SHOW NOTES: Diana Soviero on Teaching

I dedicated the very first episode of AMPED UP to an interview with Diana.  I thought the first episode about opera should, indeed, be about the subject that innately draws us to the art form- the human singing voice.  And who better to speak about it, than a world-class soprano whose career is legendary, and now dedicates her time to teaching others.  This is a remarkable commitment, and one this episode of AMPED UP details.  

I can’t believe the value of this interview with Diana.  I hear so many young artists struggling with concepts Diana offers so clearly in this episode.  And so many people who love to sing without formal training of this level could really take away some concepts to play with.  If you love singing, this conversation with Diana may revolutionize, or at least clarify some absolute concepts of singing; and she’s so charming, and offers fun stories about her own work on the concepts we speak about, she makes even technical jargon a pleasure to hear.

Now, in all honesty, I ask Diana to get very technical, because there are few forums where she can, and even more rare to have forums that are free to everyone, like this podcast!  Some of the vernacular is pretty clinical, and may not make sense to everyone.  So I’m providing a short glossary to define a couple of concepts we discuss.  I’ll also provide a couple links to offer a visual on these concepts.


A couple anatomical terms Diana uses:

DIAPHRAGM:  The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities.  Its main function is to initiate inhalation.  To produce sound like an opera singer, you must learn to employ this muscle to generate and sustain a tone.

LARYNX:  The organ at the top of your trachea (windpipe) made up of cartilages, ligaments and muscles.  Inside, attached from front to back are your vocal cords.  Certain muscles of your larynx affect the tension of your vocal cords as they work with air from your lungs to produce sound.  Sound is produced in your larynx. Managing it is a major part of gaining a technique.

VOCAL CORDS:  Two muscular folds that connect from the inside front to the inside back of your larynx.  Their change in thickness and vibrating length, due to adjustment in tension, affects the pitch and intensity of your tone.

A couple terms used to describe vocal technical issues (I’m providing simple definitions, there are pages and pages written to accurately define these concepts…):

PASSAGIO:  Italian for ‘passage’, this term refers to the place within a vocal range where the voice ‘shifts’ or transitions into a different register- from chest voice to head voice, for example.  A passage marks the end or boundary of one register and the beginning of the next.   We all have these transitions.  Managing them is a key to singing a smooth vocal line.

CUPO:  This term is from the word ‘coperto’ in Italian, which means ‘covered’.   Its a way of using the soft palette to produce a sound that sounds blanketed. Its a wonderful resource for coloring text and a tool for lightening the voice,  without pressing the sound.  It can be defined as the technique of “darkening” the tone (increasing pharyngeal space), especially at register transition points.

PLACEMENT:  A technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. My visual connection for this concept is thinking about in what part of the mouth the sound is directed- from behind the teeth, to the back of the mouth where the throat starts. Concepts of placement can make or break even the most healthy connection to breath.

SQUILLA:  is a technical term for the resonant, trumpet-like sound of opera singers.  Squilla is produced by the bones in the mask of the face. Squilla enables an essentially lyric tone to be heard over heavy orchestrations. 

Sometimes I hear audiences describe all this technical jargon as being mystical.  I think every pursuit in life comes with its own specific language.  Singers, and those of us who work often with voices just use these terms so often, we don’t consider it a language not spoken by others.

Going around Facebook last week was a link to a site that many of my friends who are singers check regularly.  I found some of the graphics to be very helpful in visualizing the anatomy of singing.  CLICK HERE TO LINK TO THE SITE.

I’ve incorporated a few excerpts of Diana’s recordings into this episode, because I think listening to her sing offers a great emotional pay off, and a study for those wanting to know more about great singing.


1) I use the CARMEN Overture to begin and end every AMPED UP episode because of the energy Bizet’s score offers the listener.

2) This is Diana singing "Un bel di", Madama Butterfly’s famous aria.  This is a role that became a signature for Diana.  It was the only role I saw her sing.

3) This is from one of my favorite operas, and a role I’ve never heard interpreted better than Diana.  This is “Senza Mamma” from SUOR ANGELICA, one of the most emotionally charged opera’s Puccini ever wrote.

