics. • Reduced Facial Communication Your body and facial gestures during a performance are significant, but the expressive capacity is reduced drastically when wearing a face covering. Final Thoughts It is no gainsaying that COVID-19 has severely affected the performing arts. However, with the pandemic still raging, it is necessary to take the proper precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus, including mask-wearing. 

How Do Medical Masks Degrade Speech Reception? | The Hearing Review

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What's on the menu?

by Courtney Carey


ith 1 billion annual users as of 2021, TikTok is a social media platform with a range of video content, including millions of food focused videos. By the time I finally downloaded the app and signed up for a new account, all of my friends were die-hard fans of the app, and many of them had their own devoted followers. I have to be honest. I downloaded the app in 2020, but never really used it until some time in 2021. Two of my friends kept sending me videos of people lip syncing to various songs and videos of dogs bopping their heads to some pretty awful 80s music. I usually deleted the videos they sent without watching, but one day I decided to click play and watch. I watched four videos consecutively, and I was hooked. As I scrolled further down my TikTok feed, I stumbled upon a video from the “My Italian Husband” channel, which chronicles the lives of Carlo (an Italian immigrant) and Sarah (his American wife). In the video, Sarah tosses Carlo a package of cauli-

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flower gnocchi, to which he replies “che un’ altra cosa con the cauliflower? Another thing-a with the cauliflower. Why everything in America do with the cauliflower? Cauliflower and the chick-a-the-peas!” I have to admit that I laughed at that video for 15 minutes straight. He does have a point! With the onset of the plant-based eating craze, cauliflower and chickpeas are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Our first issue featured a recipe for chickpea salad, which incidentally is one of our most viewed recipes. As I planned the recipes for this issue, I thought about Carlo and Sarah and laughed the entire time. I love chickpeas, and I am always looking for new ways to use them. Banza changed the game a while back when they introduced a line of pasta made from chickpeas. As if that weren’t enough, they have now expanded the line to include rice and pizza crust! So, I’ve included a few recipes here using chickpeas, including soups, pizza, and pasta. Buon appetito! 

Cooking with Chickpeas

Dried Chickpeas You prepare dried chickpeas like any other dried bean. The first thing you want to do is empty your beans out into a colander. Go through the beans with your hands and pick out anything that does not look like a bean. Sometimes rocks or other particles are in the batch. Rinse them thoroughly and add them to a bowl. Fill a kettle with water and boil the water. Pour the boiling water over the beans, cover them, and let them soak overnight. Once the beans have softened you can drain and rinse them and use them in your dish. The beans won't be fully softened at this point, so depending on the texture you need, you will have to cook them further. Canned Chickpeas Canned chickpeas are easy to use. Pop the lid, pour them into a colander, rinse them, and they are ready to use, right? Wrong! That pesky skin Whether you are using dried chickpeas or canned, you'll likely want to remove the skin from the peas before adding them to your dish. Once the peas have soaked over night (if using dried peas), or rinsed from the can, lay them onto a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the peas and gently rub them. The first pass will remove most of the skins from the peas. Repeat the process until you have removed all of the skins.

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Smoky Chickpea Soup FOR THE SOUP: INGREDIENTS 2 15.5 oz. cans chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) 3 cups homemade chicken stock 1 cup water 1/4 cup white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon tomato paste 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup diced red onion 1 small carrot grated 3 tablespoons minced garlic 1 parmesan cheese rind 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

FOR THE OIL: INGREDIENTS 1 12 oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce 11/2 cups extra virgin olive oil


To prepare the soup, drain and rinse the peas. Follow the steps listed above to remove the skins. Once completed, heat olive oil in a medium sized sauce pot set over medium high heat. Sautée the onions for approximately 5 minutes, or until translucent and softened. Add the garlic and grated carrot. Cook for 2 minutes then add the chicken stock, water, salt, pepper, chickpeas, tomato paste, and cheese rind (Note: rinse the rind before use). Cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. Remove the rind, and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove the peas from the heat, and carefully pour the peas and liquid into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Puree the peas, slowly adding in the white wine vinegar through the feed tube. Reheat and drizzle with chipotle oil and top with micro greens (optional) and enjoy. To prepare the chipotle and adobo oil, add the oil to a small sauce pot set over medium heat. Immediately add the peppers and sauce. Allow the peppers to heat up. Once they are sizzling in the pot, turn off the heat and mash the peppers with a fork releasing more of their flavor. Once the oil is cooled, fish out the peppers and set them aside for use in another dish. Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve so that it is free of any extra bits of pepper or adobo sauce. The oil should be a vibrant orange color. 

