Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!

35 Seasons of opera and we couldn't do it without you!

Watch a holiday message from Esther Nelson, General & Artistic Director.
From our family to yours, best wishes for a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Opera Expectations

Before interning with Boston Lyric Opera, I had no exposure to opera. However, working behind-the-scenes during Macbeth allowed me to learn what opera is really about through I a story I already knew. I broke through many of the preconceived notions I held about the opera.

These are a few of the misconceptions about the opera that I had:

“I won’t be able to understand an opera because I don’t know {insert language here}.”
When I attended the new Broadway production of West Side Story, in which Spanish lyrics were incorporated, I felt concerned about seeing a show in another language. I know everything about West Side Story and I studied Spanish for five years, yet I left feeling confused. How could I appreciate and enjoy an opera I know nothing about, told in a language I don’t understand? However, my fears were assuaged when I learned many opera companies project English translations (called supertitles) on screens during the performance, allowing the audience to follow the story and appreciate the amazing vocal talent. Additionally, there are operas composed in English, like Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, which BLO will produce in February as this season’s Opera Annex.

“Opera is just a bunch of people singing. Only people with intense vocal training can really appreciate it.”
When I first entered the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre for Macbeth, I initially noticed the display of bodies hanging from the ceiling of the stage. The scenery was awe-inspiring. Don’t get me wrong; opera is about the amazing vocal talent. However, it is also a performance, which makes it a theatrical experience.

I have a bit of vocal training, (as much as high-school chorale can provide), enabling me to appreciate how talented and well-trained the singers are. However, even someone who has never sung a note would be impressed.

“Operas are so long!”
Although many operas run longer than a typical movie, musical or play, an opera production tends to have more intermissions. Although the run time of an opera performance may be four hours, the audience isn’t expected to stay seated the entire time. There are two to three intermissions! This provides time for the audience to stretch their legs, visit the restroom, grab a snack and get excited to experience the rest of the show.

“I don’t think opera is my thing.”
If one has never seen an opera, how does one know? Take a chance; Carpe Diem!

Attending the opera is a unique and interesting experience that enriches the individual. While it may be a new and scary experience for many, I encourage everyone to take a chance and try something new, see an opera! I think you’ll figure out for yourself if it really “ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”

-- Elyssa Sternberg, Boston University ‘15

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's YOUR BLO #2

We’re celebrating 35 seasons of opera by sharing your BLO stories. Your story is unique and makes BLO what it is today. 

Here’s one from Yuen:
The first BLO performance I attended was Verdi's Rigoletto in October 1994 when I was 21 (yes, I still have the program book)! I saw my first opera 2 years earlier in London's Royal Opera House when I was doing a junior year abroad. 

Although I don't remember any particular divas or divos in that performance, I cried at the end when Gilda died and Rigoletto was calling out her name. The cast, the director, the conductor--they all must have done something right to achieve this.

Now, almost 20 years later and having seen over 130+ opera productions, I can count with one hand the number of performances that were so moving they made me cry. And among the few, the 1994 BLO's Rigoletto was one of them.

What’s your BLO story? Please share it with us below. Or send it to

In appreciation of sharing your story, all storytellers will receive an invitation to the 2012/2013 Season launch party in spring 2012.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Provocative Opera at 2 Extremes

Last season's Opera Annex production, The Emperor of Atlantis was featured in this article by The New York Times. Our Opera Annex is a fully staged production designed for an alternative space outside the traditional theater environment, all at a lower ticket price. The New York Times praised, The Emperor of Atlantis as the "most tantalizing" production of the 2010/2011 Season in its original review of the production and in this weekend's article includes that same production as one of "the most memorable performances [...] by groups that specialize in the repertory’s extremes, early and new music. And thoughtful, often provocative opera productions figured prominently at both ends."

This season's Opera Annex, Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, is modern piece based on the stories about the lighthouse on the Isle of Shoals. The opera is an unforgettably gripping and overwhelming portrait of growing madness and possession. A chamber orchestra and Davies’ own compelling and mysteriously deep libretto, conjure up an isolated world, terrifying and moving. Don't miss it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Looking for something to do during school vacation week?