4) “Sempre libera” from Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.  It is a treacherous aria, with enormous reward for the audience.  Violetta was another role that Diana sang often.

5) This is the ending of “Senza Mamma” for me this aria is forever linked to Diana.

ALL of the above recordings can be found on iTunes. HERE IS QUICK LINK TO THE DIANA'S WORKS ON ITUNES.

Want to add anything to this dialog about healthy vocal technique!  You can make COMMENTS below!

Episode 4, Bernard Uzan on CARMEN- Making Sexy Real

Bernard Uzan reveals insights into CARMEN you've never thought about, we'd bet.  This is an example of how a director's innate experience with the repertoire can be the difference between a moving production, and one that leaves you wanting to move OUT THE DOOR.  Bernard not only has a technique for producing opera, but for looking at any opera and delivering a production that is based on the reality of the moment.  Bernard will, LUCKILY, be back for more Amped Up Opera episodes.

SHOW NOTES: Bernard Uzan on CARMEN: Making Sexy Real, AUO Episode 4

Stage director, Bernard Uzan.

Stage director, Bernard Uzan.

I just finished editing the podcast for this episode. Bernard gives us so many definitives about this masterful opera- CARMEN.  The music of this opera completely sends me.  I think EVERY musical melody is a great TUNE; it simply stays in my head long after I leave the podium, or take off my headphones.

If you know CARMEN, or want to know CARMEN, listening to this podcast will give you insights and details about the opera that are inspiring.

At the end of the podcast I offer to provide some links for you to enjoy this opera online.  I STRONGLY recommend the recording I use throughout the podcast.  It is a very infamous recording from a 1964 performance featuring Maria Callas, Nicolai Gedda all lead by a masterful conductor- Georges Petre.  

The reason the recording is considered 'infamous' is that Carmen is a role certainly written, and usually performed by a mezzo-soprano. Callas was a very famous soprano who absolutely shined in some of the roles written with the highest notes for a woman to sing.  And, perhaps because of this reason, she never performed the role of Carmen on stage.  This is a studio recording.  I like it a lot, for many reasons driven by the conductor.  Petre delivers superb dramatic pacing, brilliant playing from the orchestra, inspired singing from the chorus and allows Callas to deliver another compelling performance, regardless of how low or high the role is.  And, the sound of tenor Nicolai Gedda is so satisfying. 

You can find this recording through iTunes by CLICKING HERE.  Or through Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

There is a very famous movie of this opera featuring Julia Migenes and Placido Domingo. This film is a great watch because the movie is filmed 'on location'.  It brings a different element to taking in the opera.  You can get it through Amazon by CLICKING HERE. If you're not interested in buying, I know this video, usually as a DVD, is a popular choice in the public library system of most cities.

I could really go on forever posting places to find glimpses of CARMEN.  By merely searching online you're going to find dozens and dozens of options.  And don't shy away from some of the opera's equally famous (and also infamous) adaptations, like CARMEN JONES from 1964 which jazzes up the piece, or even Beyoncé's HIP HOPERA production from 2001.

I clearly can't get enough of this score.  Happy Listening!


Danielle Pastin: Dishing with this Down-to-Earth Diva

Danielle Pastin is a soprano you want to know.  Her rich, lyric voice and radiant stage presence allows her mastery of a vast repertoire including Puccini, Verdi and Mozart, to name only a few of the composers she represents with distinction.   She has the additional talent of being a wonderful human.  We're proud to feature her in our inaugural HAPPY AMPER SPOTLIGHT!

Soprano Danielle Pastin, radiant as always.  She lights up our HAPPY AMPER SPOTLIGHT!

Soprano Danielle Pastin, radiant as always.  She lights up our HAPPY AMPER SPOTLIGHT!

This Thursday's AMPED UP OPERA episode features acclaimed stage director Bernard Uzan speaking with Douglas Kinney Frost about Bizet's masterpiece CARMEN.   Danielle has the unique opportunity of singing two roles in the opera as part of her repertoire- Micaëla and Frasquita, including performances at The Metropolitan Opera in NYC. 