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Hearty Chickpea & Dino Kale Soup FOR THE SOUP: INGREDIENTS 2 15.5 oz. cans chickpeas (drained and rinsed) 2 cups diced yellow onion 2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts, thoroughly cleaned) 2 cups chopped carrots (peeled and rinsed) 8 cups dino kale (stemmed, washed, and chopped) 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic 2 cups homemade chicken stock 3 cups water 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper 3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce 2/4 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc) Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the yellow onions, carrots, and leeks. Cook until onions and leeks are translucent and softened. Add the garlic, kale, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and allow to cook until the greens have started to wilt. After the greens have wilted down, add the stock, water, and worcestershire sauce. Cook the soup uncovered on medium heat for 25 minutes. Add the wine and cook an additional 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy. 

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Curry Pizza on chickpea pizza crust FOR THE CURRY: INGREDIENTS 4 tablespoons minced garlic 4 tablespoons minced ginger 4 tablespoons minced lemongrass 4-5 tablespoons of water 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons curry powder 3 tablespoons coconut cream 1/2 cup chopped red onion 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Buy a really good curry powder and it will serve you well. The one we used has turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, fennel, cinnamon, fenugreek, white pepper, arrowroot, cardamom, cloves & black pepper.

FOR THE MEAT INGREDIENTS 1 hot Italian sausage 1 sweet Italian sausage 1 cup of sliced cremini mushrooms 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes 1/4 cup dry white wine 2 strips of applewood smoked bacon

White wine gives the ground pork a special punch of flavor. We recommend using a good quality sauvignon blanc which has grassy herbal notes of thyme, bell pepper, and gooseberry.

Chickpea pizza crusts are


a good alternative for those who are on a gluten-free diet.

INGREDIENTS 1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese 1/4 cup bufala mozarella 1 chickpea pizza crust (like Banza brand)

Chickpeas pack tons of protein and fiber, which are essential to maintaining good gut health and regularity.

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FOR THE CURRY: Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pot set over medium heat. Finely mince garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. (Note: Remove about 1/4 inch off the tip of the lemon grass and the same for the bottom. Slice the lemongrass down the middle and chop into small half circles, then finely mince. If the lemongrass is fibrous, slice it in half lengthwise, and place the lemongrass onto a cutting board. Cover the lemongrass with parchment paper and pound the lemongrass with a meat mallet or a rolling pin to break the fibers and make cutting easier.) Add the ginger, lemongrass and onion to the oil, sautéing until they are tender. Then, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the salt, pepper and curry powder. (Note: it is important to cook the curry powder for approximately 3 minutes to cook off the raw spice taste.) Add the coconut cream to the pot and reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and then add to a blender. Puree the mixture on high speed until completely smooth. Add water to the mixture to make the blending process smoother. Place the puree back into the pot and cook an additional 5 minutes on low heat. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Freeze for 3 months. FOR THE MEAT: Heat the oil in a medium skillet set over medium high heat. Chop the bacon and pieces and add to the skillet and cook until the bacon is thoroughly cooked and golden brown. Remove the bacon from the skillet using a slotted spoon and lay onto a paper towel to drain off any excess oil. Add the mushrooms and sausage to the pan (do not throw away the rendered fat left in the skillet after cooking the bacon), and cook them until browned. Once the sausage and mushrooms are cooked and browned, add the chili flakes and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes then add the wine. Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, approximately 10 minutes. THE CRUST: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the crust onto a pizza stone or a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Cook the crust for 10 minutes (without any toppings). After 10 minutes remove the pizza from the oven and layer on the toppings starting with the curry sauce. Spoon on enough curry sauce to completely cover the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top of the curry. Then spoon the meat mixture (sausage, mushrooms, and garlic) on top of the mozzarella. Then sprinkle on the reserved bacon. Top the pizza with remaining cheese and put the pizza into the oven and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn on the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and gooey. Serve hot and enjoy. 

