Caruso and McCormack – What Did they Think of each Other
On December 26, 1900, Enrico Caruso celebrated the Christmas season with his debut at La Scala by performing the part of Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème with Arturo Toscanini conducting. As his career advanced, he went on to please audiences in Monte Carlo, Warsaw, and Buenos Aires. He appeared before the Tsar and the Russian aristocracy at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg as well as the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. In 1910, a landmark event occurred when he performed live from the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera House. He honored America with first public radio broadcast to be transmitted in the United States.
A source for this post is The Virtuosi by Harold C. Schonberg. He was the music critic for the New York Times. John McCormack achieved a good measure of fame as an opera singer. He never had the power of Caruso and never cared for such projection. McCormack chose to remain a lyric tenor all his life. His phrases seemed to go on without end. Violinist Jan Kubelik believed he was so great he must have had a Stradivarius in his throat. New York World published a letter of McCormack dated April 14, 1918. I quote below:
“A great many singers have an idea that the public wants bigness of voice. That is a mistaken notion…. The history of the world’s greatest singers brings not one supreme artist who is not essentially lyric. What the public enjoys most of all is the smooth, pure and beautiful tone in the singing voice.”
Caruso and McCormack – No Contest as/per Both Tenors
Here is the story that Schonberg relates about an accidental meeting between the two tenors: McCormack says to Caruso: “Well. Rico, how is the world’s greatest tenor today?” To which Caruso replied: “John, I didn’t know you have turned into a bass.”
Here is an internal link about what I have up to:
In one of the final years of his life, renowned violinist Dave Rubinoff plays the Stradivarius violin for an intimate concert at Scott’s Oquaga Lakehouse in 1984. He is accompanied by pianist, David Ohrenstein. Visit http://dsoworks.com/live-performances… for a behind-the-scenes view from David Ohrenstein of what it was like to work with Rubinoff and His Violin.
Delayed Performance Due to a Virus named corona. The virus has a solar allusion:
A corona (meaning “crown” in Latin derived from Ancient Greekκορώνη (korōnè, “garland, wreath”)) is an aura of plasma. Many stars share this concept surrounding our Sun. The Sun’s corona extends millions of miles into outer space. Solar eclipse, highlights it; but it is also observable with a coronagraph. Spectroscopy measurements indicate its strong ionization. Plasma temperature can be in excess of 1000000 kelvin, That makes it a lot hotter than the surface of the Sun.
Our Delayed Performance was about Cleopatra
Co-incidentally, Cleopatra wore a crown. This, as stated, is the Latin meaning of “corona”. She was the ruler of Egypt. Cleopatra in turn reforms Octavian who will wear the crown as the enlightened ruler of Rome. In his transformation, he becomes Augustus Caesar. Our opera is about their crucial historical meeting.
Cleopatra seems to have her own timing and her own way. As soon as it rescheduled, we will send out notifications. We are simply waiting for the corona fuss to clear up. Then we will reschedule her with a date and place. We already had a staged reading in New York late last August. Our poster, pictured above, relates to the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Below is a fun internal link. It is about our opera:
A Theatrical Phoenix is Beginning to Fly- a Brief History. It took wing in New York as a staged reading. This was at the oldest summer vocal training camp in America: The Seagle Music Colony. Our singers had won auditions with the New York Metropolitan Opera. Other prominent opera companies were represented. Among the people who have tested their work at Seagle have been Stephen Schwartz and Pulitzer Prize winners. Patra is now scheduled in Sarasota.
We have been riding on a phoenix for this experience. Our opera, entitled Patra, has “Wings of Song”. This new opus emphasizes the importance of meaningful and healthy relationships between men and women. The show highlights rulers of two great empires, Rome and Egypt. For Egypt we have Cleopatra; for Rome, we have Octavian. He, through Patra’s influence, decides to become the future Augustus Caesar.
Theatrical Phoenix is Scheduled for Sarasota
Sarasota is famous for opera. A marquee, only, from the Sarasota Opera House is pictured below and to the right. . Our new opera, however, will be presented in concert version at The Glenridge Performing Arts center. Immediately above/right is a photo of the setting . We will even have a professional “snake” dance. Our dancer also portrays the Egyptian goddess, Aset.
