Saturday, December 12, 2015

Past two weeks in review

Dear Readers,

A quick update from these last two weeks for you:

I had the great fortune to work with visiting guest artists Martin Katz, Kathleen Kelly, and Sara Chiesa.

We're ploughing through my repertoire. We worked through pieces by Wolf, Brahms, Donizetti, Romberg, Liszt, Verdi, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky. We worked through art song, arias, and operetta. It's really nice to woodshed old and new repertoire.

Meanwhile, we've also been preparing Copland's The Tender Land with Suzanne Acton, which opens in March.

Last, but not least, I have been preparing for a performance of Mozart's Missa Brevis [et solemnis] in C K.258 ("Spaur" or "Piccolimini"). Video Courtesy of You Tube

In preparation I've been watching and reading about historically informed performance practice. Check out this video.

Thanks for reading,
Joe

Friday, December 4, 2015

a thought

"the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December Post 1

Dear Readers,

Thank you for a great response to my Thanksgiving post! I apologize for it, but grateful that you were so kind to accept it and me.

I had the esteemed pleasure to sing for Dr. Joel Kahn on two occasions this past week. I sang for the opening of his vegan restaurant GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale, MI, and again there, for a friend's 25th wedding anniversary.

Dr. Kahn is a sweet and generous man, not to mention a pioneer and gem of an advocate for our bodies.

I was very fortunate, there always seems to be a blessing in disguise, to work with Siobhan Cronin and her mother Anne Marie Cronin for the first gig. It's exciting to meet, and network with new people in a new city. The task, as I am sure you know, is daunting at first. Leaving New York for Detroit meant leaving behind contacts, gigs, and opportunities harvested through networking and friendship.

We're starting out work on Aaron Copland's the Tender Land this week. The show goes up in early March, but I think having this advanced preparation on it will lead to fantastic results. I am in the camp of singers who prefer to have as much time to get a piece in to their mind, body and throat before it has to be up on its feet. Other prefer the Duke Ellington approach = deadline are self-motivating.

Cheers to more fun, more music, and a strong end to a crazy year... despite the hardships and days that seemed to last for years, 2015 has come and is going fast. It feels like yesterday that I was thanking everyone for the success of completing my doctorate - now... I am in Michigan.

Time flies, as trite as it maybe be - whether it is fun or not - it flies.

Happy December opera fans.

Yours,
Joe

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving!

Dear Reader,

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 In the past I have celebrated today's holiday with family, or by hosting colleagues and international students. This Thanksgiving holiday marks my first Thanksgiving in Detroit, my first without a turkey cooking in my oven, and my first with out a myriad of loved ones and/or friends with whom to share laughs, food, drink, and memories.

As a result of my "choice" to stay in Detroit, I have been brooding... well, better, ruminating on several observations, or musings, for hours. I have fought with the decision to post (or, alternatively, not post) those thoughts, ideas, and observations. In the end, as you see before you, the choice to share a mild stream-of-consciousness essay won-out.

I am sure that you are well aware, as readers of my blog, that I am by no means a writer or poet. My epistolary skills, and shy - if not failing - vocabulary would probably make the least of the great authors of the English language roll in their graves, or say special prayers for those victim to my postings. Admitting that sad reality, and offering sincere apologies for those who continue to suffer through my thoughts, I am reminded that this blog is as much for the reader as it is for the writer. I am also reminded that this choice - to read my blog - is in fact your choice, and by opening myself and thoughts to you, you are welcomed to accept, engage, ignore, disdain, celebrate, and/or condemn my thoughts and my blog. Ideally, this will bring us closer - or at the very least, some bizarre catharsis.

One more preliminary. I have to thank Angela Theis, Mat and Rose, Susan Prevoznak, and my brother William "Billy" Brent for offering to host me this Thanksgiving.
---------------------

My thoughts through out the day have been plagued with critical self-rapprochement. I can't help but fall into a particular thought pattern; a pattern I find so distasteful when I read or see it in someone else - that might be the reason why I am so turned off by it. Here, stuck immobile to the plain reality, I am compelled to address these not-so-profound observations of a 28-year-old, lower middle class, white, male, opera singer from New York. Replete with and enveloped by all of my cultural, normative, inescapable, inborn, superimposed, and regrettable truths. I feel un-free (what a silly choice of word) from my self-critical, self-condemning rapprochement. I have spent already 380 words to tell you nothing. Not nothing, but nothing of the thoughts that lead me to my vitriolic diatribe. So, all of this put-down for what? At what cost, and/or for what purpose are these verbal and orthographic masochistic jabs?

That question, though in the guise of yet another layer of auto-enmity, is at the root of this autobiographical essay that you are reading.

"At what cost?" reminiscent of "sacrifice," related to "struggle."
"What is the value in...?"
Then the question to ask also, "to what benefit?" "to what joy?" "to what fulfillment?"
These questions spiral strait to "entitlement," "privilege," and even "gratitude."

I'm bombarded by self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-hate before I can fully nourish the very humanity that breeds my perception and self-curiosity. But these "self-" things feel, yet, imposed. Too, they feel like a layer of protection. They feel like a brilliant intellectual game played by the saboteur... well really, the self-sabotage aspect of my mind, which works to its own advantage (my conscious disadvantage?).

