Opera Ripped from the Headlines

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What happens when current events go operatic? Marilyn Horne’s guest today is Bob Simon, the award-winning "60 Minutes" correspondent who has had a ring-side seat for some of the major news stories of our time. He talks about his favorite operas based on historical events, and about some of the far-flung locations in which he's heard opera, including an Aida in Luxor, Egypt.

Also: Washington Post classical music critic Anne Midgette investigates the “docu-opera” phenomenon. And New York post classical music critic and Parterre Box editor James Jorden examines opera and the 24-hour news cycle ("As a newspaper columnist, I know something about how the media works").

In this week's newscast: Lincoln Center said this week that the 2013 Lincoln Center Festival will open with Monkey: Journey to the West. Described as a mash-up of opera, martial arts and cartoon segments, it will be given twenty-seven performances at the David H. Koch Theater in July. The work, which originally premiered in 2007, will be directed by Chinese opera specialist Chen Shi-Zheng, and feature music by Damon Albarn of the band Blur. Listen to a 2008 interview with Albarn and designer Jamie Hewlett on WNYC's Soundcheck about the piece.

Ask the Opera Expert: Operavore's Fred Plotkin will answer your questions about anything and everything operatic on an upcoming broadcast. For instance:

  • What should I serve for a dinner party viewing of Elektra?
  • Who’s the greatest Wotan of all time?
  • What’s a surefire date opera?
  • What CD should I give my opera-loving husband on his 50th birthday?

Leave your questions below. Fred has the answers to those and any other operatic questions you’ve been burning to ask.

Not all questions will be used on the show, but if yours is selected it will be played and answered on an upcoming Operavore broadcast. You will not be notified about when it will air.

Anne Midgette's Five Notable "Docu-Operas"

1. John Adams: Nixon in China
2. Mark-Anthony Turnage: Anna Nicole
3. Philip Glass: The Perfect American
4. D.J. Sparr: Approaching Ali (coming up June 8 at WNO)
5. Ted Hearne: Katrina Ballads


Giordano  Andrea Chenier
 “Come un bel dì di Maggio”
Mexico city Palacia de Bellas Artes Orchestra
Umberto Mugnai, conductor
Giuseppe diStefano
Opera D’Oro
Wagner:  Tannhäuser
“Dich, teure Halle”
Uncredited orchestra
Hans Lange, conductor
Kirsten Fladstad
Nimbus 7847
Wagner:  Tannhäuser
“Dich, teure Halle”
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Edward Downes, conductor
Birgit Nilsson
Decca 467912
Wagner:  Götterdämmerung “Trauermarsch”
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
Verdi:  Don Carlos
“Ella giammai m’amò”
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
Filippo:  Ferruccio Furlanetto
Wagner: Lohengrin
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Kubelik
Gerd Nienstedt
Deutsche Grammophon 449591

Verdi:  Aida
Orchestra of La Scala
Tullio Serafin
Franco Ricciardi
EMI Classics 490302A

Mascagni:  Cavalleria Rusticana
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Riccardo Muti EMI Classics 94838