Danielle on CARMEN:
"As much as I love singing Micaëla, and love her music, I have total mezzo-envy over the role of Carmen.  She's an incredible character in an even more incredible opera and I wish it was written for a soprano... there, I said it!  Although I can't complain, I get to sing some pretty amazing and fun roles myself.  

With how active Frasquita and Mercedes (Carmen's bffs) get to be with Carmen on stage, there are many opportunities for things to go hilariously wrong. One example occurred during a dance rehearsal at The MET for one of the big chorus scenes, when, as we gypsies were whipping our rehearsal skirts back and forth, my skirt spun around my waist, coming loose at the clasp and fell to the floor!

In a completely different dance rehearsal I moved a split second too late and was hit by a dancer coming down from a lift and was thrown across the stage, tripping over another dancer and landing flat on my face!  Nothing but my ego was bruised....don't worry (these things only seem to happen to me.

I've sung Micaëla a few times since Frasquita, but there aren't as many opportunities for things to go wrong during her scenes.  As the constant ray of light throughout what can otherwise be considered a rather dark story, at the end of the day everyone loves Micaëla!"

Dishing with the Diva:
Danielle is a wonderful colleague and brings a frisky and fun energy to every production. We came up with five questions which she graciously answered as an introduction to the life she leads on AND off the stage.

AUO:  1) Name a singer, living or dead, you wish you could sing with.
DP:     There are a few, of course, but off the top of my head I'd love to have sung with
           Mario del Monaco. That must have been thrilling!  
           I'd also have loved to sing with Domingo in his Boheme glory days in the 70's/80's.  
           I hope I get the chance to sing with Jonas Kauffmann - I think he's just an absolutely
           beautiful singer and stunning actor!!!

AUO:  2) What is the most played song on your smartphone right now?
DP:     I stream with Spotify and I can tell you that the most played collection is Stevie Wonder!
           LOVE Stevie Wonder!!!

AUO:  3) What was your last binge-watch on Netflix?
DP:     Hilariously, I watched the entire series of M*A*S*H.  I remember my parents being
           obsessed with it when I was a kid and I decided to watch it.  It was a really great show!!

AUO:  4) Boxers or briefs?
DP:     I prefer boxer briefs - haha!

AUO:  5) What is your favorite thing to do after a performance?
DP:     Well, I'm almost always starving so my favorite thing to do is eat!  I'm also very ready for    
           a drink at that point so I find either a well-made martini or a delicious glass of wine!

Any chance you get to see Danielle perform live would be a rewarding operatic experience.  And look for her on future episodes of Amped Up Opera! In the meantime, check out her website for some fantastic singing and more information about this talented diva!


The music of LA BOHEME utterly sends me to the moon and back.  I'm so excited to conduct it every chance I get, and listening to a great recording can leave me smiling all the day.

I'm sure you can imagine it would be nearly impossible to highlight a complete opera in a 20- minute podcast.  There are just too many details I'd like to share.  So we've created this series as part of AMPED UP OPERA- Make it or Break it Moments.  My goal is to share insights with you about a few of the pinnacle moments in a specific opera.  Moments that make or break an opera for the listener.  Moments that require honesty from the entire musical team, that should glue you to the story.

I'm celebrating my wedding anniversary next week, so that important event, and the "other" holiday this month, have inspired me to focus on a moment of romance in one of my favorite operas.  The end of Act I of La Boheme, when Mimi knocks on Rodolfo's door, is going to be that moment.  When this is perfectly metered by the performers, this moment transcends the earthly plain. When its' bad, it's like bad sardines out of a can.