So how can I genuinely ask:
-What does a musician sacrifice for his/her art?
-At what cost does dedication to an art that, once committed, becomes a 24/7 concern, come?
-Will there ever be a gain that ranks in value of the sacrifice?
-Does this question come from a place of self pity?
-What of those soldiers, nurses, doctors, clergy-persons, doormen and women, security guards, police and countless others? What of their sacrifice?
-What of their gain?
-What of those less fortunate artists who struggle and receive no reward, or worse no encouragement?
-What of those people who are homeless, hurt, forced to live in hardship - but not by choice? what of those victims?

Of course, then ... I have to questions the circumstance, and the intrinsic value (if any thought, person, place, concept or things can have "intrinsic" value) of the very thing (or things) sacrificed.

I mean to say: "What is being sacrificed?" "What is the value of that sacrificed thing?"

An example:
A person who follows a vegan diet and lifestyle by choice, might say: I sacrifice the ease and simplicity of ordering food when going out or shopping for my strong commitment and belief in animal rights and healthy/sustainable food-service practices. There is a valuation and balance in this decision. Animals > Food. simple.

But what of something less physical in gain and in loss? What about psychological health? Emotional health? Is that something worth sacrificing? Can anything really be gained? Am I just being too sensitive?

Just forget about finances - that just throws a wrench into all things.

We sacrifice time (minutes, hours, days months, years, lifetimes), comfort, ease, memories, friendships, family, holidays, vacations, mental health, sometimes physical health, hobbies, lovers, and relationships (to name a few). We give endless tears, energy, love. Is it worth it?
Is any of it worth it? Would I be happier doing anything else? Am I happy do this? Is life really about happiness... or rather, not the attainment of happiness but "the pursuit of happiness?" Is human existence more like the masochistic rinse repeat of the Undergound Man [Dostoyevsky]? Is the Underground Man just another jester? How am I similar or dissimilar to him?
How much of the vindication or justification of my choices have to come from the value those choices have to me, meaning the value I assign to them? Must my commitment be fulfilled by my love? Am I asking for success with out struggle? What is success?  Do I not know love?
Do I not know happiness?

So where does a Thanksgiving stream of consciousness existential essay end?

It ends here:
Thank you to my mother and father, Jeannine Brent, and Bill Brent, for being the two most supportive and understanding parents a young musician could ask for (year I am ending the sentence with a preposition! 'cause that ain't a rule).
Thank you to my brother, Billy, who is quite possibly the best living human being on the planet.
A huge thanks to my grandparents Lucille and George Annunziato, without whom nearly all things in my life would be impossible.
Thank you to Yiselle Blum for being a constant source of affection, support, and a great friend.
Thank you to James Marks for being the best friend a guy could ask for (another preposition).
Thank you Danny Iuliano, Karen Assad, Nic Grosso, Costas Tsourakis, Richard Block, Justina Soto, Jason Blumquist, Natasha Blumquist, Brent Davis, Susan Prevoznak and my entire extended friend base from UGA Gloria and Bob Jackson, Kay Brown, Drs. Donald and Jo Anne Lowe, John and Nancy Songster, Kitty Wilson, and the entire OLLI Opera group, and of course my "besties" like Greg Hankins, Luca Lombardi, Serena Scibelli, Ben Smith, Francisco "Chico" Goncalves-Azevedo, Martina Kloss, Christopher Voss, Evelyn Shreves, Avery Draut, Kate Mulligan-Ferry, Emily Laminack, David Horger Mailee Speetjin and all my other southern connections.
Thank you to my few and dwindling Purchase College lovelies like Seeri Sung, Steve Kraatz, Matt Abramo, Ipek Brooks,  Ivy Wong, Margaret Garofalo, Rachel Ford, Natalie Carducci, Marshal Henry, Dan Merriman.
Thank you to my rekindled amours from FSSA Karen Rodriguez, Maria Ximena Paredes, and the Schaeter brothers!
Thank you to my summer program and professional colleagues: the dear Michaele Postell, Jeff Byrnes, Raehann Bryce-Davis, Angela Theis, Gordon Schermer, Brent M Smith, Ray Blackwell, Rob Chafin, John Dooley, Daniel Lopez, Caitlin McKechney, Rose and Matt, Elaine Rinaldi, Joan Kruger, Megahn Mashburn, Marshal Taylor, Catherine Giel, Martina Arroyo, Mark and Sadie Rucker, Irene Mastrangeli.
Thank you to Richard Leech and David DiChiera for inviting me to participate and hiring me to be a studio resident artist with Michigan Opera Theatre.
Thank you to Frederick Burchinal for years of support and believing in me.
Thank you to Kathryn Wright for teaching me more things than any one other single person.
Thank you to Milton Masciadri who is a constant source of support, joy and friendship.
Thank you to Timothy Cobb, without whom most of this life would have never been possible.
Thank you also to Gerry Hecht, Susanne Farrin, Stuart Isacoff, Adrian Childs, Dorothea Link, Emily Gertsch, Ubaldo Fabbri, Gary DiPasquasio, Sandra Lutters, Heidi Best, Thomas Sandri.
A very special thank you to three people who were taken from this world Mortey Damasek, Blaise Cladio Pascal and Ellen Goldfarb.