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Pesto Rotini with Roasted Broccoli with chickpea rotini pasta INGREDIENTS 1/2 lb. chickpea rotini pasta 2 cups of broccoli roasted 4 cups water 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest 3 tablespoons good store bought pesto sauce 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts 2 tablespoons fresh parmesan cheese 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes FOR THE BROCCOLI: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place 2 cups of broccoli (for this recipe we used frozen) onto a sheet tray and drizzle 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on top. Season with the salt and pepper and toss the broccoli. Roast for 20 minutes. Toss and roast an additional 20 minutes.

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FOR THE SAUCE • Add the water to a medium sauce pot set over high heat, and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling add the pasta to the water and cook according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta, cover, and set aside. • Add the remaining oil to a medium sauce pan set over medium high heat. Add the garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes to the oil. Cook for 2 minutes to allow the garlic to soften. Add the pasta to the garlic, oil, lemon zest, red pepper flakes. Toss the pasta and then stir in the pesto. Add the walnuts and half of the parmesan cheese. Remove from the heat and prepare the dish as follows. (NOTE: Stirring the pesto separately keeps the pesto from breaking down. In the recipe test where I added the pesto to the oil, it broke down a bit, and the texture changed) 1. Place half of the pasta onto a plate. 2. Top the pasta with the roasted broccoli 3. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the plated dish. Serve and enjoy!  ABOUT STORE BOUGHT PESTO SAUCE

As always when taking a shortcut, you want to buy premium quality ingredients. I used Rao's pesto sauce for this recipe. Because it's high in sodium I did not add any salt to the pasta water. The sodium from the pesto was enough to season the dish well.


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"Every bite is harmonious"!TM 70 FEB- MAR 2022

TEBALDI 100 1922 | 2022

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enata Tebaldi, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday on February 1, 2022, was an Italian lirico-spinto soprano. From 1944–1976, she dominated the opera scene, predominantly in Italian operas by Verdi, Puccini, and Cilea. Arturo Toscanini once said she had "the voice of an angel." Miss Tebaldi was a singer of overwhelming expressivity and peerless vocal allure; arguably, hers was the most opulent lirico-spinto soprano voice to emerge from Italy in the post-war era. “Whenever someone mentions her voice, the first word that comes up is usually some variation of ‘beautiful.’ And indeed, she sang very beautifully—not only the sound of her voice itself, but her style, and the way she caressed a phrase,” says Ken Benson, artist manager. The soprano was not without her flaws. Sometimes her technique would betray her, causing occasional lapses in intonation. The voice could often take on a metallic edge when the vocal line carried her above B-flat. But despite any shortcomings, fans fawned over her resplendent sound, dreamy legato lines, and shimmering pianissimi. Renata Tebaldi was born in Pesaro, Italy, the daughter of cellist Teobaldo Tebaldi and Giuseppina Barbieri, a nurse. After recovering from polio, contracted when she was 3, she studied singing at the Parma Academy of Music with Ettore Campogalliani, but owes her principal training to soprano Carmen Melis, with whom she studied at the Liceo Musicale Rossini in Pesaro. She made her debut on May 23, 1944, at the Teatro Sociale in Rovigo as Helen in Mefistofele,

