Opera Archives

The Steiny Road's 'Making of American Operas'

A graceful piece of writing. Remember, Alenier is commenting on a fellow stepping into her terrain, and I believe she does so with generosity, saying "there is enough of everything to go around".
Grace Cavalieri
read Karren Alenier's article

The Steiny Road's 'Making of American Operas'

I enjoyed reading about this new approach to creating a musical production based on the life of Gertrude Stein. Obviously, she is still inspiring artists! I look forward to cornering Ms. Alenier about her impressions of the new production.
Susan Absher
read Karren Alenier's article

Dr. Atomic

The article was helpful. I read it because I was trying to find out how long the opera lasted. "3 hours of dread" was the best I could come up with after 1/2 hour of googling.
John Phillips
read Karren Alenier's article

Beverly Sills

Thank you for this clean and compact capsule of the life of Beverly Sills. She brought love and humanity to a sometimes stilted art form. All you have to do is add her music to this article and you have an important profile of this champion and giant in American opera.
Alvin Roettner
read Karren Alenier's article

Der Rosenkavalier

As usual, Renate Stendhal's review is articulate and engaging. However, I have to disgree with her. I found this performance flat and slow. And I didn't see the all the cross-gender innuendoes that Miss Stendhal so artfully unveiled.
read Renate Stendhal's article

Der Rosenkavalier

Renate Stendhal's article on "Der Rosenkavalier" was intensely interesting as to the opera's emotional and sexual nuances. Her suggestion of casting a physically attractive singer as Ochs, as a way of shaking up the opera's dynamics, was particularly intriguing, and caused me to think the following: has any opera company ever cast a male countertenor, instead of a female mezzo, in the role of Octavian? I don't even know if this is possible musically (being ignorant of how, or even if, the vocal ranges of mezzos and countertenors overlap), but it's an intriguing concept.
Miles Moore
read Renate Stendhal's article

A Libretto Is Written

I think that it is generous to give the examples of the writing in progress rather than an abstract set of illusions. This is very satisfying it its detail.
Grace Cavalieri
read Karren Alenier's article

Dr. Atomic

Intelligent article. I gather that the reviewer preferred Sellars' opera to Woolcock's version although points were made in favor of each.


read Karren Alenier's review

Encompass Theater

Encompass Opera Company is a pioneer discovering new lands and so is Karren Alenier.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's article

Creative Financing Means Going On with the Show

Theater people of all genres, and for that matter all artists including endeavors involving poetry and the other written arts, must not be defeated by a government organization saying we cannot give you any money. Artists need to think outside of that sow's purse and actively seek money else where. If necessary, take off your hat (mine says "Poet" in big bold letters) and pass it around to those listening. If you cannot get past the embarrassment of begging, you are not a true artist. While we are on the subject, come see Four Saints in Three Acts Feb 20 at CUNY Graduate Center on 5th Avenue. It's free to the public. Look it up at Encompass doesn't yet have all the money needed for the 16 piece orchestra but if you come and toss something in the hat after you hear this wonderful performance of the most innovative American opera ever created, maybe Nancy Rhodes won't have to go to the Poor House.

Karren Alenier

Mary Zimmerman at Play

Thank you for your insightful article. Mary Zimmerman is a genius plain and simple.

Tadya Korin

read Catherine Conway Honig's article

Peter Grimes

How Marvelous! Had no knowledge of this work, and it is an enthralling discovery.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's column

Peter Grimes

I too fell in love with Peter Grimes a long time basically because I've always worshipped Britten's music and this opera is so incandescent. Thanks for a beautiful look at a beautiful production.

Amy Sachs

read Karren Alenier's article

Brave New Met

Yesterday I saw a performance of "Carmina Burana" and this morning I read your article. All wonderful fodder for my tiny brain that is trying to add a little more culture to its life (my next amble being an attendance this week at an outdoor opera simulcast). Brilliant article.