I am thankful and grateful for the generosity of a few more friends, family and family friends for their love, time, patience and support:
Thank you to my aunt and uncle Annie and Mike Franzese, my aunt Pauline, my brother's family and his three beautiful children.
Thank you Dr. Frank Block and Marcy Block.
Thank you to the Prevoznak family, the Draut Family, the Marks family Brian and Nene, to Debra Marks and Wayne, the Perrone family, and Sullivan family, the Krikorian family, The Orans Family, and the Rizzo family, and the Greco Family.

I am so thankful for my employment, the engagements (gigs), my career, my education, my health, the fantastic apartment, the love and understanding others have for me, the new friends in this new city.

I am one lucky dude.

and - as ever - thank you to my Readers!
Best
Joe

Monday, November 16, 2015

Twitter

PS.

Don't forget to follow me on twitter for rapid updates:

https://twitter.com/JOEBRENTTENOR

@JOEBRENTTENOR

"This cast includes an embarrassment of gifted singers and actors:"

Dear Readers,

I am so happy to share with you the great success of my Debut with Michigan Opera Theatre in Weinberg's The Passanger (Die Passagierin)

I am now in my eighth week as a Resident Artist with the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio. Following a successful run of La Boheme, we endeavored to mount David Poutney's powerful production of The Passanger (information about the opera, synopsis, history and plot can be found by clicking this parenthetical phrase). With Rob Kearly as the revival director and Steven Mercurio at the helm of this Brazil bound alabaster singing cruise liner, there was no doubt that this was going to be a home run production. I was cast as the sadistic, and twisted 3rd Schutzstaffel Mann. There is great significance in the underlying and overt sadism in my character. This cold-blooded and obsessed attributes set the 3rd SS officer in relief from the SS Maenner 1 and 2 archetypes. The other two SS Maenner typified the contrasting, yet coexisting SS paradigms: social climber disconnected to his task, and the aggressor who wishes he was at the front lines - disconnected  to the concentration camp life.

It was honestly, very difficult for me to find the path to this character. My research left me depressed, despondent, and disconsolate. Reading about the Shutzstaffel, the nazi, the Holocaust was obviously bad enough, but becoming one? pretending to be one? acting realistically as one? The hours of videos of marches, post war interviews, and concentration camps were trying. Naturally, I cried.

The singers included a plethora or voices:  
Daveda Karanas (Liese), Adrienn Miksch (Marta), David Danholt (Walter), Anna Gorbachyova (Katya), Liubov Sokolova (Bronka),Marian Pop (Tadeusz), Angela Theis (Yvette), Ashley Maria Bahri Kashat (Krystyna), Kristin Eder(Vlasta), Courtney Miller (Hannah), Jeff Byrnes (1st SS Officer), Lauren Skuce (Old Woman/Alta), Brent Michael Smith (2nd SS Officer), Yours Truly (3rd SS Officer), Stephen Lusmann (Older passenger, steward and commandant), and Geraldine Dulex (Kapo/Overseer). I would be remis if I did not include and or mention the responsive, and musical MOT Chorus, lead by Susanne Acton.

In addition to The Passenger I have been working with Richard Leech and preparing small concerts around Detroit, though mostly in the opera house. We have also begun our work on The Tenderland.

I am falling in love with this city, its people, and the musical experiences here.

Now some photo for your patience, you earned them.










Wednesday, October 28, 2015

food for thought

Dear Readers,

It has been about six weeks since I started working as the tenor studio artist for Michigan Opera Theatre. I am finally settling in to my new, albeit temporary, life in the Motor City. My new friend Bill Sullivan explained that I shouldn't refer to Detroit in that way any longer. Detroit is in fact building a new name for itself. I am excited to be a part of this cultural and economic renaissance.

Yesterday marked the first day of rehearsals for Michigan Opera Theatre's production of The Passenger. There are not enough words to describe the importance and significance of this work.

I sit, ruminating on mixed emotions. I will be singing the role of a sadistic Schutzstaffel (SS) Officer, along side my other male MOT studio artist. Performing a role like this, which is not only historically true and real, but a recent historical reality, necessarily challenges the emotional and intellectual sensibilities of the actor (singer). It brings the question of an actor's method and connection with a role into the foreground. Can I accurately and successfully "pretend" to be this character who is completely antithetical, from its very core, to me? Is it my job to blend the lines between "pretend" and "be"? Can I disassociate myself from my work and still give a successful performance?  What type of research should I do and how do I, should I, can I remove my opinion of the character from my exploration and preparation?

A view of Boll Hall on the first day of rehearsals for the revival of The Passanger
I also wonder what type of updates I should be making during this period as a resident artist. Do you want to hear about the exciting new experiences in detroit? Only opera relates news? Quick posts about the day-to-day life of a studio artist? Do you want to hear my inner monologue?

Your input is welcome. I'll try to find a good balance of it all.

Thank you for reading
Best
Joe

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Michigan Opera Theatre Studio - Official Announcment

Dear Readers,
 
I just arrived in Detroit, back from my week of concerts in New York.
 
I am happy to provide for you a link to the official announcement of the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio!
 