Our first staged concert was at the Westcoast Black Theater in Sarasota
The story of Octavian and Cleopatra has its own thrust. It is an engaging opera comique. Sharon, as the librettist, not only offers a cornucopia of hope in this lifetime; but also gives ancient instructions on how to be reborn to a high position. Make your reservations at The Glenridge Performing Arts Center today. Contact info is on featured picture.
Song Without Words Can Stand on its Own. It certainly has in the past. Witness the musical compositions of Felix Mendelssohn.
If you ask me what I had in mind when I wrote it, I would say: just the song as it is. And if I happen to have certain words in mind for one or another of these songs, I would never want to tell them to anyone. This is because the same words never mean the same things to others: Only the song can say the same thing. Such songs can arouse the same feelings in one person as in another. Words cannot express this feeling.
Songs Without Words, German Lieder ohne Worte, collection of 48 songs written for solo piano rather than voice by Felix Mendelssohn. Part of the collection—consisting of 36 songs—was published in six volumes during the composer’s lifetime. Two further volumes—with 12 more songs—were published after Mendelssohn’s death in 1847.
Felix Mendelssohn, painting by Wilhelm Hensel.Photos.com/Getty Images…………………………………………………………..
A Song Without Words – Can it Stand on its own Today?
Certainly, there are some affirmative examples. But the music to much of what is written today is circular and repetitive. In computer terms you could say the music “loops”. Repetition of the the same three notes over and over to simplistic lyrics or single words is the style. Basically I feel that what much of the music industry markets today is the image of the “composer.” The archetype example, in my opinion is found in the movie, The Producers.
YouTube – Feb 17, 2016
A gun-wielding Franz confronts Max and Leo, accusing them of breaking the “Siegfried Oath“. He is partially angered over the continual used of the word “baby” in the musical lyrics by the star in the cast.
I Write in the Song Without Words Form
Fortunately, I am married to my own lyricist. What a convenient source for words. We are producing a concert version with dance of our New York tested opera, Patra. It was presented as a staged reading by the American Center for New Works Development. Date of the Sarasota performance is March 23 at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, Fl. Reserve your tickets today.
Opera Comique In Two Acts – By Sharon and David Ohrenstein
Unthoughtful Editing of Music Seems to be Everywhere. I attended an accelerated high school- Cass Technical High in Detroit. They had some 32 curriculums you could major in. They even kept an airplane in a large room on the 1st floor for an aeronautics technology program. For me, there were two musical courses to choose from: Vocational and Advocational. This remarkable high school was “college prep”. In retrospect, I think many colleges could have been “prep” for Cass Tech High. But alas, things change. Ruins of the high school are pictured below.
Unthoughful Editing of Music- One Typical Example
We had a esprit de corps among the students that was second to none. we discussed countless and varied topics. Nothing was ever off the table for discussion so to say. Music editing was a hot subject. My fellow students, the class of 1969, had a running joke about musical editors. We all concurred on a musical frustration cycle. It went as follows
First you work at becoming a pianist/composer. When that doesn’t quite pan out-
Second you try working at becoming a conductor.
Finally, when the above two fail, you become an editor.
The point is the editor is out for revenge. He thinks: “If can’t make it as a composer, performer or as a conductor, I’ll be sure that no one else can”. This thought may be either conscious or unconscious but the effect is the same either way. If you follow the editors instructions, your efforts will most likely fall in line with his expectations of failure. Many teachers insist on their students following the editor’s marking.That’s a minor to major tragedy!
Unthoughtful Editing: My teacher studied with Emil von Sauer in Vienna in the 1920’s
Emil von Sauer was personally taught by Franz Liszt. Liszt accepted several students at the end of his life. Sauer was one of them. He, in turn, edited all the piano works of Johannes Brahms. However, I believe that even Liszt kept fingering secrets from his select piano students. Sauer in turn taught my teacher, Mischa Kottler. Samples of Mischa’s playing anywhere are extremely rare. Below is one that will show you what good fingering can do. Here’s to reviving another lost art!