Did you know that Boston Lyric Opera has a December program for your young opera lover?
For the second year, BLO and Wheelock Family Theatre are collaborating to bring young people opportunities to enhance their performance skills in theatre and opera. Join us for a five-day intensive workshop for fun explorations of both art forms!

This December we present 
“Dynamic Duo: Movement and Music,” a five-day institute for ages 9-12. It's not too late to register. Check it out!

Photo by Erik Jacobs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Intern Ramblings: Opera & Gum

I only chew gum when I’m at work. I used to chew gum all the time, but gave it up when I was seven because my mom said I chew like a cow.

Don’t tell my mother, but every time I work at my internship at Boston Lyric Opera, I pop a piece of gum in my mouth and start filling subscription orders and filing ticket forms. Initially, I thought this gum habit began because the first couple of days I worked at BLO I didn’t want to offend my new colleagues with any lingering lunchtime breath. I chewed a piece of gum. The habit stuck. However, I think that this habit is more than just a way to freshen my breath.

Freshman year of college is like throwing your life into a blender and praying the end result isn’t too messy. I find there are very few constants as my life changed over the past few months: my hair still doesn’t cooperate, I still like to talk, (much to my roommates’ dismay) and I still love the rush of putting on a show, from anywhere, playing any role in the process.

So here I am -- at Boston Lyric Opera -- learning what happens behind the curtain. It may seem odd, but filing paperwork and will-call tickets is therapeutic. I chew my gum, file forms, sing “Merrily We Roll Along” to myself and work alongside some really cool people. I learn not only about the mechanics getting a ticket into the patron’s hand, but also about this little thing called opera.

I admit the extent of my opera knowledge is limited to the episode of "Hey Arnold" where the students of PS 118 dream themselves in Carmen (Lyrics include: “My name’s Don Arnold, please have a caramel; your hair is lovely, do you like my pants,” it is a must-see). I don’t speak Italian, German or French. However, I speak theatre.

I know the excitement of sitting in a seat, program in hand, gazing around at the architecture of the performance space. And the only way you get there is with a ticket. Maybe I handled yours.

Although the rush of college is great, sometimes, in between T-rides and Anthropology homework, what I need is to organize will-call tickets, listen to The Barber of Seville and chew some gum. Working for Boston Lyric Opera is an entirely new experience for me and I appreciate every second of it.

--Elyssa Sternberg, Boston University '15

Friday, December 9, 2011


The joy of the holiday season is frequently accompanied by susceptibility to illness: the sniffles, coughing, or even the flu. Regardless of season, one of the responsibilities of being an opera singer is to avoid sickness at all times. Being sick can put a singer out of commission for weeks at a time, taking them away from performing and earning money. The majority of dedicated singers are probably the healthiest people you will ever meet. Especially as the weather continues to cool, take these few simple trick singers rely on so you feel your best and can face this blustery season!

SLEEP: What a concept!

We all know the recommended number of hours sleep an adult should get is about 6-8 hours per night to ensure we are fully rested for the day ahead. Unfortunately, many people are not able to achieve this. Sleep is not only crucial feeling energized, but keeps the on a cycle. For example, if you have work or a big assignment to finish, it is more effective to go to sleep at a reasonable hour and wake up earlier, maintaining the body’s stable cycle. Singers value sleep above everything else; because our body is our instrument, it needs the main source of revitalization that sleeping brings. Try going to sleep 30 minutes earlier this season--the perfect pillow and a heavy down blanket should make that easy!

Also, if you are easily affected by winter dryness, invest in a humidifier. Singers use them year round to keep their throats moist and to avoid sore throats caused by the dryness in the air (and they are relatively cheap -- check CVS or Target!) Turn it on before you go to sleep and you will wake up feeling fresh!

