This is a wonderful video. The text throughout the video explains it, though since your attention will likely want to be on the performance, it can be a little distracting. Also, with the limitations of Twitter, I think it can use a bit more clarification.
Lisette Oropressa is an acclaimed Cuban-American soprano who has performed around the world as such houses as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Vienna State Opera, Opera National de Paris, Royal Covent Garden and more. She was giving a solo recital at the Verdi Festival in Parma, Italy in early December, a month ago when she sang her fourth encore at the end of the concert, an aria called “Sempe libera” (Always Free), sung by the character ‘Violetta’ from Verdi’s La Traviata. It’s a somewhat odd selection to sing at a solo recital because as wonderful a piece as it is for a soprano, it’s not a pure aria since there is a male tenor part in the middle of it. And because there is a tenor part, but there was no tenor on stage – or anyone else on stage for that matter to help out – there was a silence during that part of the number. However, an Chinese opera student Liu Jianwei studying in Italy was in the audience and recognized how awkward this was and filled in.
What’s so good about this video is not just him quickly joining in, is Ms. Oropressa being totally shocked when he does so unexpectedly and then, rather than offended by him singing the missing part, has a clearly appreciative reaction throughout.
One note: her initial “ohhhh” is actually written into Verdi’s score – so while she’s not reacting to the young man right there, she is singing with him. Everything else is clearly pure reaction.
As the video notes, the young man went backstage afterwards to apologize, but she was so gracious she took a picture with him and gave him her autograph. The video shows the photo, so there’s no need to post it here.
(More properly, from the very little research I did about this, it is a “cabaletta,” which is a two-part musical form, though used as an aria since the bulk of the selection is for one performer.)
My only “complaint” is that the video cuts off before the end, so we don’t get to hear the full piece or audience reaction. But what we do get is a joyful experience.
Afterwards, when the video of this went viral, Li posted publicly about it, explaining in his own video that “I stood up to sing because Lisette Oropesa is a musician I love very much and I happened to have learned this opera before.” He added, though, that “It is definitely not something worthy of pride, nor something worthy of being advocated. Please don’t interrupt singers when they are singing on stage. It’s impolite behavior. Don’t imitate me and I will never do this again in the future.”
But once was pretty darn good. And most definitely good enough.
As a bonus, for those who do want to hear the whole thing, here is Lisette Oropressa again singing this same Violetta’s cabaletta, “Sempre libera,” at Madrid's Teatro Real in July, 2020. So, as you can see, she’s the real deal – making her reaction above all the more endearing. The portion shown in the solo recital video starts here around the 1:50. You’ll hear the tenor part sung off-stage as she listens to the distant voice and then sings with it – including her “Ohhhh.” And we do get the audience roars here, so you can only imagine what they were during that “joint performance.”
Okay, so this isn't particularly unknown, given that it's Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. But what the heck, it's a great, uncommon video that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus made only a few years ago under the baton of Riccardo Muti. (They pretty much never release full videos, but this was funded as a special memorial tribute, which the video explains.)
The whole thing is glorious, but If you only want to celebrate the season with the Ode to Joy section, that comes in at the 52:12 mark, and you can just jump directly to it.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had it first concert last week after over a year-and-a-half. They've tried to fill in the spaces with a pretty aggressive and interesting online presence, but it's not the same as being at Symphony Center.
Its Music Director Riccardo Mutii addressed the audience with impromptu comments before the concert began. He explained that since English wasn't his first language, it was difficult to express all his thoughts on the occasion, which is why he didn't want to write anything down and wanted to speak more from the heart. If he did so this superbly, talking about arts and culture and what it all does for society and, most interestingly, how society is impacted when its missing, I can only imagine what he'd say in Italian. It wasn't patting "fine arts" on the back, but noting all aspects of culture, and -- more specifically -- explaining movingly why it had impact. His off-the-cuff words started out low-key, and then built into something far more moving that I suspect people there expected.
I thought he deserved today's opening spot.
I've written in the past about my cousin Diana Leviton Gondek, who's a terrific artist in Chicago. Among other things, she's worked with the Special Olympics -- who are based in Chicago -- even to the point of being commissioned to design their 50th anniversary poster. I've also noted the three fiberglass horses she was commissioned to create for the city to honor fallen policemen, one horse of which was on display outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
It turns out that the Special Olympics is introducing a new program, where they feature artwork from their athletes shown side-by-side with professional art. The CBS-TV affiliate in Chicago, WBBM, did a report on this, and the Special Olympics asked Diana to speak on behalf of it.
(I think this could lead to a spin-off series, an artist who solves crimes as a hobby, finding patterns that lead her to the culprits, accompanied by her sidekick cat, Banksy.)
So, okay, yes, I'm biased. In either event, I can now refer to her as my artist cousin Diana Leviton Gondek as Seen on CBS News. And so, we take you now to our correspondent in the Windy City.
After going a while without an "IneterMISSION" podcast from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, they appear back up to speed, and here's another.
This week, as they describe, "Six CSO musicians describe the power of sharing music with audiences of all ages, while working with a commitment for unified impact. As they also anticipate the return of live concerts again, each also describes the timeless power of the orchestra to connect with listeners."
What I also love about these podcasts -- and sets them apart from many, I think -- is that they also post links to full versions of all the snippets of music that play through the show.
We haven't an an InterMISSION podcast from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a while, so let's head back to the orchestra.
These are very enjoyable broadcasts put together by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, filled with interviews with the musicians, interesting history, and interlaced with a lot of music. This new piece features a conversation with Lawrence Neuman, who has been a member of the CSO viola section since 1991. He talks about how the requirement of viola players is more to play almost as one instrument, rather than have individual parts, and the challenges when one's role is basically to "fit in." He also discusses the way musicians work together to create the Chicago Symphony's unified sound, and tells the story of overcoming his self-doubt as a student to become a professional musician.
One of the things I particularly like about these CSO InterMISSION podcasts is that they don't just rely on the conversations themselves -- which are interesting enough on their own -- but they intersperse each episode with examples of the music being discussed. And then further, not relying on just that, they provide links to a playlist of all the music that was featured, so you can hear it more in full, rather than just as snippets..
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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