Hello Boca Grande for my piano employment the 11th straight Year. Click on the Boca Grande nowhere but here box below to see many incredibly beautiful and exotic pictures of the island. There my piano playing services will be in full swing. Daughter Kathryn Parks worked on this post for Michael Saunders. She works on promotion for this real estate company in Florida and does a beautiful job at that.
Untouched by time, Boca Grande is a classic Florida getaway where pristine beaches, sunny days, and small-town charms create a blissful atmosphere.
Hello Boca Grande
It’s impossible not to have fabulous stories when you work at such a place. One of favorites is the evening that two distinguished ladies from London sat and enjoyed their dinner while dining on the table right beside the piano. Fortunately, my piano touch is such that people can enjoy their dinner and still converse while listening to beautiful melodies. My incredible instructor Mischa Kottler, studied in Europe in Paris under Alfred Cortôt in the 1920’s. Cortôt traced his lineage to Frederic Chopin. Then Mischa Kottler went to Vienna and apprenticed under Emil von Sauer. Sauer studied under Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. Mischa was always emphatic when he would say: ” “Present the melody on a silver platter.” In so doing you can eliminate all the ponderous accompaniment that so many often vulgarly place into their piano playing.
But on with the story: When I got up for a small respite, I walked past the ladies. One said to me, “We enjoyed your playing, especially your Andrew Lloyd Webber selections.” I replied.”Oh, thank you.” Then the other lady proudly said: “Yes,our assigned seats are in the British House of Lords right next to him!”
Why is this Lineage Important?
Today so much piano playing is electronic. Often accompaniments are provided by the touch of a button. The old school of knowledge is then lost. Happily, at the fabulous Inn the old school is still in full swing. I will be there nightly from Dec 20 until Easter. Please say hello. P.S. if you decide to buy a home there, ask my daughter, Kathryn. I am also a composer. My wife, Sharon, is my lyricist and librettist. Sharon, and I just work shopped our new opera Patra in New York. Click on the link for more info. Finally, please share this post with friends! Thank you.
PATRA – An Opera Comique performed in two acts, sung in English, written by Sharon and David Ohrenstein about Cleopatra’s final days as ruler of Egypt.
Poetry signals Change is in the Air. Said another way: When there is no poetry of quality then musical quality takes a nose dive. This is not only my own observation. As my resource I quote Music by Frederic V. Grunfeld. The book I read it in is published by Newsweek Books out of New York. Place and year- Mondadaori, Verona, Italy, 1974.
Poetry (founded as Poetry: A Magazine of Verse) has been published in Chicago since 1912. It is one of the leading monthly poetry journals in the English. Poetry is founded by Harriet Monroe and now published by the Poetry Foundation. It is currently edited by Don Share
Those who decry the primitivism of today’s music along with its limited scope, need to look for another Heinrich Heine type figure. Indeed, so many “songs” use about three or four repeated notes or thrive on platitudes and vulgarity. I have already mentioned him on DSOworks in the internal link below. The problem is where is our Henrich Heine for this present day and age?
As a writer of poetry, I am inspired by the same place at which the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was filmed for this coming season: Scott’s Oquaga Lake House on Oquaga Lake. The beauty and enchantment of the lake knows no limits.
Here is an excerpt from my poem called “Fun.” It describes this setting in some detail.
The diving platform is located
End the end of the extended dock.
Canoes and kayaks are nearby
The woods where the birds do flock.
The swimming area is marked
By yellow balls on rope
Fastened to a rubber raft
Beyond which the lake has slope.
A second dock is to the left
With a speedboat at its end.
On its left we find a showboat
Built just for voices to blend.
A playhouse is to the rear
Grand piano is set on stage
Near bowling ping-pong and pool
Games all quite the rage!
Do yourself a favor and make a pilgrimage to Oquaga Lake and visit Scott’s Hotel. A number of doctors from India did just that! All this beauty and memorabilia can be yours to enjoy. Revive that ancient poetic feeling so many once had. And please share this post!
Piano Competitions Have Judges on Edge. My source is an excellent book on piano playing. David Dubal wrote it: “Reflections from the Keyboard”. He interviews numerous keyboard artists about their trials and tribulations. Being a judge at competitions is also certainly trying. Why? I felt that pianist Jorge Bolet was particularly relevant in this regard.