Michigan Opera Theatre official announcement and link
 
Public announement on encore michigan.com
 
Cheers to Richard Leech and my fellow participants:

Soprano Angela Theis,
Mezzo Soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis,
Baritone Jeff Byrnes,
Bass Brent Michael Smith,
Coach/Accompanist Gordon Schermer

Friday, October 9, 2015

Empire Opera's composer concert

Dear Readers,

My busy week of rehearsals and concerts ended tonight. I preformed 4 of Michaèl Fiacc's compositions for tenor and piano. I collaborated with Michael and Joan Krueger on the 4 world: "You Cannot Dream Things Lovelier," "Juan 's Song: When Beauty Breaks And Falls Asunder," "Toilet Seats," and "When You Are Old And Grey."

This was the first time that I have had the good fortune to perform with Joan. It was a true pleasure. It was a busy night for Joan and Michael, one which they made look and sound effortless. They traded off about 12 songs of Michael's 150 song ouvre.

The night also included music and performances by Nika Leoni, Lisa Ralia Heffter, and Waundell Saavedra. The ensembles ranged from piano vocal to string quartet to chamber poets to violin and piano to bass with bass.  The music was preformed with grace and dedication. I couldn't have asked for a better and more dedicated group.

A big bravo and bravi a tutti to the performers and composers of tonight's enlightening evening.

Cheers to Empire Opera,
thanks for reading
Joe

Michigan Opera Theatre studio photos




Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Maynooth dinner part 2/wrapping up in NY

Dear Readers,

After so many weeks of silence I am inundating, if not overwhelming, you with updates.  Maybe this is preferable to the hiatus? You're welcome to tell me in the comment section.

Tonight was another successful performance for the Irish Catholic Educational Fund of St. Patrick's of Maynooth. As I mentioned in my previous post,  tonight's performance and award ceremony was held in King of Prussia, PA (not too far from my brother William 's home in Dover).

The program was a hit list of party arias and "legit" Broadway tunes. Elaine Rinaldi and I preformed Questa o Quella, Bring Him Home, Maria, You'll Never Walk Alone, The Sidewalks of New York, and of course the Irish national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann.

It's exciting to bring a diversity of repertoire to a group of pious music lovers. I haven't sung this repertoire since fall of 2014 for Kitty Wilson's house party/my final recital in Athens,  Georgia. I had such a great time bringing my hard work and years of training to a beautiful, generous,  welcoming and amiable group of people. Singing this music reminds me of the years of music making with Greg Haskins and Frederick Burchinal.

With the final performance for Maynooth I am setting my sights now on Friday's performance of eminent composer Michael Fiacc's songs with Empire Opera in New York.  PLEASE SEE http://www.empireopera.org for details.

More soon
best
Joe

Ps I have also stated a Twitter page to promote Michigan Opera Theatre and its studio artist program. Feel welcomed to follow me on Twitter @JoeBrentTenor

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Irish Catholic Educational Fund - St. Patrick's of Maynooth

Dear Readers,

Now that the cat is out of the bag regarding my participation with the Michigan Opera Theatre studio there is going to be a slurry of posts about the wonderful things here in Detroit.

Or,  should I say "there in Detroit." Last night, I had a great time reuniting with conductor,  coach, collaborative pianist,  and artistic director of Orchestra Miami Elaine Rinaldi. We preformed at the annual Irish Catholic Educational Fund - St. Patrick's of Maynooth award dinner.

This is my second year singing for Dr. Thomas Ledwith and the dignitaries of the Irish Catholic seminary. There are two events associated with these awards. The first was last night held at the Union League Club on Park Ave and 36th street in Manhattan. The second evening is held in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania - outside of Philadelphia. Several hundred people attend both events and a good Irish Catholic time is had by all.

In other news,  I will be singing several of composer Michael Fiacc's songs in recital with Empire Opera on Friday the 9th of October. More details on that performance later.

#MOTstudioartists #MOTxmenontheloose

Thank you for reading
Joe

Monday, October 5, 2015

Michigan Opera Theatre Studio

Dear Readers,

I am proud and excited to announce, after weeks of secrecy, I have accepted an offer from Michigan Opera Theatre to join its inaugural season of the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio as its tenor resident artist.

I will spend the next 9 months as a resident of the motor city, Detroit. I join 5 other resident artists: soprano Angela Theis, mezzo - soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, baritone Jeff Byrnes, bass Brent Michael Smith, and collaborative pianist/coach Gordon Schermer. Our responsibilities include: singing comprimario and principal roles with Michigan Opera Theatre in its 2015-2016 season: La Bohème,  The Passenger,  The Tender Land,  Magic Flute,  and Macbeth.

At the helm of our Michigan Opera Studio X-men is celebrated American tenor Richard Leech!

Please enjoy the photos from my first weeks here in Detroit.






More to come!
- Joe

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Great News to Share

Dear readers,

I know that there hasn't been much updating.  I've been under super to secret, need to know only prohibition.

Tonight is the unveiling of a special piece of news.

Waiting with baited breath.

Joe

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Quisisana Update: Hitting our stride

Dear Readers,

As we wish July "farewell," with this week's final concert on Lake Kezar, I realize that I haven't kept you abreast of things Quisisana. There are still 4 more weeks, four more Butterflies... four more suicides... Caro Singnor Puccini, ti ringrazio.

These last few weeks since my previous update have been fairly normal, if things at Quisisana could be considered normal. I was moonlighting as a bus-boy in the dinning room, which lasted about 6 days before I returned to my post at the beach. 