and the year after at the Regio Theatre of Parma (La Bohème, L’Amico Fritz and Andrea Chénier) and at the Verdi Theatre in Trieste (Otello). In 1955, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with Otello, and the venerated theater remained her home until her retirement from the opera stage. Performances at other major American opera houses, including Chicago Lyric Opera and Opera San Francisco, crowned her seasons. A major vocal crisis in 1963 compelled her to take a year off. During this period, she reworked her technique, which led to mixed reviews, even among her most ardent fans. Nevertheless, during what she referred to as her second career, “She left an impression,” says baritone Sherrill Milnes, who shared the stage with Tebaldi in the late 1960s and early ’70s when she was near the end of her singing career. Milnes adds, “But even when she was not in her best form, audiences believed it was the character that was struggling, not her.” Dedicated solely to her art and her public, Tebaldi never married. In a 1995 interview with The Times, Miss Tebaldi said she had no regrets about her single life. "I was in love many times," she said, flashing her dimpled smile. "This is very good for a woman." But she added, "How could I have been a wife, a mother and a singer? Who takes care of the piccolini when you go around the world? Your children would not call you Mama, but Renata." Her final operatic performance came in 1973 as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello with James McCracken in the title role, Sherrill Milnes as Iago and a young James Levine conducting. Her artistic career ended with a recital at the Scala Theatre on May 23, 1976. After returning to Italy, she divided her time between Milan and San Marino, where she died on December 19, 2004. 

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“I know that my voice has entered into the hearts of many people and has caused beautiful reactions. Some, hearing me sing, have become more religious; some who were ill felt joy; friends, while in hospital, played my tapes whenever they felt ill; they all said that my voice gave them the strength needed to stand the pain. Therefore, how can I not be thankful for this great gift?”





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Used by permission Museo Renata Tebaldi

Used by permission Museo Renata Tebaldi

Photo credit: Louis Milancon

Sherrill Milnes on Renata Tebaldi One example of her grace was during [ Andrea] Chenier in 1966 at the old Met, which was a production scheduled for Gobbi, Bergonzi and Tebaldi. I was incredibly nervous to be put in as the baritone when Tito canceled. Right after the big Act 3 duet with Renata, when we took our bows together, I felt her release my hand and saw her backing off the stage with a gesture to me to indicate I needed to take a solo bow. Incredibly, she left me on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera alone, allowing me to take accolades as the freshman of the cast to an enthusiastic audience. I felt, even then, incredibly honored to have been with such a great, and gracious, legend.

Used by permission Museo Renata Tebaldi

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Used by permission Museo Renata Tebaldi

Placido Domingo & Renata Tebaldi The magnificent diva christened Plácido Domingo’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968 in Adriana Lecouvreur after sharing the stage in La Bohème at the Boston Lyric Opera. They performed together again in Tosca and Andrea Chénier at the Metropolitan Opera.

“Renata Tebaldi wrote pages in the history of opera,” said Domingo. “Singing alongside her is an experience that cannot be put into words, she was an extraordinary diva” he added. Photo credit: Louis Milancon

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Renata Tebaldi: Love and Hope in Sound


an open letter by Aprile Millo

he world of opera is not a place of pintsized emotions. It is where life is magnified and all the ordinary becomes almost mythical. It would then follow easily that those who soar the highest, dare the bravest, cut us to our deepest quick could not be spoken of in any other way than in hushed tones and exalted terms, in barely calibrated voices of mixed hysteria and euphoria. Some voices inspire this. In the voice and person of Renata Tebaldi, all that operatic dimension of love and worship made sense. All words ceased having any power to communicate the miracle of harmony and power, of legato and elegant expression wed to a supersonic instrument of immense beauty and personal charisma that completely drove audiences into delirium. Listening to her touched a very deep, very primal chord in opera fans and the opera public worldwide. Nothing could be wrong if someone sounded like that, no problem could go unsolved. Mankind had hope in that sound of love and acceptance. I first had the honor of hearing this magnificent voice in recital in Los Angeles. To say that there was

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mass hysteria in the auditorium of over 2,000 people would be putting it lightly. She towered onstage in a gown of coral peach with long, bell-like sleeves. With eyes so blue, sparkling, and filled with femininity and a sense of openness and mystery. A 10,000-watt smile and magnificent cream-colored skin. A tall woman who carried herself beautifully, despite her childhood polio. All I knew was that when she stepped onstage, everyone in the house wanted her to do well, prayed for her to do well, and would scream so loudly to show their love and support for her so that she would feel safe and inspired to give her all. She made you care. And when you speak of generosity in a singer, you have not heard anything as generous as that sound, pouring over the footlights. It would warm you and alarm you at the same time with its power, and for the feeling that you’d jumped on Pegasus and were holding on for dear life because that kind of experience is rare and the rush was intoxicating. When she finished an aria, or even an art song, with all that immense beauty and sound coming at you, you wanted to return her love with the loudest clapping and sounds of your own to match the love you felt and wanted to give. I have never seen anything like this love affair between performer and audience and public, and I have seen many great singers receive love and hysteria … just not like this. This would

