Opera Club

July/August 2022

The Opera Club is on intermission for the months of July and August. We will resume in September. If you would like to be put on the mailing list, please email me at speakingopera@gmail.com

June 2022

Dear opera club members,

As we come to our halfway point in this year’s journey in opera I am pleased to report that our opera club has several new members. Many members who started with us in January 2016 have returned to celebrate the glories of opera.

Our June opera club meeting will be focused on “Final Scenes in Opera”. There may be some surprises for some of you and the final selection will be a joyful one so that we will once again end on a high note.

Special note: This is our final meeting before our summer intermission during July and August.

I hope to see you all on June 25. 

Howard Hart

May 2022

Dear opera club members,

The following is an article from The Wakefield Daily Item written by Gail Lowe that was mentioned during our meeting on June 25th. Regrettably, I wasn’t given the opportunity to proof the copy and the title of the opera, Il Tabarro, is misspelled in the headline. Nonetheless, it’s a nice article and I am forwarding it as promised.

Best wishes for a nice weekend,
Howard Hart

Dear opera club members,

Our journey within the opera club in the last few months has covered a variety of locales. We’ve been to Scotland in the 11th century in and around Macbeth’s castle for intrigue, murder, and madness as told by Giuseppe Verdi, inspired by Shakespeare’s play. We then traveled to Seville in sunny Spain for humor and romance in the 17th century in Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Now we are off to Paris by barge on the River Seine in the year 1910 where we will encounter an amorous triangle that includes passion, love, and desire as well as sadness and tragedy. The opera is Giacomo Puccini’s Il Tabarro, the composer whose genius comprises rich orchestral writing and verismo (true to life) storytelling. This is the first of the three one-act operas that make up Il Trittico.

The club has a bit of history with this work. On May 28, 2016, during the first year of our club, we presented Puccini’s Il Tabarro. On the same month and date six years later, we will view a new and very exciting performance of the same opera (with English subtitles).

The complete opera times at just under an hour and will be followed by a discussion and Q&A. As a reminder, it is no longer necessary to pre-register for our opera club meetings

Special note: There are only two more opera club meetings (May and June) before our summer intermission during July and August. I hope to see you all on May 28th.

On a high note,

Howard Hart

April 2022

Dear opera club members,

Spring is here and what better way to add some joy to your life than by joining us in our journey in opera on Saturday, April 23rd, at The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library. The opera for April is Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). We’ll watch Rossini’s beloved opera with English subtitles (with the library’s new audio video equipment) and see many of the famous scenes that have made it so popular with the opera-going public. The main character, Figaro, is a busy factotum and we’ll be interested to see his matchmaking between Rosina and Count Almaviva (disguised as the student Lindoro and later as a tipsy soldier). There are many shenanigans going on with Figaro in the middle of it all, making it one of the truly great comic operas. I hope to see you at our opera club meeting. Put some joy into your life with opera!

Howard Hart

March 2022

Dear opera club members,

We continue our journey in opera with Men of the Theater – Verdi and Shakespeare. We’ll hear music from Macbeth, the first of three operas written by Verdi based on plays by Shakespeare.  The other two are Otello and Falstaff (The Merry Wives of Windsor, King Henry IV). Verdi had definite plans for an opera based on King Lear but it never came to fruition. Come join us as we investigate the similarities between the play by Shakespeare and the opera composed by Verdi.

Update- It is no longer necessary to register to attend opera club meetings.

I look forward to seeing you on March 26th and hope all is well.

Howard Hart

February 2022

Dear opera club members,

Please join us for Members’ Choice – Favorite Opera Arias. Let us know if you plan to attend the February 26th meeting and hear your favorite aria. This meeting is dedicated to the enjoyment of members’ favorites. At a previous club meeting on September 30, 2017, we heard arias, duets, trios, and various ensembles and it was very well-received by our group. So, let me know which aria you would like to hear by responding to this email. If you would like to request an aria, please type in the title and I will do the rest. If you have a specific performance by a specific artist in mind, please include the YouTube link or attach an mp4. Please note that the selection must have English subtitles. We will have a discussion after the arias are presented. At the conclusion, we’ll take a vote among members to see if there’s interest in repeating this type of program.

As a special note of greeting, we have had seven new members in attendance at our meetings since October 2021. Again, a special welcome to each of you.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions that have been put in place by the town of Wakefield, there is a mask mandate for the library. It has also been determined that, to assure a safe environment for our meeting, it will be necessary to register to attend prior to the meeting. This can be done by going to the library website. You will find it on the calendar for January. Should you have any problems you can contact the library and they will walk you through the necessary steps for registration to attend the meeting.Hope to see you on February 26th.
Howard Hart

January 2022

Dear opera club members,

Happy New Year greetings. May this year bring each of you joy, good health, and wonderful new adventures. Life is an adventure with many destinations. Thank you for making our opera club one of those destinations; one where you can collect cherished memories that we share together on our journey in the love of opera.

French Opera will be the topic for our January meeting and the choice was strongly influenced by the response of members to the scenes from Les Troyens by Berlioz that we watched during our November meeting. As you may recall, Anna Caterina Antonacci portrayed Cassandra, King Priam’s daughter, who possessed the ability to see the future and predicted the downfall of Troy and the danger of the Trojan Horse. There was a substantial amount of applause from members at the conclusion of the three scenes we saw. Some members mentioned at the time that they would enjoy experiencing more French opera.