Irene Hendrick

read Renate Stendhal's article

Alenier's 'Seigfried'

I'm frankly not a Wagner fan except for Tristan, which an early beau played and played for me when I was 15. However, because I have a Polish-Canadian friend in Toronto who is a Wagner nut and edits a Wagner mag, I stolidly began to read-- liked what Karren said very much and read the whole thing! I will also forward him the site.

Elisavietta Ritchie

read Karren Alenier's review

Brave New Met

I appreciate Ms. Stendhal's keen powers of observation in this well-written article. I have seen the performance of Lucia and am amazed at how well Ms. Stendhal describes the beauty of this production. I have not see the Rene Fleming performance, but I am sure now that I do not ever need to!

Larissa Chernin

read Renate Stendhal's article

Opera in China

Thank you for your personal and informative portrait of the magnificent Beijing Opera. I have been there and seen it (and experienced it) a few times. It is grand opera at its grandest and great theatrical art and great entertainment. Your sense and perception added to my memories and enjoyment.

Anee S. Waterson

read Karren Alenier's article

Opera In China

This is a magnifcent overview. I cannot imagine anyone attending this opera without such an understanding as Karren gives us here.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's article

Michael Bettencourt considers a new business model

Michael, I suggest you look at other dying forms for guidance on how to make a living as a playwright. Opera has been dead for over 50 years, so creaters of "new music theater" have been experimenting with new business models - one's that have nothing to do with the traditional roles of composer/librettist submitting work to artistic director/opera company in the hopes of workshop/production. Granted, theater has a longer tradition of devotion to contemporary work, but so many works are, like new music theater, being developed in collectives, now, and I am amazed that you, this late in the game, would still seek that brass ring of "legitimate theater" validation. So, the point is not so much to self-produce, as to collaborate with others, to form a company in which the hat of "playwright" is not so explicitly defined. If you give up that dream and that ego, you may get more chances to play in the theatre, and see your plays become reality.

Barry Drogin

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Revolution of Forms

Thank you so much for this look at new opera. Isn't wonderful how far-ranging opera is going. The Steiny Road to Operadom is now a super-highway. Thanks Karren Alenier for taking us with you on the journey.

Nuntaporn Amadsri

read Karren Alenier's column

On 'The Dresser' - Karren Alenier's Blog

From a comment posted to Karren Alenier's blog at Scene4...

I've been rereading a number of The Dresser's postings and I'm ashamed I haven't written before not only to thank you but to say how marvelous it is what you've been doing over this time. I have no reason to flatter -- you've brought such a fine critical intelligence and in a writing style that keeps one (me) moving from one sentence to another. Ann and I haven't gone to all that much in D.C. this year, so The Dressing has been a vicarious way of doing that. A bit of hyperbole maybe but not all that much. We did get to the Joe Louis opera -- I've seen numbers of Leon Major's productions, all of which have been strikingly distinctive. The voicies espeically of Carmon Balthrop and Adrienne Webster, as you say, were compelling -- Webster had terrific dramatic presence. I loved the staging -- the modern Greek chorus, the movement with chairs, the masks, the lighting, Kirby Malone and his partner's projections. The structure of the storytelling might have been more adventurous -- I felt my attention flag at times, which could easily have been me and not the libretto. I only read the Washington Post review later on, not wanting to be prejudiced, and the criticism had some validity, though in truth I was caught up in the production. I'm not a great fan of so-called biopics and so when I say it might have been more adventurous, something different than the linear storytelling. Then your observations about the Terra Cotta warriors, the differences between seeing them in Xian and at the National Geographic -- first rate. When I first read your post on Split This Rock, your comment about Holly Bass didn't register with me -- I didn't know her work and so it passed over. But on Friday night, a bunch of us were at the Enoch Pratt for a reading for Kim's Full Moon -- Holly read and did her "In This District," which I loved.

Merrill Leffler

read Karren Alenier's blog

Santa Fe Opera article by Renate Stendhal

Thanks for the very interesting interpretation of Hoffman's tales and the review of an Opera house which has productions that one wants to visit.

