Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai made his international debut as MacDuff in Verdi’s MACBETH at the Hamburg State Opera in January 2009 and later that year first appeared at the Royal Opera House, playing Rodolfo in LA BOHEME. He returned to Covent Garden last month as Lieutenant Pinkerton opposite Ana Maria Martinez in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, where he signed my drawing.
Argentina tenor Marcelo Puente is so good at being bad, he gets booed at the curtain call. Making his Covent Garden debut as Pinkerton, one of Opera’s great villains in the latest revival of Puccini’s MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House, the 38 year old has fulfilled a fourteen-year dream to perform at the iconic venue. Taking a break from his opera scholarship in Düsseldorf in the summer of 2003 he came to London and took a job as a waiter in an Italian restaurant near the ROH. They found out he was a singer so he performed between waiting tables and everyday passed the Opera House dreaming one day he would be on the famous stage. He actually gave up medical school and changed his career direction after hearing a recording of Pavarotti.
The reviews have been excellent. Tim Ashley, in the Guardian also mentioned opera audiences habit of booing reprehensible on stage characters and commented, when Marcelo takes his curtain call they greet him with “the kind of noise usually accorded a pantomime villain, despite giving one of the most complete and convincing portrayals of the role to be heard for some time.” He went on to say that, “Some might argue that the response validates his characterisation, though whether it’s a fitting acknowledgement for such a superb achievement seems to me debatable.”
Albanian-Italian soprano Ermonela Jaho is the toast of the opera world this week after her opening performance in the title role of Puccini’s tragedy MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House.
Critics from all the mainstream papers in the UK and beyond have cemented the 43 year-old’s star status. “The best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years,” wrote Michael Church in the Independent. The Guardian’s Tim Ashley headlined his five-star review of the Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier production with “The whole evening is outstanding.” He went on to write,”Ermonela Jaho, one of the great verismo interpreters, brings uncompromising veracity to the title role.”
I left this drawing at the stage door and it came back signed along with a dedicated photograph.
Known as one of the great singing actresses of our time, American opera star Patricia Racette returned to Covent Garden replacing Martina Serafin in the role of Georgette in Il TABARRO in February 2016. Associated with the world’s leading orchestras in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, NewYork and London, Patricia has excelled in Puccini and Verdi operas. Her well-known roles include Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, both Mimi and Musetta in LA BOHEME, Cio-Cio San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY and Desdemona in OTELLO. I left this montage sketch of Patricia at the Royal Opera House last February and when it didn’t come back after a month I thought it was a goner…but it returned this week it arrived back almost a year later, signed and dedicated.
Two of America’s young and up-and-coming opera singers, soprano Corinne Winters and mezzo-soprano Angela Brower both made their Covent Garden debut last month as the leads in the new production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ‘fiancé-swapping’ Italian ‘buffa’ (comic) opera COSI FAN TUTTE, currently running at the Royal Opera House. It’s full title ‘Cosi fan tutte Ossia La Sculoa deli amanti’ literally means ‘Thus Do They (women) All’, but is usually translated ‘Women Are Like That’ or ‘The School of Lovers’.
The Libretto (that’s the words) was written by Lorenzo Du Ponte and was first performed at Vienna’s Burgtheater in January 1790. Fiancées and sisters Fiordiligi (Corinne) and Dorabella (Angela) discover that their lovers are leaving to “go to war’ and two handsome strangers in disguise arrive on a mission of seduction. My mission was a less lofty aspiration-sigduction, and Corinne and Angela were happy to oblige, signing my sketch
This is the second sketch I drew of Bulgarian opera soprano Sonya Yoncheva. The first one she signed at the Royal Opera House last summer when she performed Violetta in LA TRAVIATA. It was dedicated to me and signed with her shortened ‘Sonya’ sig. This one I mailed to her agent in Switzerland prior to that and it came back last week with a full autograph in silver sharpie no less.
Sonya is returning to Covent Garden this month to replace Anna Netrebko in the title role of Bellini’s masterpiece NORMA. It’s the second time she has replaced the Russian opera star, after stepping into the role of Marguerite in FAUST in 2014. Sonya will also extend her London season playing Antonia in LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN in November.
Italian soprano Maria Agresta has just finished playing Vioetta, the main character in Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic 1853 opera LA TRAVIATA at the Royal Opera House. After winning several international competitions Maria began her professional operatic career in 2007 and made her Covent Garden debut in 2014 as Lucrezia Contarini in Verdi’s I DUE FOSCARI. She returns to the role of Violetta in Munich and at the Opera Bastille in Paris during June after making her debut at New York’s Met as Mimi in LA BOHEME.
Maria signed my drawing for me at the ROH after her final performance on 12 March.
“It’s every opera singers dream of singing at Covent Garden,” said the hotly-tipped Australian Nicole Car when she arrived in London and made her Royal Opera House debut late last year in two high-profile roles, playing Micaela in Bizet’s Spanish tragedy CARMEN and the lead, Tatyana in EUGENE ONEGIN.
Her response to performing on to the iconic stage for the first time? “Kind of cool.” An understatement that belied the rave reviews. Nicole never reads reviews during the run, but she could tell by the sustained applause on opening night that she was more than cool. George Hall in his Guardian review of her portrayal of ‘opera’s good girl’ Micaela wrote, “Australian debutant Nicole Car was the evening’s most complete performance… her luminous soprano proves ideal for Bizet’s soaring lines and she acts with intelligence and immediacy.”
The Sydney Morning Herald headlined aa article about Nicole with, ‘The Opera Diva you’ve never heard of, but soon will,” and she signed her name on this drawing I did of her as Micaela.
According to VOGUE magazine, Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva is “Opera’s brightest star” after two remarkable performances at the Metropolitan in New York last winter. Both appearances were not originally scheduled, but fate intervened, propelling her onto one of the world’s most famous stages as a late replacement for both the role of Mimi in LA BOHEME, only five weeks after giving birth to her son and a month later, playing Violetta in Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.
“Her dizzingly swift and serendipitous ascent to Opera’s Most Buzzed About Soprano” is how VOGUE described her performances.
This was nothing new for Sonya. I first became aware of her prowess last April when she once again replaced the original singer-in this case none other than Anna Netrebko-in the role of Marguerite in Gounod’s FAUST at the Royal Opera House to rave reviews.
She returned to Covent Garden last month for a few performances as Violetta in LA TRAVIATA and signed this portrait study for me.
Brilliant American soprano Georgia Jarman made her Royal Opera debut as Roxana in Karol Szymanowski’s masterpiece Król Roger (King Roger) which finished this week. Kasper Holten’s “devastating” production was the first time in almost 40 years that the 1926 Polish opera was on a London stage.
A mysterious shepherd is brought before 12th century King Roger of Sicily. The church officials want him punished for his pagan preaching of love and pleasure but Roger’s Queen Roxana has converted and pleads with her husband to let the shepherd speak. Things fall apart from that point, as the charismatic stranger gains power.
“The singing – notably by Kwiecien, Jarman and Pirgu – is superb” wrote Michael Church in The Independent.
The New York Times even reviewed it, stating, “Georgia Jarman delivered Roxana’s show-stealing coloratura with immaculate style”.
The excellent staff at the Royal Opera House managed to get my sketch to Georgia on the final night, which she signed and added a kind dedication.