There are many excellent recordings of LA BOHEME, but my all-time favorite, at this moment.... is the 1951 DECCA recording featuring nearly perfect singing from breathtaking soprano Renata Tebaldi and the amazing tenor Giacinto Prandelli.  The orchestra is one of the world's best- the orchestra of the Academy of St. Cecelia in Rome.  All of the musical tidings are blessed by the conductor Alberto Erede who is a gifted musician.  I cannot more highly recommend this recording.  You can download it on iTunes by CLICKING HERE.  Or you can get it through Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

Thank you, all, for your support of AMPED UP.  We're just getting started, so please look for future posts.  The way the online world works, podcasts are made available through the online sites by rankings.  If you like what you hear, please remember to rate us on ITunes, or drop us a line through our Facebook page.  We offer daily opera moments on Facebook, so please be sure to LIKE us there.  As always, feel free to leave a comment on this post or the post of the actual episode.  This interaction is important for us to enhance our audience, and we WANT you to be an active member in this community.  Again, please accept our sincere thanks for being a part of AMPED UP OPERA.

Episode 2, Beth Morrison- Making Opera Matter

Opera producer Beth Morrison is the center of all things 'new opera' in America.  Her productions are thrilling, her audiences are packed, and her press is as good as it gets.  In this episode she speaks with Douglas Kinney Frost about new opera, her vision for Beth Morrison Projects, and how opera became a focus in her professional life.

Though contemporary opera may not be everyone's scene, the integrity with which Beth operates and her tangible success, makes her an excellent study for people who love opera and want to make it thrive.  Without question, Beth Morrison amps me up.

SHOW NOTES: Beth Morrison- Making Opera Matter, AUO Episode 2

The impact Beth Morrison is having on the opera scene is palpable.  Run an online search for her name, or her company Beth Morrison Projects, and you’ll see what I mean.  Here is the company’s website, to save you a few finger clicks:

She has worked for several years to position this company to its current state of utter success, and to position them for an even brighter future.  Her company has been so successful on the east coast, that they recently opened an office in LA to be closer to productions on the west coast, including projects she’s producing for LA Opera.

I’ve worked with Beth on one project.  Through a very intense, and multi-year process, Beth taught me several things about her:  1)  She will work hard if she feels a project has merit; 2)  She has a keen business sense, but her empathy for other humans leads her actions; 3) I know that the artistry I offer her project will be respected and nourished- from the concept stage to post-performance.  Knowing these three factors of her character I’m not surprised she is successful.

In this interview, she references an Oscar Hammerstein, II quote about being a producer.  Hammerstein, you may know, was a world-class librettist, whose works were primarily broadway bound.  He collaborated with composers Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern, amongst others, and launched the career of Stephen Sondheim- a librettist’s pedigree doesn't get much better than that. Here is the quote Beth references:

I think only people in the theater know what a producer is. The public does not know. It knows a writer writes, and an actor acts, and a director tells them what to do.  A producer raises money. Well, he does, and in some cases thats all he does. But the workers in the theater know that this is not the real thing. A producer is a rare, paradoxical genius –hard-headed, soft-hearted, cautious, reckless, a hopeful innocent in fair weather, a stern pilot in stormy weather, a mathematician who prefers to ignore the laws of mathematics and trust intuition, an idealist, a realist, a practical dreamer, a sophisticated gambler, a stage-struck child.That’s a producer.”– Oscar Hammerstein II

In this episode, Beth and I have a discussion about a topic you’ll hear often on Amped Up Opera.  Opera is theater.  It is a story told with music, period.  The music should dramatize and enhance the text paired with it.  And singers who sing opera should be keen to make BOTH the music and the text pop in a theatrical way.  Beth points out, as several of my colleagues do, that often traditional opera forgets that last step- that merely singing the words attached to a musical line is good opera.  Beth and I COMPLETELY disagree. 

To me this one-dimensional approach is an afront to the great composers of what we now call ‘traditional’ opera, and entirely unacceptable in new opera productions.  Puccini wrote with an intention he called the ‘evidence of the situation’; he wanted you to sit down in the theater to experience an opera, and know exactly what the story was, and what each character was feeling by the sheer sound of the music and its performers. The great Verdi was called a composer by a fan, and he corrected the speaker by telling him he wasn’t a composer, he was a “man of the theater”.  In fact one of the most famous biographies of Verdi bears that title.  And don’t get me started on the specificity of EVERY textual and musical nuance in Mozart.