Michel Ginster

read Renate Stendhal's review

High on the Santa Fe Opera

I am very grateful for Renate Stendhal's review of those operas I did not see this summer at the Santa Fe Opera. I heard about them, especially the unusual production of Madame Butterfly but what I had not gotten much insight about was The Tales of Hoffmann. Thanks, Renate, for such a thorough review!

Karren Alenier

read Renate Stendhal's review

Santa Fe Opera+ Karren Alenier

Well, It sounds as if this deserves a Pulitzer...I didn't know there was a Pulitzer category for opera. Apparently the dissonance was not too off-putting for this is a rave review.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's review

Nixon in China

Lovely, lovely, lovely. I am sorry I missed the theater broadcast. But it's almost like being there, reading your review. I wonder if the opening night audience left their politics home. And your comment- "a fishing trip, an opportunity to see what will be pulled out of the water or thin air?" They sure pulled a big and important one out of thin air,didn't they.

Melanie Mansmin

read Karren Alenier's review

Nixon in China

What's next-"Bush in Iraq"?

Sam D.

read Karren Alenier's review

On Karren Alenier's Column

Three cheers for the math-music connection.
I look forward to more news of HOW MANY MIDNIGHTS!

JoAnne Growney

read Karren Alenier's "Steiny Road to Operadom"

The Ring

Renate Stendal , your review is extraordinary What a piece, so many complexities, one is left wondering... I love your style and exuberance even when I am left behind Bravo!

Jeanne Stark

read Renate Stendhal's review

Same old same in America!

The writer of the review of La Traviata (Renate Stendhal - Scene4 - August 2009) sounds as if she is doing PR for Martha Domingo, or perhaps angling for a job in the Domingo Empire. Her superficial dismissal of Willy Decker's imperfect but illuminating production of the opera, first seen in Salzburg with Netrebko, typifies the inability of many American critics to grasp the difference between Eurotrash and the best European 'Regietheater'. The students of my Opera History class found the Decker production compelling but were bored by a 'traditional' version from London's Royal Opera House. Verdi was the true master of the triangle relationship approach to opera and in the Decker production, the real situation of each character is made crystal clear. Your reviewer's verbose but unimaginative response to the artistry of Decker, Villazon and the brilliant Netrebko, not to mention her uncritical praise of Ms. Domingo's production shows how out of touch she is and does a disservice to your readership. There can be good and bad 'modern' productions, and equally so for traditional versions of these wonderful masterpieces. We benefit from experiencing different approaches to presentation and thereby reinvigorate the art form, so let's keep an open mind!

David Walsh

read Renate Stendhal's review

Ars Poetica

Though I'm not a fan of metre-less free verse, Alenier draws a telling parallel between Stein and Bashaw. Worthy of operatic treatment? I don't think so. Bashaw's language is rather unlyrical but so is a lot of libretto being written today. Thanks for the insight into her work.

Louis Laird

read Karren LaLonde Alenier's column

Tales of Hoffman

Many thanks to Renate Stendhal for her juicy review of this latest "Hoffman" at SF Opera. I love this opera and so it seems Ms Stendhal does too which she can't bear to see mutilated and her clever lingustic turns tell us why.

Tamara Coane

read Renate Stendhal's review

Molly Bashaw

I cannot agree with the prior comment respective to Molly Bashaw's verse. I find her verse quite lyrical, quite musical. I don't know about its application to opera, still it works with my sensibility and ears.

A. S. Waterson

read Karren LaLonde Alenier's column

the Great Heldentenors

Wonderful retrospective from Ms Verdino-Süllwold. The musical excerpts are marvelous. Would be interesting to compare them to the great tenors of today.