Really, when it comes down to it, I am a beach boy at heart after all! We celebrated a Quisisana tradition called "Quis-mas" on July 25th. We sang "Quis-mas carols," had a "secret santa" gift exchange, and had a dance party in the staff dinning room. Taylor, my beach crew buddy, gifted me several moleskin note books, some funny lewd gifts (which I think is required - and he chose well), and a copy of Othello... maybe it's a premonition. Taylor said "I know that Othello is also an opera, and I am sure it's something that you'll be working on." Last year, my friend - and fellow tenor - Ben Boskoff gifted me a new Ricordi edition of Verdi's Otello.... keep your fingers crossed.

As for Butterfly, I have never given so many performances of a single role. This has been an enlightening, and educational experience. Of course it has been a rich musical experience, but the inner student in me, and the inner perfectionist in me attempts to use every opportunity as a chance to learn and improve. The weekly opportunity to check in, refine, correct, iron out and perfect is invaluable. 

Not only have I now performed Pinkerton seven times, this particular production has been the only opera that I have ever performed with piano and not orchestra. There are certainly unique challenges to performing with a pianist off stage, no pit, and no conductor. 

One thing that has come to my attention this week might be best presented with the following quote "Mario made his professional New Orleans opera debut as Pinkerton in 'Madam Butterfly' with soprano Tomiko Kanazawa." It was in April of 1948 that the 27 year old Lanza made his professional (non-festival) operatic debut, and was months before the release of his first film. In light of this biographical information on my favorite tenor, I took some time to reflect:

I am 28 years old, doctorate in vocal performance, with two degrees in string bass performance, having made my Carnegie debut at 26, and 14 different operatic tenor roles performed (13 with orchestra) - not to mention the countless choral and small ensemble performances at the Verbier Festival, Carnegie Hall, the White House, the United Nations, with the Israeli Philharmonic, James Levine, Robert Bass, Imre Pallo, Manfred Honeck, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev, Zubin Mehta, Christian Zacharias, and Charles Dutoit (to name a few). Then there are the double bass, and non-operatic performances... 

ya know what... 

things aren't so bad... 

I am on a good track, following some good foot-steps. 

Cheers to refining, perfecting, and succeeding.

Thank you for reading,
Joe

Friday, July 10, 2015

For your eyes only

Dear readers,

Here are some more Quisi photos. Please don't go around sharing them - I was not supposed to take them. Enjoy.











Thursday, July 9, 2015

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the opera - Update 5

Dear Readers,

Our second Butterfly here in Maine went very well, happy second opening to the Butterfly cast.

Last week was a whirl wind, indeed!

We had our first concert night of the season, in which I sang some Quisisana classics and the Rigoletto Quartet with Shannon Kessler Dooley, John Dooley, and Caitlin McKechney. The guest were so complimentary and engaged.

As for the 4th of July weekend, I made my way slowly to Parksville, New York for my final concert with the Bronx Opera. We performed at the Dead End Cafe. A funny thing happened to me on the way to the opera:

I was driving to Parksville via Vermont, driving on a small state highway in New York when I realized that I didn't know the speed limit... no sooner had I contemplated the speed limit when a police officer, who was driving in the opposite direction turned on his lights and pulled me over.

He asked; Where are you headed in such a hurry?
I responded: I am on my way to a performance in Parksville.
He inquired: Oh? For what?
I explained: I am singing a concert with the Bronx Opera at the Dead End Cafe.
He requested: Lemme' hear some notes.
I acquiesced: Una furtiva lagrima...
Appeased, he instructed: Aright, take it slow o.k.?

AND THUS SINGING GOT ME OUT OF THE TICKET!

Can you believe it?

The final performance went well. Three weekends of solos, duets, and quartets are over and I am here at Quisisana full time.

My battery is running low... I should run.

More updates soon

Best
Joe

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Butterfly at Quisisana - Update 4

Dear Readers,

I have to admit that Wednesday night's show was a great success. Cheers to successful openings.

Pinkerton is starting to sit well in my body, and the cast is doing a fine job indeed.

"Bravi tutti" to the Butterfly Cast for a well received show.

Readers, this was the first time I was ever "booed." I was told that, before starting this summer, a tenor knows that he has done a good job portraying Pinkerton if he gets booed. Of cheers and booes I received both in abundance, which I am proud to have accepted - and proud to share.

While working on the beach today I was met with a mix of congratulations and condemnations, from audience members who refused to disassociate me from Pinkerton. It was the first time that any one has ever approached me as said "The only thing I can say to you is that I hated you from the first moment you entered. What an incredible performance, you were detestable." Guest after guest complimented my voice, my acting, and mauled me with endless adjectives describing the wretched and base attributes of Pinkerton's character. I was told "I don't like you." I over heard a guest say to his daughter "That was the bad man from last night."

The guests and I shared an illuminating and intense dialogue regarding Ellen Schlaefer's production. What a treat it is to discuss character choices, opinions, perspectives and motivations with an engaged audience.

The most rewarding comment was when a young man approached me and said "This was the first opera that I have ever been too. You know it is not really accessible. I think I want to see more. Do they do this often? Where can I see more?"

It is a challenging role. But I am enjoying this Pinkerton more and more every show - it will be the role I will have performed the most come September. Check back in two months from now.

AND NOW - for Beach photos:







Wednesday, July 1, 2015

And Now Direct from Quisisana - Update 3

Dear Readers,

Happy July first and GREETINGS from Quisisana, in rainy Lovell, Maine!