VITAMIN C: The Godsend

Many people get sick during the winter months simply because of a weak immune system, which is why I recommend everyone try The Godsend, also known as Vitamin C, into their daily vitamin supplements, especially in the winter. Vitamin C is a proven, safe method to significantly boost your immune system (and also has great skin benefits). It can be found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, cantaloupe, broccoli and peppers, but there are also supplemental Vitamin C products on the market; one of which is my personal favorite, Emergen-C. These individual powder packets each contain 1,000mg of C (the recommended safe dose is between 500-2,000mg per day) and you can mix the wide array of flavors into your favorite drink. Before auditions, many singers chug Emergen-C, to ensure their health. By taking any Vitamin C supplement, colds become less frequent. It is an easy addition to an everyday routine! I also recommend Airborne. This is an easy supplement to put into a drink, and works well when you feel the start of cold symptoms. It can help decrease the time of a cold by a few days if taken consistently.

As always, follow product directions or the recommendation of your doctor.

Here are few more tips to keep you healthy this winter!

-          Drink at least 8 cups of water per day (for every cup of coffee you drink, make sure to drink one glass of water)
-          Don’t share drinks
-          Stretching or yoga (increases circulation for the blustery weather and also is a great mental and physical stress reliever)
-          Keep your body at a comfortable temperature (dress warmly!)
-          Focus on eating foods rich in protein and fiber

Being sick during the sometimes dreary and bitter cold winter is never fun. Think like a singer, and treat your body like a beautiful instrument to keep yourself healthy so you can make it to spring!

--Melanie Burbules, Boston University '14

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whistle While You Work, Part 2

Last week we revealed what some of our staff listens to at work. We may work for an opera company, but it's not all opera all the time for us!

Here's another peek inside our work-music habits!

Erik Johnson, Artistic Coordinator:
Britten for contracts, Pärt for budgets, and Handel for everything else.

Joa Stenning, Audience Services Coordinator:
Before I arrive at work, I start my day with the sounds of Nicki Minaj’s “I’m the Best,” which helps me to feel good about myself and feel motivated for the day ahead. Most people get along just fine waking up to the beep of an alarm clock, but I feel much more positive waking up to something loud and dance-able. Once I’m settled in at work and I begin a project, I like to listen to Ingrid Michaelson or Neko Case. Ingrid’s music is light, catchy, and fun to sing along with, which helps me get through the more mundane tasks. Neko’s music is soft, soothing, and soulful, which is much better to listen to when I need all of my focus on the project at hand. I also love listening to Neko’s music because she and I are both cowgirls at heart. I spend my days in an office in bustling downtown Boston, but sometimes I wish I was roaming the prairies like “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” instead.

Sarah Blume, Senior Major Gifts Officer:

Currently have Pandora tuned to Arvo Pärt.  Good work music.  I tuned to Pärt following Boston Ballet’s Bella Figura, which I loved, last season which used music by Pärt.  I thought it was the first time I’d heard Pärt, not realizing that I’d heard his music at Providence Waterfire one year and was so struck by Tabula Rasa that my mother-in-law hunted down the CD for me.   

The Pärt station occasionally plays the Henryk Górecki Symphony No. 3 – which I love.  It just makes you want to weep .... 

Julie House, Education & Community Programs Manager:
Cello concertos and almost always one of the big three: Dvorak, Shostakovich or Elgar. I like them because I know them well enough that they can make nice background music, but if I really need to be inspired by something I can just turn up the volume. Sometimes I need something totally different and the last time that happened I turned on Jeff Bridges’ new country album. It’s excellent.

Cassidy Fitzpatrick, Development & Artistic Associate:
It’s a range, sometimes Usher, or other loud dance music when I’m particularly stressed. Mostly I find I just get fixated on one song, be it rock, pop, hip hop, folk or otherwise, and listen to it on repeat for an entire day, seems to soothe the nerves and helps me to block out everything so I can get stuff done.

Karen Robichaud, Design & New Media Manager:
I really enjoy having something in the background to even out the general 'white noise' of working in an open office; be it music (pop, musicals, movie soundtracks) or radio programs. I find the news weirdly soothing, even though I don't actually listen to the stories. Some of my projects are so involved that focused concentration is the only way to complete them, and listening to something helps me concentrate.