Frem Oberlisk

read Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's article


It's one of the hardest things in writing to describe a singing voice. Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold (what a great operatic name) does it superbly and opera lovers like me will eagerly await her foray into more modern times, or instantly get the book this article seems to be taken from -- an erudite lesson in operatic history. The musical excerpts beautifully illustrate her descriptions and evaluations of the singers. Let's hope for a sample of the great Wolfgang Windgassen in November.

Renate Stendhal

read Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's article

Water-shed Moment in Opera

In this beautiful, passionate second part of her essay, the author has captured one of the water-shed moments of opera, not just Wagnerian opera, when opera entered modern psychological and cinematic sensibility with Patrice Chéreau's Bayreuth "Ring."  It's worth repeating here what she says: "The éclat that Peter Hofmann occasioned when he burst upon the Heldentenor scene in the Patrice Chéreau Centennial Ring at Bayreuth in 1976 was nothing short of cataclysmic. The production with its bold, sweeping staging, brought Wagnerian music-drama into the living present, and it introduced a whole new generation of singers who transformed opera into communicative speech-song, replacing grand theatre with cinematic reality. Of these none made a greater impression than Peter Hofmann as Siegmund.  His voice which possessed true heroic proportions and uniquely beautiful coloration, coupled with the white heat of his acting did for the Heldentenor tradition what Maria Callas did for bel canto."

Callas had Visconti as a guide; Hofmann (and all the other superb cast members) had Chéreau. Without him, this break-through might not have happened. Thankfully, the extraordinary Ring production is preserved in a DVD that shows the genius of the French director, who was also a cinematographer. It preserves the unusually androgynous, erotic presence of Peter Hofmann as Siegmund and his look-alike incestuous twin sister Sieglinde (Jeannine Altmeyer) -- a casting and performance that would have made Wagner's most ardent dreams come true (and brought tears to the eyes of Thomas Mann.) Thanks to Bayreuth 1976, we can enjoy an operatic evolution with actors/singers like Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko (see the review of Euene Onegin in the same issue) and with live in HD opera productions at the Met that have taken up the cinematic challenge at a surprisingly high level of consistent excellence. 

Renate Stendhal

read Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's article

Jerry Hadley

I remember Jerry Hadley so well and his beautiful singing. Why oh why did he leave us? Ms Süllwold writes so beautifully and even restraining herself she breaks my heart. Thank you Scene4 Magazine for publishing this wonderful tribute.

Molly Trincicz

read Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's article


The beauty of Martin Burke's libretto is that it reads like music. The words flow into the ears as well as the eyes. Beautiful. Is it an opera or ballet yet? It is a composer's dream.

Arian delGado

read Martin Burke's writing

How Now Copyright? - A Response To A Response

Response to Arthur's Response

Citing the "mashup" as "the worst thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball" is to forget that the "mashup" is how any art gets made.  No inventor creates something in the way that Athena burst forth from the head of Zeus when Hephaestus cracked open his skull, that is, something without antecedent, without an origin story, without some debt to (dare I say it?) to the "public domain."

This is precisely the point Nina Paley made in stripping her wonderful work, Sita Sings The Blues, of all copyright restrictions: "From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes."

For me, the more things there are to mash up into new forms, the better off everyone will be, not just in the arts but in all aspects of intellectual study -- "mashup" is just a synonym for "the free market of ideas," and the public domain, where everybody has a library card to borrow the materials, is where this market can play out the trading that results in new ideas, new practices, new directions.

This fertility -- its power to nourish and propel -- is why we can't follow my colleague's advice and do only "archival performances" (my term, not his) of past work.  Shaw had every right to issue his cease-and-desist then, but I don't think anyone can make a defensible aesthetic argument that his work is well-served by issuing one now on his behalf, and there's certainly no legal basis for it either.

Perhaps Shakespeare is more to the point here, since competing versions of some of his plays defy citing any one manuscript as definitive, Arthur's "the original words."  (Kenneth Branagh, for his film version of Hamlet, simply mashed together every version he could find into one script, which is why the film runs for four hours with an intermission.)  There is no ur-Shakespeare text, and certainly no ur-Shakespeare performance (we have no settled picture of what happened on an Elizabethan stage), and thus no ur-Shakespeare to which we must always remain faithful.  