I apologize for the delay, this last week was inordinately busy.

We presented three performances of Madame Butterfly: the first preview on the 19th, the second on 22nd, and the third (and final preview) on the 25th. Tonight, July 1st, will be our prima rapresentazione of Butterfly - it's opening night for the opera here at Quisisana!

Contributing to the dense schedule has been my participation in weekend performances with the Bronx Opera Quartet. I have been proud to share the stage with baritone Andy Oakden, Leslie Swanson, and soprano Halley Gilbert. We offered concerts at Vladeck Hall in the Bronx, the Woolworth Chapel in Woodlawn Cemetery, and will be performing a July 5th concert at the Dead End Cafe in Parksville, NY.

It has a been a great treat to present arias and ensembles in participation with the Bronx Opera Quartet. I have been singing Nemorino's second act aria "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from Elixir of Love by Donizetti; "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I've Found Thee" from Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta; "Un di se ben rammento mi - Bella figlia dell'amor" from Verdi's Rigoletto; "Maria" from Bernstein's West Side Story; "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les Pecheurs de Perles.

Those of you who are familiar with Quisisana, or have investigated their website, know that the singers are also hired as staff members at the resort. I have been working on Quisi-Beach with the beach crew Tuesday - Sunday. Working on the beach means that I have the daunting task of being in the sun for five hours a day on a beach, helping guests and staff with kayaks, sails boats, row boats, and paddle boards.

Below are some the much awaited photos from my first 2 weeks here:






Friday, June 19, 2015

Quisisana, Lovell Maine - Update 2

Dear Readers,

Tonight at 9pm in the Music Hall at Quisisana [Lovell, Maine] we will be presenting a preview of Madame Butterfly. It is the first of two "previews," it is also our first Dress Rehearsal... we could could call it an "open dress."

The other cast members, who are doing a fantastic, include:
Cho-cho San: Shannon Kessler Dooley
Pinkerton: Joseph Brent
Suzuki: Caitlin McKechney
Sharpless: John Dooley
Goro: Daniel Lopez-Matthews
Yamadori/Consulate: Joshua Powell
Bonze: Abe Hardy
Kate Pinkerton: Samantha Leibowitz

It will be a fantastic production, brought to you by:
Director Ellen Schlaefer
Music Director Mory Ortman
Asst Director Daniel Gainey
Costume design Melanie Clark
Scenic design Justin West

Pictures, and details to follow!!!

In other news, I will be working on the beach for most of the summer - yes, I know... a real tragedy.

Thanks for your comments!
More soon

Best,
Thanks for reading
Joe

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Quisisana, Lovell Maine

Dear Readers,

I am writing to you all from Maine, after my first day in rehearsal for Madame Butterfly. I will be singing my first Pinkerton here at Quisisana on lake Kezar.

This was a some-what late decision for my summer plans, but turns out to be a great opportunity for which I have Sarah Beckam-Turner and Marshal Taylor to thank!

It is going to be a great show. I arrived about 6 days after the rest of the cast because I was finishing up singing in New York. Previews start on the 18th!!!

I will fly back on the 19th to work with the Bronx opera, then back to Quisisana until the 28th, and then back again till the 5th. From the 6th on I am in Maine singing Butterfly every Wednesday night till August 31st.

I suppose you can say that this will be my first... and first through eighth Butterflys ;-)

I will post more, internet and phone service is in slim pickings 'round these parts - but I'll make a commitment to you if you keep one to me: I will write regularly about behind the scenes and my experience here at the musical theater resort - IF I can get at least one comment a week from a reader. I'll be even more diligent about my posts if I could get at least one comment a week from a diversity of readers.

This will be my 3rd Puccini role. I have sung two productions of Boheme and a piano accompanied production of Rondine. Eager to add Pinkerton to my brain, throat, and memory.

Best to you!
Thanks for reading,
Joe

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Before I head out the door

Dear Readers,

Happy June 2nd! I wanted to drop you all a line:

I am headed out for a coaching, and noticed that I hadn't offered any updates to my schedule here.

Suffice it to say that things have been busy! After stepping in last minute to bolster the Collegiate Chorale's forces on their premiere recording of Kurt Weill's Road of Promise, I continued the push toward summer music making.

This past weekend I sang with Yiselle Blum, Robert Osborne and Darynn Zimmer at a benefit concert for the victims in Nepal. The group was lead by conductor Joseph Jones. Mozart Requiem for Nepal.

This was my first (and second) Mozart Requiem, which was a blast to learn and even more fun to sing. It rounds out a season of concerting, if you remember I sang Gounod, Saint-Saens, Handel, Beethoven, and now Mozart works for soloist and choir in the last 7 months.

Other great news to share is that I will be singing Pinkerton this summer in Maine. It will be my first Butterfly... well my first 8 eight Butterflies I should say!

More updates to come, keep those cards and letters coming ;-)

I am off,
Best to you all!
Joe

Friday, May 15, 2015

Don Jose Again - Carmen Photos II (2015)

Dedicated Readers,

These last few weeks have been very busy! I've kept everything kind of... well.. hush hush... but you deserve to know - after all, you're reading this blog, aren't you?

First, the obvious:

You'll remember from Nov. 17 of 2013 I had a post of photo from my first Don Jose in Carmen at the University of Georgia.