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be the beginning of a really wonderful friendship that I would cherish for the rest of my life. Tebaldi was a highly intelligent, extraordinarily wise singer, an architect of her own kind who formed the arcs of melody in beguiling ways of delicacy and power, informed by having been a pianist as well. It proved hypnotic. I listened to everything she’d ever recorded, and felt inspired that if she could sing it, then perhaps I could, too. She was very kind to take an interest in my development, and in letters to me would detail what to look for and search out in my own soul for the right blend of text and music. We had agreed to meet in Milano at her gorgeous apartment. This was where I’d also met my

very dear friend, the amazing Tina Viganò—the personal assistant, best friend and confidante of Renata Tebaldi—who just passed away in Milano on the 100th anniversary of Madame Tebaldi’s birth, a completed cycle for the selfless, talented and humble keeper of all things Tebaldi, and very beloved to me and all who loved Renata. It is my hope that a story will be written about this great lady. She was so brilliant, and a time capsule of great history and knowledge of voice and of the


opera. Tina used to stand in the wings and prompt Renata with the words and musical cues to every opera she sang, without a score if needed. It is a story that needs telling … e spent an hour or so getting to know each other, and from there, she invited me to come work with her. I almost fell over. The first role I was preparing was Andrea Chénier … I remember walking into this beautiful little church in San Marino where she lived during the summer months, and I was quite amazed at her attention to detail and how extraordinary she was as an actress. We had a break for a tiny bit, as Maestro Eugene Kohn would be playing seven or eight of the different pieces that they ‘d worked on musically together, and she would begin singing. This was a rare moment, because she’d had bronchitis—and I thought, “There's no way she'll be able to show me what she would like for me to do,” as I would be the first person she would ever teach. She said to me squarely that if she liked what we did, perhaps she would teach; perhaps she would give master classes. I felt a great responsibility to make sure that she felt comfortable, and that she would have a marvelous success because she would be very accomplished as a teacher as well. But as Eugene started to play the melody from [the opera] La forza del destino … now she started to sing … “La vergine … degli angeli …” the church melted away, as she weaved a tone of such exceptional spin and harmony that we seemed to travel on both the sound and light emanating from her throat and soul, suspended in a hint of Paradise we will not see before we die. “E voi protegggggggggg-aaaaaaa …” swelled from pianissimo to full forte … and it hung like a piece of jewelry in the air … I am not ashamed to say tears ran down my face. I tried to tell her of the gift she had given me in that moment, how magnificent her voice was, the feeling and sacredness, the mythic quality so that you knew what you were listening to was


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one-of-a-kind … unique and blessed by a higher power … and as I cried with my head in her lap, she comforted me with, “I know …” The Stradivarius knew its worth. e spoke almost every four or five months, and whenever I was in Italy we would visit. Her legendary return to New York City was in 1995, with perhaps 75 people expected—and thousands showed up, wrapped around the block. Hours of signing photos and being available to her fans … her walking into the Met, down the aisles, with the house tipped off she was arriving was unreal … as soon as she came in, the house erupted into deafening cheers and she came down the aisle like the Queen Mary into port … slow, majestic, charismatic … every move greeted by prolonged cheers, everyone whispering, “That’s Tebaldi!” “… Oh my God, it’s Renata Tebaldi …” It felt like an opera house that night. That magic connection with something unexplainable but


the only time I ever saw those buildings until the day they were no more. Standing in the nook of a car that would take her home to Milano, she expressed humbly how thrilling it was for her that New York had missed her, too. I hugged her so hard. Yes, New York City loves her to this day. The box office loved when she sang because they were always sold out … no one missed a performance … a chance to say Hello!! To all the young people: find her recordings and let them bathe you in that sound. Firm, supported, no extra noise, just the perfect harmonic blend. Be unafraid to believe in yourself and your art … unapologetic … you are the center of opera … without the voice, it is but a symphony. [As we celebrate] the 100th anniversary of her birth, be born to her art and her message; let her confirm for you a better world … if love and inclusion, and redemption and possibility… hope … if they all had a sound, it would be hers.