If the goal is to present an opera from the composer’s intent, then you cannot limit the theatrical bent of its production, whether in concert or in a fully-staged production.  WHEW!  Lecture concluded.  In all honesty, this topic came up very naturally in our discussion, and I think you’ll find very interesting Beth’s take on it, and how that observation focusses her programming.

Beth is having the kind of box office success (attendance and dollars) with ‘new opera’ that most regional opera companies would kill for.  It seems new opera is not for everyone, but it seems we should be asking ourselves why Beth’s performances are striking a chord with the public and the press.

Beth’s sincerity is a joy.  She continues to work hard to provide artists with a wonderful environment to practice their craft, and give audiences a true visceral experience in each of her productions.  If you have the chance to see a Beth Morrison Project live, I highly recommend the experience.  Her company and its projects are also very visible online.


1) I start and end every Amped Up Opera podcast with the Overture to CARMEN.  It’s energy amps me up.

2)    There are several excerpts on this episode from the recording I made through Beth’s company with composer David Lang.  It is a very provocative work of musical theater called the difficulty of crossing a field.  David writes in such a compelling way, and the text by Marc Wellmanis the perfect marriage with David’s music.  The recording was released in June of 2015, and has received wonderful reviews from the New York Times, Opera News, Wall Street Journal, and many others smart reviewers…. It was a pleasure to be a part of this Beth Morrison Projects and David Lang adventure.  You can buy your copy by clicking here….

3)  Just as I’m saying good-bye in this episode, I play a snip-it from Piazzola’s great ‘operita’ MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES.  This is the world’s only tango opera, and it is a very compelling experience.  Piazzolla playing his own work can be found on this two-part, 1968 recording-

SHOW NOTES: Diana Soviero- The Craft of Being an Artist, AUO Episode 1

Diana Soviero is a legend in the opera world.  She has sung many of the most difficult opera roles at the major opera houses of the world numerous times.  

She’s one of those solid icons who has proven her abilities and her knowledge time after time.  Before I knew how to have a career, I was working for an opera company as an assistant conductor, for which I was very ill-prepared. I was too young and too experienced for the job, which meant my ability to process all that I was learning and experiencing was not keen.  I was definitely scrambling to make my love of music focussed towards our industry.  I had the opportunity to hear Diana sing Madama Butterfly at The Met.  It was a life-changing experience on several levels.  It gave me an understanding of what I should be working for, it was viscerally thrilling, and Diana’s performance introduced me to what the standard should be for opera singers.

In performance, Diana hits everything my study of these great opera tells me should happen.  She has the ability to ‘color’ every word with emotion.  She is able to make every word pop within the musical moment set by the composer.  

Thank God for Youtube.  I’m going to link a very poor video recording of a very tremendous performance by Diana in the opera Suor Angelica by Puccini.  This aria is called "Senza Mamma", as the character has just been told that her son- from whom she has been apart since birth- has died.  She sings about the baby dying without her mother.  (Yep… that storyline has GREAT OPERA PLOT written all over it.)  This clip shows exactly what I’m suggesting Diana has perfected.  Important words in her textual delivery pop out of the sentence.  The musical line is made even more exciting by her ability to stress words and color them differently.

Check this out!

In this interview Diana talks about her start as a singer.  The support of her parents was of major importance.  With her grandparents, they positioned her to find the path to the famed Juilliard Prep School.  This program flourishes today, and allows talented performers who are pre-college age to have lessons and performing experiences with many great teachers. Throughout her time there her mother drove from NY to Philadelphia to take lessons.  Geographically we’re talking a short distance, but through New Jersey traffic after school we’re talking about a very lengthy drive.

She references her time with famed vocal pedagogue Marenka Gurevitch.  It’s clear this woman knew what she was doing because she shaped many great singers from Diana’s generation. I remark on this podcast that Diana clearly knows the name of everyone who supported and trained her.  She instantly recalls everyone who kept her on her journey.  This gratitude is a wonderful and unique trait.  Its very easy for artists to expect their talent to be the sole catalyst for any success, which we all know is an impossible uniqueness.  