Bolet emphasizes how perfection is expected with piano playing. This is primarily due to the recording industry. He believes this has destroyed a great deal of “music making.” That is because recordings are of such mechanical perfection that any imperfection in actual performance is severely frowned upon. The other source of homogeneous playing is competitions.
Bolet on Piano Competitions
This piano legend actually states “Competitions have done more harm to piano playing than anything else.” In many competitions there are some 15 judge. Those he enter have to try to get all the votes. To do this they must not antagonize any of the judges in any way. Nothing must be different or worse yet, controversial. Any personal idea is shunned and looked down upon. Bolet states that as a result whether you listen to 10, 20 or 30 pianists, they all play alike. That affects the status of piano playing in general. No one becomes outstanding.
My Own Piano Instructor- Mischa Kottler
My own teacher was Mischa Kottler. He was the official pianist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Mischa also directed the music at WJR in Detroit. His waiting list for students was incredibly long. Once you got to start, he often went with the Symphony on tour. I grew up in Detroit. Listen to him playing Chopin’s Minute Waltz. He actually plays the difficult passages with double notes in the right hand. The main help I credit with is avoiding hand injuries at the piano. He taught: (1) Hand positions, (2) The proper way to scales and arpeggios. (3) Showed me the regimen that I still practice daily. (4) How to play with a singing tone. (5) How to: “Present the melody on a silver platter.” (6) Above all else: He was a fanatic about proper fingering. Mischa never seemed satisfied with editors. He learned his art and fingering from Alfred Cortot and Emil von Sauer in Paris in Vienna in the 1920’s. Would he have lost at a piano competition for his originality? Perhaps?
So What Am I doing Now?
I’ve never been so busy. I’ve just return from New York where my wife and I workshopped our original opera, Patra. All our singers had won auditions with the NY Met Opera. Check out our Patra website, Patraopera.com. Professionally I play 52 weeks a year. I’m scheduled to play my 11th winter season in Boca Grande at the Gasparilla Inn. The owners have just reconditioned their Steinway Grand from 1924. You be the judge: Are piano competitions necessary? Perhaps.
Ten Minute Musical Bliss of Rubinoff and His Violin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUz-LOrzTQU. Like fine wine, musicians and artists improve with age. Dave Rubinoff is much too ignored today. That is due to the jealousy of the 100% pure classical musicians. Indeed, I even wonder how many pure symphonic musicians are left to be found today. It seems like so many are crossing the lines into the popular field.
Even as of recently, Dave Rubinoff refuses to give up the ghost. This is true even some 35 years after he passed away. Maestro, conductor, and curator Joseph Rubin (not related to Rubinoff except in spirit) gave a concert commemorating this great artist last summer. I was called to appear with violinist extraordinaire, Steven Greenman. It was held at the Circleville High School near Colombus, Ohio. Maestro Greenman had just returned from a tour of Poland. Among other places, he played the most haunting melodies in the synagogue in Cracow. Below was the itinerary Maestro Rubin sent me for the Circleville. Ohio concert.
Witness Another Ten Minute Musical Bliss with Steven Greenman and I playing the Rubinoff’s Fiddler
Friday, June 1 (2017)
Around 3 PM – Rehearse Fiddler Medley with Steven Greenman, location TBA
7-9:30 PM – Orchestra Rehearsal at Circleville High School
Saturday, June 2
11 am – Rehearse Fiddler Medley with Steven Greenman
2-4:30 pm- Orchestra Rehearsal at Circleville High School
6:30 PM – Pre-show lecture at High School
7-9 PM Concert at High School
9-10:30 PM Post show VIP reception at High School
Copy and paste the youtube link above to see what success is obtainable by playing incredibly well what the general public enjoys. I was thrilled to work so many years with this man.