Below I welcome you to view photos from my most recent Jose in Carmen with the New York Opera Exchange. Costumes by Taylor Mills!

The NY Opera Exchange spring 2015 production of Carmen went splendidly! What a great opportunity to revisit this demanding, passionate, and psychological role.

The NYOE Carmen cast included SISHEL CLAVERIE (Carmen), ZHANNA ALKHAZOVA(Micaela), PAUL KHURI (Escamillo), SONJA KRENEK (Frasquita), SYLVIA SZADOVSZKI(Mercedes), JAVIER ORTIZ (Zuniga), JOHN CALLISON (Morales), JOE PALARCA (Remendado), and WAYNE ARTHUR PAUL (Don Cairo).















Monday, May 11, 2015

Bravi Tutti e Complimenti to Carmen at NY Opera Exchange

I want to wish a big congratulations to New York Opera Exchange for their run of Bizet's Carmen. 

It was such a pleasure to work with Mat Dickson and his cast of fantastic rising singers. NYOE compiled a fantastic group of New York based singers for their 2015 production of Carmen.

The weather was perfect this weekend, which kept the theater cool and the crowds coming. Four sold out shows including a Mother's day matinee. 

I have to say, with great affection, bravi to SISHEL CLAVERIE (Carmen), ZHANNA ALKHAZOVA (Micaela), PAUL KHURI (Escamillo), SONJA KRENEK (Frasquita), SYLVIA SZADOVSZKI (Mercedes), JAVIER ORTIZ (Zuniga), JOHN CALLISON (Morales), JOE PALARCA (Remendado),
and WAYNE ARTHUR PAUL (Don Cairo) - what a dynamic and engaging cast.

I also could not say nicer things about Alden Gatt, our musical director/conductor and assistant conductor Josh Bavaro. A shout out to Taylor Mills and Risa for their costuming genius. 

I am so grateful to have worked with Maestro Peter Mark,  shame he couldn't stay on the project, but he was close and offered fantastic seasoned information and help.

We pulled together to make this huge show work so well, and bravo to the technical crew who continue to find creative ways to turn the Church of the Covenant theater space in to a home for opera.

Cheers to both casts, with a special shout out to Costas Tsourakis who was an outstanding Zuniga!

As ever,
yours
Joe

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beethoven and Carmen (a long post indeed)

Readers,

I am happy to say that the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium (www.gamac.org) gave a fantastic concert last Friday in Anderson, South Carolina. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to sing my first Beethoven Symphony no.9 "An die Freude" with such a warm and passionate group of singers and players. The Liebeslieder op. 52 were also stunningly orchestrated, and sweetly executed.

Dr. Don R Campbell is one fearless leader, whose great efforts yield an impressive result. Cheers to you Maestro and your fabulous group.

Below is the press release:

Selections from Johannes Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes will follow with soloists Michelle E. Jarrell, soprano and Joseph Michael Brent, tenor.
GAMAC’s 24th Concert Season will conclude with Ludwig von Beethoven’s bold and brilliant choral finale to his famous Symphony No. 9 in D minor- the “Ode to Joy.” Recognized as one of Beethoven’s most well known musical settings, the text is based on the poem of the same title written in 1785 by German poet, playwright and historian, Friedrich Schiller. Beloved as both a protest anthem and a celebration of music itself, the “Ode to Joy” melody is well known in traditional church music as Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. The work has also been used prominently in film scores and has become a favorite among “Flash Mob” groups over the past decade. The ode was adopted as the “Anthem of Europe” by the Council of Europe in 1972 and subsequently the European Union. Alto Lucie Svatonova and baritone Sean Anderson will join Michelle E. Jarrell and Joseph Michael Brent for this beautiful finale.

In other news, I will be singing my second Don  José next weekend. New York Opera Exchange asked me to step in to sing this great role for their upcoming production.

Below is an interview I had with (Link to the Interview) 

1. Carmen is the title role, but would you say that Don Jose undergoes a greater transformation throughout the opera? What is your approach to playing him?

I do not believe José undergoes a greater transformation; in fact, I would hazard the interpretation that José does not actually undergo a transformation at all. On the contrary Meilhac, Halévy, and Bizet present the full spectrum of his character. If one spins a dice four times and the dice lands on a different number each time, has the cube gone undergone a transformation or are we seeing different sides of the same object? The violent, lustful, machismo, and possessive attributes that dominate the José of acts three and four are, at least, latent – if not tangible - in his character from the first scene. A performer (and audience member) should ask himself/herself: “What event(s) has taken place to lead us to this moment?” Luckily, we have Prosper Mérimée’s original story from which the libretto was constructed to provide that information. What we witness, as audience members, is not José’s transformation but the somatic manifestation of his mercurial psychological state. As a result, my approach to the role is to try to play José as human as possible. 
2. What is your take on Jose's personal history before the beginning of the opera? What is his background? What kind of a man is he? How strong are his values?

José is Basque, from the city Elizondo in the Baztan valley of Navarre, situated about 600 miles north of Seville, bordering south-western France. His full name is José-María Lizzarabengoa, but is sometimes referred to as José Navarro. His pre-opera personal history is a bit troubled. He flees his home town to become a dragoon with the Almanza Cavalry Regiment after murdering a man over a tennis match (José would admit to winning the match and is guilty of murder). He is pugnacious, yet well-mannered; he suffers from an Oedipus-complex; he is the archetype of European machismo. His values rest firmly in his masculine pride, and attachment to his mother.