In the podcast Diana tells us that while working at Juilliard Prep School and through lessons with Madame Gurevitch she was expected to work from the ‘orchestral score’ rather than the ‘piano vocal’ score.  In the preparation of an opera it is expected that someone- not always the composer, often an assistant or an editor- turn the complete orchestration into a smaller more manageable score from which pianists can easily play, and singers can read their parts.  If we’re looking at one page of an orchestral score we’re talking about possibly the lines for 30-40 different instruments.  This makes page turning as a pianist an utter nightmare. A piano/vocal score definitely has its uses, but it is not the complete picture.

Diana’s mentors required her to look at the ‘entire’ picture of a musical moment because, as she says in the podcast, often musical lines from instruments match exactly the musical lines the singers must duplicate.  If a singer takes a breath in a line that is also played by a wind instrument- also an ‘instrument’ driven by breath- then the musical line is interrupted.  It’s a very amateurish mistake, but one that careful understanding of who else is making music at any given time, can result in a truly unified performance, and certainly the performance expected by the composer. 

The opportunity to be fully merged with the orchestra is crucial to a great performance.  Operas are full of those tiny moments of interlocking musical choices.  For a role the size of Madama Butterfly, as an example, that happens hundreds of times in a three hour opera.  Great musicians do this innately and not all of those moments need to be discussed in rehearsal.  Usually the discussions occur when they don’t happen.

A final note Diana references in this podcast is that many singers want to have lessons with her so she’ll give them the ‘magic bullet’, the one mystical secret to great singing, the one piece of advice that will have opera companies banging down their door.  Diana knows, and relates in this interview, that to be ready for those opportunities takes years of preparation. That said, in the second part of my interview with her, she is able to elucidate in one single sentence the key to a great vocal technique.  I have been working with voices most of my life, and not one singer has ever been able to phrase this ‘magic bullet’ to me so succinctly.  BUT YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT TIL THE SECOND PART OF THIS INTERVIEW TO HEAR IT, he writes with a smile.

If you follow our Amped Up Opera Podcast page on Facebook you’ll know when that episode will air.


  1. I begin and end every Amped Up Opera podcast with the Overture to CARMEN.  The excitement of this music launches me into energy mode at light speed.  I would call it the defining Amped Up theme song, at this point.
  2. One of Diana’s signature roles is Violetta in LA TRAVIATA.  This is the famous first act are “Sempre Libera” where the character pushes off the flirtations of a potential lover, and its potential heartache, so be “Forever Free”.  We all know that conviction lasts exactly as long as the aria, because the next scene we see they’ve been shacking up for the last six months.  It is a wonderful scene.  This is Diana singing on a recording available through iTunes at
  3. “Un bel di”, the famous aria for Madama Butterfly, another signature role for Diana.  After three years without her Pinkerton, Butterfly sings of the conviction she holds that one day he’ll return.  Its a clip that features Diana on one of those record company mishmash recordings, with bits of the most popular classical music thrown on it. The rest of the recording is a little cheesey, but you can download this specific track only, if the rest of the album does not appeal to you….

  4. Diana references her family’s connection to famed Italian composer Pietro Mascagni.  This is the famous Intermezzo from his great opera CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA.  This is soulfood music. This exact track is from a 1957 recording THE MET made while in performance in Boston. You can download it here….
  5. The great Roberta Peter’s singing “Caro nome” from RIGOLETTO. The whole recording is worth a listen:

     6.   Another great singer Diana references is Renata Tebaldi.  Diana uses this wonderful aria                 
           from LA BOHEME, and Ms. Tebaldi’s interpretation specifically, as an example of how her  
           curiosity was peeked to create her own artistry.  I love the whole of this recording with
           Carlo Bergonzi on stage with Ms. Tebaldi, and the super-human conductor Tullio Serafin in
           the pit.

At least a whole week’s worth of listening available on this one list! Enjoy!

Epsiode 1: Diana Soviero- The Craft of Being an Artist

Famed soprano Diana Soviero speaks candidly with Douglas Kinney Frost about her journey to becoming one of the world's great opera singers.  Diana's dedication and passion for her art form motivated her to work hard to train her voice and artistic sensibilities.  Now she shares her experience and sterling vocal technique with a new generation of gifted singers.  I can think of no greater way of launching this podcast about opera than with an interview about singing and artistry with a legendary singing artist.