Patra Workshop to debut in New York. Patra is the shorter name for Cleopatra. Queen of Egypt, she was one of the most famous women in history. Her full name was Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (69 BC – 12 August 30 BC). She was the last of the Pharaohs set up in Egypt by Alexander the Great. By descent, she was a Macedonian Princess. It will appear off book in the workshop. Our singers will literally be top notch. My wife, Sharon is the librettist and a co-composer of Patra. . I, husband David, am also a composer. Before going to NY, it will have a staged concert presentation. This will be in Sarasota Fl at the newly built Sarasota Westcoast Black Theater. Our casts in both NY and Fla are busy rehearsing. Here’s the gist:
Cleopatra had stopped the onslaught of two invading Roman generals through love. She thus neutralized the worst effects of their invasions by marrying the generals. Patra had children with each. They were, first, Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony.
Enter Octavian, a third Roman invader. She almost stops his aggression through love. In order to save her children, she follows the way of the warrior: An honorable death. If she she married Octavian and moved to Rome, both her and her children would have been seen as a threat to the Roman triumvirate. Our opera features Patra and Octavian’s encounter. In the opera she convinces him to become Augustus Caesar- 1st emperor of Rome Later, as a result, he honors her by placing a statue of her in the Temple of Venus in Rome. The statue was displayed exemplifying her as the good mother.
Patra has memorable melodies, Latin rhythms and most important – a gripping story. Sample our music on Patraopera.com.
See PATRA in Sarasota before it goes to New York !!
Presented in Sarasota for One Night Only
Before heading to New York in September, our new opera PATRA will be presented as a concert reading in Sarasota. The complete opera will be presented on Fri. July 19 at the new Westcoast Black Theatre at 6:30 pm.
The New York Workshop
PATRA has been selected for a fully-staged professional workshop in upstate New York at the Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake. The American Center for New Works Development at Seagle has work shopped pieces by many award-winning writers like Stephen Schwartz, Mark Adamo, Kevin Putts and more.
Patra Workshop – the Story
PATRA is loosely based on Cleopatra’s final days. When the villainous Octavian dangles a marriage proposal before Cleopatra, she hopes to secure a future for herself and her children. Yet, things do not go as he planned. Cleopatra’s love challenges Octavian and transforms him into a new man. PATRA has five singing roles. Our great Sarasota cast is listed below.
Writer, co-composer, librettist states: “When I began the eleven month rewrite of our more tragic Octavian & Cleopatra, I wanted to lighten the work and give it a popular bent. I cut two singing roles and added a dancer. Then, I infused comedy, lively dance rhythms, a small amount of spoken dialogue and a surprise at every turn. Most of all, I showcased the singer. I did something rather unusual in any musical or opera I created numerous dramatic moments where the instrumental accompaniment is silent. Only singing voices are heard.”
PATRA is an opera comique: It uses techniques from Bizet’s Carmen and Bernstein’s The West Side Story. .
Patra Concert Presentation
The WBTT concert has a $20 suggested donation ticket price to be paid at the door. For an advance reserved seat visit GoFundMe.com/PatraOpera, make a donation and in the notes write WBTT ticket. Westcoast Black Theatre is located at 1012 N Orange Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Libretto by Sharon Ohrenstein
Music by David Ohrenstein and Sharon Ohrenstein
Our terrific Sarasota CAST
Kathryn Parks as Cleopatra, Joseph Ryan as Octavian, Carole Cornman as Iras, Robyn Rocklein as Charmian, and Baron Garriott as Marcellus. Pianist Teresa O’Connell will accompany the shows.
Dancer Vanessa Russo, currently based in Sarasota, has been hired for the New York Patra workshop workshop. Only singers will be performing in Sarasota.
Background for the Patra Workshop: About Ohrenstein and Ohrenstein
Musical theater writers and performers, Sharon and David Ohrenstein have performed internationally from Canada to Honduras. Their musicals, Octavian and Cleopatra, Our Golda, and Elizabeth of Russia have been produced in Florida and New York to remarkable reviews. Sharon was honored to be chosen an Amazing Woman of the Suncoast by ABC 7. David’s chamber compositions for wind ensembles and larger works for concert band have had world premieres in New York, Ontario, Ohio and Florida. David just finished his tenth season at the Gasparilla Inn where he plays for U.S. presidents and other dignitaries. For more information visit Patraopera.com. Here is an internal link to a ballet I, David, wrote: Zodiac Dance Demonstrates Extremes from Ballet to Modern