I haven’t focused on the world of French opera in previous meetings so the subject will be a new one for us. I’ve selected a variety of works by different composers that reflect the wealth of different musical styles for this genre. These will include some well-known works but also some unusual operas that aren’t seen as frequently. One thought that occurred to me was to show contrasting arias from the same opera. In this case, we’ll see how this plays out in Bizet’s Carmen. We’ll also be able to experience radically different productions of this work and see how that can affect our experience of the music. I expect that many will recognize some of the popular melodies from these operas (from movies or commercials) even if you didn’t know their origins. We’ll watch arias and duets by Berlioz, Bizet, Delibes, and Massenet. I’m saving Gounod’s wonderful Faust for a later program. All will feature English subtitles.

Our opera club meeting will take place on Saturday January 22, 2022 from 2:00 until 3:30. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions that have been put in place by the town of Wakefield, there is a mask mandate for the library. It has also been determined that, to assure a safe environment for our meeting, it will be necessary to register to attend prior to the meeting. This can be done by going to the library website. You will find it on the calendar for January. Should you have any problems you can contact the library and they will walk you through the necessary steps for registration to attend the meeting.

I look forward to seeing you and hope all is well.

Howard Hart

December 2021

Dear opera club members,

As we approach the mid-point of our group’s third year, the opera club will once again give its consideration to a soprano who is a personal favorite of mine and of many of our club members. Although I saw her only once, during her final concert tour, on February 27, 1974, at Symphony Hall in Boston, it is a never-to-be-forgotten memory that I will always cherish. It was to have been a joint concert with Giuseppe Di Stefano. Though the tenor canceled, the fans were there for their beloved Maria. The occasion marked the first time she sang “Sola, perduta, abbandonata” from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in live performance.

I will present audio and video performances from La Divina’s career but you will also hear Maria’s life story as told by the woman herself in live video interviews from different periods of her life. Naturally, we will hear the aria “Vissi d’arte” performed by Callas as it is a culmination of the joys, sorrows, triumphs and disappointments in the life of a woman and singer who lived for her art.

Maria Callas (born in Manhattan, December 2, 1923; died in Paris, September 16, 1977) lives in the hearts of opera lovers forever.

Callas has often been quoted making comments about both her artistry and her life as a woman. The quote that most deeply touches me is the following, “I am a creature of destiny. Destiny chose me, wanted me this way. I am outside of myself and watch my life from the outside.”

On a high note,

Howard

November 2021

Dear opera club members,

On October 23, 2021, the curtain went up, figuratively speaking, on the fifth year of our opera club. The first meeting in almost two years, due to the Covid pandemic, was a great success. The response to the Italian Heritage Month opera program was very well received and a beautiful way for us to return to our shared love of opera. The new audio/video equipment was a dream come true as it made such a difference in the quality and ease of presenting and experiencing opera performances.

I feel incredibly grateful for all the love and support that our club has received through these years from club members, the community, and the library staff who provide the beautiful hall in which we have our opera club meetings at Lucius Beebe Memorial Library. I consistently make a point of acknowledging the contribution of Jim Sellers who volunteers his artistic talent by providing all the beautiful artwork and posters for our club.

In November we will explore together “Twenty-First Century Voices of Today and Tomorrow,” a program that will feature singers who are currently performing at opera houses around the world. This will include those who have already earned acclaim and prestige in the world of opera as well as singers who are currently ascending the pillar of success. All the selections we will view will come from rare sources that have been acquired by Jim Sellers and that we have not viewed in any of our previous opera club meetings. I believe that these new selections will provide a program that is interesting, entertaining, and unusual.

Our opera club meeting will take place on Saturday November 27, 2021, from 2:00 until 3:30. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions that have been put in place by the town of Wakefield, there is a mask mandate for the library. It has also been determined that, to assure a safe environment for our meeting, it will be necessary to register to attend prior to the meeting. This can be done by going to the library website. You will find it on the calendar for November. Should you have any problems you can contact the library and they will walk you through the necessary steps for registration to attend the meeting.

Future presentations will include “Great Voices of the Past – Hear Them Sing Again”. We look forward to our annual tribute to the great Maria Callas (this December’s presentation) and to a program titled “Verdi and Shakespeare – Men of the Theater” that will look at Macbeth as well as other operas written by Verdi and other composers that were inspired by the plays of Shakespeare. One of our most frequently discussed and successful presentations was one given in November 2019 when I was joined by two guest presenters, Bill DePeter and Gary Jaskula. We each presented three operetta excerpts with a brief description of each selection and the reason why we chose it. It was great fun. We heard the magical music of Franz Lehar, Johann Strauss, Gilbert & Sullivan, and others. Judging by the comments made after the presentation, and the emails I received, this proved to be one of the highlights for 2019 among members. We hope to present a sequel in 2022.

I hope to see you soon,

Howard Hart

October 2021

Dear opera club members,

I am the bearer of good news in a very challenging time. Catherine McDonald, the director of the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, home to our opera club for the last five years, has informed me that the lecture hall where we hold our club meetings has been outfitted with incredible new audio and visual equipment. I auditioned the sound and video for several programs that we will be watching for our upcoming meeting and was overwhelmed at the quality of both. October is Italian Heritage Month. In the tradition we have established in the past we will celebrate our love of opera with music by  Monteverdi, Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, and some other well-known composers. I do have some surprises which will be added to the program.

Our opera club meeting will take place on October 23, 2021, from 2:00 until 3:30. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions that have been put in place by the town of Wakefield, there is a mask mandate for the library. It has also been determined that, to assure a safe environment for our meeting, it will be necessary to register to attend prior to the meeting. This can be done by going to the library website. You will find it on the calendar for October. Should you have any problems you can contact the library and they will walk you through the necessary steps for registration to attend the meeting.

I hope to see you soon,

Howard Hart