SHOW NOTES Catalina Cuervo: Two To Tango BONUS EPISODE

MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES, the worlds only opera told to the music of tango, offers an electrifying and satisfying performance of music that is instantly appealing.  Famed Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, and master of the unique concertina style instrument-the bandoneon, teamed with one of his country's most esteemed poet to bring the musical form of tango to life.

For the librettist, Horacio Ferrer, and Piazzolla Maria IS tango.  Maria personifies the ritual of tango by being 'born' each evening as the tango clubs begin to play music, living an exotic, indulgent life through the evening, dying when the band stops playing and the dancers relive their evening of debauchery, only to be born again the next night as the bands begin to fill the clubs again.  Rich with the Catholic and latin folklore imagery, the music does what every successful operatic composition should do- use specific music to describe every nuance of the story.

Piazzolla's dedication to his 'tango' instrument, the bandoneon offered him a unique niche in the classical music world.  He studied with the leading classical composers in Argentina, and even studied with Nadia Boulanger- a fascinating woman who taught an entire generation of composers and conductors.  

(Ms. Boulanger is a colorful character whose ability to craft music inspired Aaron Copland, John Eliot Gardner, and many others.  She was the first women to conduct many of the leading orchestras of the world.  If you're a classical music lover, she would be a fascinating study.)

Piazzolla, to this day, has a very interesting relationship with his home country.  His music gets more respect in the states and in Europe than it does in Argentina.  I've asked dozens of Argentine musicians about this and I get the same number of responses.  He is both beloved and despised depending on whom you ask.  Unlike, Verdi, for example, who is considered a great Italian statesman and representative of his nation's culture. 

Piazzolla took the traditional tango sound, which had been around for decades, added many jazz and classical elements to this music and started calling it nuevo tango (new tango).  You'll find harmonies in his work easily identified with Duke Ellington, and classical forms of constructing music, like the fugue or the rondo, easily identified by Bach, for example.  Not everyone in Argentine is wild about this, even half a century since he started this. 

His only operita (little opera), Maria de Buenos Aires is a great example to me of two things: 1)  Piazzolla was an adept composer and orchestrator; 2) He understood how great musical storytelling works.  The sound of his writing is unique, and you're drawn in to the life of Maria very easily.

CATALINA CUERVO came to my attention a few years ago when a colleague found out I was producing the opera.  A very fine stage director, he suggested that she personified Maria better than anyone he'd ever seen.  Even though she is a soprano, she has the ability to sing in the low, sultry octave written for the role, and is a compelling actress.  It happens that she has sung in more productions in her career than anyone else on the planet.  Imagine the experience she brings to the piece.  Catalina has mastered many other roles.  I highly recommend a trip to her website- to learn more about her.  

She is performing the role with me now in a wonderful production in Anchorage, Alaska.  We spoke about her experience being Maria, how she manages the singing style, how the operita is constructed, and her days of study with the show's librettist, Horacio Ferrer.

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1.  I begin and end every podcast with the Overture to Bizet's masterpiece CARMEN.  It has the energy that amps me up.  Right now, I would say it brands AMPED UP OPERA podcast.

2.  All of the excerpts on this episode are from Maria De Buenos Aires.  There are many fine recordings of the piece.  Piazzolla plays bandoneon on a 1968 recording. You can find it on iTunes through THIS LINK.




SHOW NOTES for Why I'm Amped Up! Episode 00

At long last- Amped Up Opera launches its intro Episode, appropriately numbered 00!

In this relatively short intro I detail an explanation for the podcast's title, and how the podcast will work.  

AMPED UP OPERA Podcast is designed for opera lovers and potential opera lovers.  It may spark some inspiration in people who practice the art form, but everyone on the planet who can understand English who has any interest in the art form should be able to tune in or download and be a part of the community this podcast will generate.