To all the young people: find her recordings and let them bathe you in that sound. Firm, supported, no extra noise, just the perfect harmonic blend. Be unafraid to believe in yourself and your art … unapologetic … you are the center of opera … without the voice, it is but a symphony. deeply profound … that human quality mixed with the divine … an emotion you did not have to explain, just feel … She turned to give a sweeping individual wave to the upper stories of the red velveted Metropolitan Opera House, bringing cheers and screaming I can still hear … the love was tangible … and the reciprocal need to express it to her … absolute. During her stay, I took her to the World Trade Center. She said, “Will they let me go up?” I had called ahead so they knew, and they showed her all the places of interest—and her delight was contagious at the breathtaking views and the accomplishment of their architecture. It would be 78 FEB- MAR 2022


appy Birthday to you, Renata … a vocal God to me … a cherished friend … a legendary voice and person, a complete Italian soprano with all the glories of the Italian tradition in your sound and discipline, and the fresh, open, generous soul of all that is Italy in your sound. God bless you for all you have done and continue to do. Your beautiful Museum in Busseto, Italy—Museo Renata Tebaldi—is not to be missed. Surrounded by your costumes and your personal gowns and scores and such, it feels like you are there. It is beautifully done. Thank you, Renata Tebaldi, for being the first voice—outside of the great voices of my Mom and

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Dad—to invite me into this special world of giant feelings and intimate truths, this magical bridge to another world of indescribable beauty and charm. You continue to excite the new generations … no one who sings doesn’t know who you are, especially if they have a beautiful voice … and yes, everyone remembers and gives thanks that such a giant strode the earth at one time and gave such light and beauty so generously.  Brava Renata!!!! Per sempre divina … La tua, Aprile Photos courtesy: Aprile Millo

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star pick


REVIEW by Richard Oliver


Classical music, like all

on and proven success other genres of the meof artistic collabdium, is swiftly becomoratives leading creative processing accustomed to the es. Shifting focus growing emphasis to the art and the artist, the results tend toward fresh works that are complex, comprehensive, and challenging. At the height of the pandemic, when individual empowerment

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and adaptability proved essential assets for most artists’ survival, Gillian Riesen founded Emitha LLC with collaboration at the center of its mission—a design and production company for artists, by artists. And, with last month’s launch of their new independent classical music label, Lexicon Classics, comes a debut album that exemplifies that principle as an effective vehicle for producing art that’s

gorgeous and evocative. As a general rule, I tend to shy away from live vocal albums, h o w e v e r, Lament: Live From Brevard Music Center, manages a thoughtful amalgamation of moods, themes, and textures, to the extent that the incidental ambient noise of the hall takes less than it gives to the listening experience. Baritone Sidney Outlaw, in collaboration with his mentor and accompanist Warren Jones, turns in five distinct sets comprising traditional spirituals and the music and poetry of Black composers and writers—like Owens, Curenton, and Hughes. Outlaw is robust and affectionate with the material— his tone, lithe and unfettered, but evenly powerful throughout the range. Jones’ expansive tonal palette gives the accompaniment thoughtful texture, over which Outlaw employs a resonant spin that is responsive to each set’s changing moods. Over the course of 21 tracks, Lament studies the varied nuances of Black history and culture—the alluring and the woeful—and reflects its findings in vibrant detail, with shifting infusions of supple modernism, doleful expressionism, and uninhibited ornamentation. “Fourth of July Speech” sets Frederick Douglass’ “What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July?” in gripping drama, while “Joy” combines plush virtuosity with sincere melody and theme. So far, Lexicon Classics is one for one. 

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