3. How do you see his life after the opera ends? How has he changed? How much longer does he live?

After the opera ends José gives himself up to the police and as a result of his unlawful, homicidal behavior is incarcerated then sentenced to death. He does not live very long after being imprisoned.

4. Tell us about your musical and vocal process with this role: how does Bizet's music help convey Jose's character?

Bizet managed to imbue the text of the libretto with a special dramatic realism, which is the result of three specific compositional techniques: syllabic text setting, attention to tessitura, and development of rich orchestral colors. Bizet and Ernest Guiraud sculpted melodies and melodic gestures that exquisitely express the sensibilities and emotions of the characters. As a result of these melodies and gestures José lives and breathes in the pages of the score. José is a role that feels like it sings itself. Throughout the opera there is a genius balance between drama and beautiful singing.

5. What is the most important part of the opera for Jose? Is there one moment or scene that particularly defines him?


I do not believe that there is one most important part of the opera for José. His extended scenes with Carmen are the most descriptive, expressive, and personal. One should take notice that José sings Micaela’s melodies throughout their first act duet, not his own expression but manufactured equivocal melodies. The act two scene which includes the famous flower song is one of the first moments that the audience sees a more complete picture of José. 

Thanks for reading,
Joe

Friday, April 24, 2015

My inspiration...


This is my inspiration for tonight's Beethoven 9 in Anderson. I have had the pleasure to share the stage with Rene Pape, and one day I will meet the dynamic and brilliant Jonas Kaufmann!

I this might be controversial, but I think Kaufmann is that iconic tenor - truly the Franco Corelli of our day - he is a dream boat, and incredible singer. 


Enjoy,
Joe

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

And the hits just keep on coming

Dear Readers,

I am so excited for this Friday's performance of Beethoven 9 and Brahms Liebeslieder waltz op.52 No. 17 with Dr. Don Campbell and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium in their "Brought to you by the Letter B" Master Works series concert. 

This will be my first time singing as the tenor soloist in the demanding final movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony - An die Freude or Ode to Joy. I have to give special thanks to the Collegiate Chorale, who have - on two occasions - brought me to the Verbier Festival in Switzerland to sing this master work. The first, in 2006 with Maestro James Levine (I was singing in the bass section), and then again in 2013 with Maestro Charles Dutoit (I was singing in the tenor section). I also have to thank Dr. Gregory Broughton who forwarded this opportunity to me.

It is an incredibly challenging work, with limitless historical potency. Beethoven's 9th symphony was a milestone and because a stepping stone for musicians and composers ever since.

I arrived safely in South Carolina yesterday in the early afternoon - after some rather expensive car trouble - tried to settle in after the long drive. Our rehearsal last night went very well, this will be a great treat for those who can attend. 

Concert is this Friday, 24th, at 7:30 pm in Anderson, South Carolina at the Boulevard Baptist Church - if you can make it 
wink emoticon
http://www.gamac.org/

In the meantime I will enjoy this beautiful spring weather in the south!

Thanks for reading!
Best
Joe

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Much Anticipated...

Dear Readers,

Please first allow me to thank you for staying strong and checking in, despite the paucity of updates.

The first four months of 2015 have flown by! They were chilly here in the North East, but also productive. I am currently working again with New York Opera Exchange, reprising the role of Don Jose, which I first sang at the University of Georgia!

Before I get too far into current events, I would like to share with you some rather flattering reviews I received from recent operatic performances. I am reminded of an anecdote, which was shared with my by Prof. Frederick Burchinal: A great tenor (Alfredo Kraus) said "I don't read the reviews because: if I believe the good ones, I have to believe the bad ones." I will try to cultivate this perspective but in the mean time... I felt obliged to shared these.

In January I sang the role of Mayor Upfold, in the Bronx Opera's production of Benjamin Britten's satirical comedy Albert Herring - as well as covering Albert (and performing in a reduced version for children). Of my performance as the Mayor DAVID SHENGOLD of Opera News wrote:
"Joseph Michael Brent, sang Mayor Upfold with a penetrating sound and remarkably projected diction (the best of the entire cast)."

 Shortly after, in February, I sang my first Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, to which I received the following review from the allegriconfuoco bloggers:
"Tenor Joseph Michael Brent made me weep too, his sound is beautiful, round and tender but also agile and powerful. Brent is truly a romantic hero, with a handsome stage presence and an expressiveness to match. He also worked great in his duets with both Lucia (Ah! Verranno a te sull’aure) and Enrico (O sole più rapido a sorger t’appresta). In his arias in the finale, Brent was heart breaking, particularly in Fra poco a me ricovero, when Egardo still thinks that Lucia betrayed him. He may have rushed a touch too much in Tu che a Dio spiegasti l’ali, but otherwise proved himself as a swooningly excellent tenor."

It is very exciting to see and read that my hard work is being appreciated by strangers!! I am sure you could understand the sentiment. 

I leave for South Carolina in 10 days for Beethoven 9 and Brahms Liebes Lieder waltzes.

It's late o'oclock here in New York. 

As ever - Thanks for reading,
Sincerely yours,
Joe