There are four basic reasons my team and I feel AMPED UP OPERA is a great title.  Obviously 'amp' comes from 'amplitude' which generated 'amplify', though popular vernacular has created its own definition of 'amped' which more appropriately defines its use in this podcast's title.  In a form used in an urban dictionary entry:  'amped'- Fired up, awaiting the big thrill, ready to roll.

Here are the definitions I promoted on this episode:

1) Amped as in amplitude- its a podcast traveling via radiowaves, satellites, and other technology I have no need to question.

2) I believe the art form of opera gets 'amped up' when it 'amps up'- when technology is used to further the message and the performances of opera.  You are reading a blog about a podcast about opera.... that is awesome!

3) I study my behind off when I'm working on the great music I have the opportunity to conduct.  I can't know too much about it, the composer, and the time period in which they wrote, etc, etc, etc....  The more details I can garner the better.  This podcast is not that- its amped up because it will deal with some of those specifics, but its meant to be more big picture, and instant information that is attainable and exciting.  It would be impossible to cover ALL the details and exciting moments in Madama Butterly in 20 minutes or less, for example.  Instead I intend to pack your 20-30 minutes with a few details and musical moments on which any listener can hang his or her hat.

4)  My interview series on AMPED UP, called IN TUNE, will amp you up because I am interviewing the gifted artists who make opera happen all over the world, and on both sides of the footlights.  They amp me up with their insight and experience, and I know they will amp you up, too!


I will be launching one podcast per week, with the possibility of a bonus track now and again.  You can become a HAPPY AMPER by filling out the form to your right.  This will bring each episode to your email.  Beginning next week, all podcast episodes will be available on iTunes, Stitcher and Libsyn.  They will also be available on the AMPED UP OPERA Facebook page.

There are three series as part of this podcast, which you may elect to hear based on your interest in the art form:

1)  IN TUNE brings you interviews with opera's most fascinating people.  

2) MAKE IT OR BREAK IT will feature discussions of not just great operas, but the very specific moments that make each opera compelling: moments that either tie you to the story or thrill you, or both!. We'll talk about why and how the composer and librettist, even great conductors and vocalists, make those moments real for you.

3) SUPERFANS!  (spoken with a Saturday morning cartoon inflection) will introduce you to opera lovers across the world who go to extremes to witness the art.  In recording these episodes, this look at the civilian side of things has lead to outlandish and heartfelt stories about how opera can touch our hearts. These stories inspire me constantly. Those of us who make opera understand that the listener is a very important element in our work.  You'll have fun listening to these stories.

In this introductory episode I reference a quote by Leonard Bernstein that sheds light on a philosophical belief on which I have based my professional life.  It speaks to the need of our culture to embrace arts for our very survival.

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job.  That was never its function.  Art cannot change events.  But it can change people.  It can affect people so that they are changed… because people are changed by art - enriched, ennobled, encouraged - they then act in a way that may affect the course of events…. by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.”  -Leonard Bernstein, Los Angele Times interview.

Take this journey with me.  Let's create some empathy through art.  Let's embrace a way of being and a way of seeing that unifies and celebrates our distinctions.  Become a HAPPY AMPER by filling out the form to your right and let's get into this art form and have some fun!!!  


1)  I'm starting every episode of AMPED UP with the Overture from CARMEN.  It thrills me to no end, and represents the exact kickstart I want AMPED UP OPERA to be.

2)  Overture to Wagner's THE FLYING DUTCHMAN.  This is from a live concert I conducted recently.  This work has/had a profound influence on me as a conductor. There will certainly be future podcasts about it.  Harnessing the energy of Wagner, and THE FLYING DUTCHMAN in particular, is a profound responsibility.

3)  This tango music you hear is from Piazzolla's MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES- an opera (or operita) told with the music of tango. It is one of my favorite pursuits. This clip is called FUGA y MISTERIOSO.  The sheer sound of the unique 'bandoneon' is intoxicating.

4) Bernstein's overture to CANDIDE- instant Americana.

5) This is the end of Scene 1 of THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, again from my own concert. It perfectly describes a launch to me- the start of a grand adventure!