And even if such a thing did exist, doing R&J in 2014, even following every jot and tittle, will not be the same as a production done in 1614: we can mimic the practice but we can't access the spirit and mind-set of that time.  We are different people living in a different world, and our R&J will be an automatic betrayal of the original.

Rebecca Solnit's point about "the Internet" is a good one in terms of its effects on artists' livelihoods.  However, it's not "the Internet's" fault but the way people use and abuse this vast infrastructure for sharing information -- a subject too large to parse here but one which touches upon the ethic of the public domain and a regulated commons.

But it certainly has thrown into disarray old notions of ownership and control and property and contract, which, to me, is a very good thing since many of these notions were restrictive, exploitative, and rent-seeking, and needed to be challenged.  Going back to a situation where "the permission [to change things] is no longer available" is to go back to the very practices that "the Internet" has up-ended.

The "mashup" is how stuff gets made.  The source material for the mashup is both the universe of all created artifacts and the cultural "air" we all breathe as citizens of some collective.  Given the capitalistic way we have chosen to arrange our current collective, it makes sense to define creation as "property" and afford it some of its protections.

The debate is over the extent and power of those protections, and my contention is to give them a statute of limitations that balances inventors' abilities to make some money off their efforts and the public domain's need for new stuff to mash up.  I believe this is a fair trade, given how the public domain seeds everything of value created by anyone who lives in its midst.

Michael Bettencourt


Santa Fe versus the Met, tells us a great deal about where the depth of our culture is. As Ms Stendhal says: " (Barber's Vanessa...may just provide the modern romantic inspiration we've been waiting for." Bravo for romanticism! Barber and Menotti are indeed a welcome oasis in the face of all the modern, weak offerings, sans passion and often sans lyrical music, Oh, and don't forget Puccini.

Will Paul Winer

Renate Stendhal's review: Samuel Barber's Vanessa

Kiss Me Again, Paris

Wow! With the speed of light I am at the Opera in Paris and cannot wait to know what happens between the two women. The writing is breathtaking and marvelous. Bring on the next tasting.

alvin hirshen

Memoirs can be such troubled things. From the excerpts, however, it seems that Ms Stendhal has a strong hold on her past and a deep strength from her present. Beautifully written.

Kinda Pellicer

Rich, lively and worth sharing. Thanks for taste.

Michael Aptrow

If the Met were anything like Ms Stendhal's Paris Opera, I would haunt its corridors nightly despite its exorbitant ticket prices.

Ginnie Goldman

Excerpts from Renate Stendhal's memoir: "Kiss Me Again, Paris"

How Old Was Salome?

A different take on Salome. "Simply a child doing her mother's bidding." Not a conscious temptress. A thought provoking argument of child abuse?

Al Hirshen

Kim Chernin's article: "How Old Was Salome?"

Renate Stendhal's Opera Reviews

Her cultural reviews are always sexy, full of sensuous detail, exact descriptions and strong opinions that I don't always agree with, but the sexiest writing by this author I found in the excerpts from her Parisian memoir Kiss Me Again, Paris that led me to want to read that book asap. Ms. Stendhal's writings are always so full of passion and it's incredible to think we are so fortunate as to have a place to consistently read her descriptions, which takes us there.


Renate Stendhal at the Met: "A Modernist Rosenkavalier"

Divas: Maria Callas with a Dash of Gertrude Stein

Excellent article, which is both an engaging review of the film as well as a commentary on Callas's life and career reaching beyond the film. Now I'm primed to see the Habanera aria from "Carmen" as performed by Callas. If only Callas had loved her body, as I believe Ms. Stein did hers, she might have had a longer career... and that is something to dream about.

Teri Rife

Karren Alenier's column: "Divas: Maria Callas with a Dash of Gertrude Stein"

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to RECENT LETTERS in the Opera category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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