Andrea Bocelli and pay no attention to the opera snobs!

Contrary to widespread belief, I do not consider myself an opera snob. Yes, I love opera, and I can appreciate some of the technical aspects of the art, but I do not have the ear, nor the training and knowledge to be too critical.

So when my dear friend Arlene invited me to see Andrea Bocelli last week, I embraced the warmth of his voice and the feeling he puts into his singing, without concerning myself too much about his voice wavering on the long high notes as his critics say. Straight from work I picked Arlene up and we drove through the detestable Miami traffic to the venue.

Very astutely, Bocelli played on February 14th to a full ice hockey stadium (the ice had been taken out, to be clear), the FLA Arena outside Miami, home of the Panthers. He sang his signature mix of opera arias: Brindisi from La Traviata, Una furtiva lagrima from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, La donna è mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto, O soave fanciulla from Puccini’s La Boheme  and so on, with the grand finale being the obligatory and wonderful Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot.

Bocelli peppered his concert with his famous pop songs like Time to Say Goodbye and Vivo per lei. He also sang old classics like Somos novios and Bésame mucho. The concert featured many guest artists besides a full orchestra and chorus: a jazz singer, a soprano, a violinist and wonderful dancers, even his wife accompanied him on a song!

All in all, it was a great concert worth listening to, regardless of what the opera snobs say!

On the importance of culture, art, and beauty.

If we do not take time to appreciate beauty, how are we spending our time? This year has been another remarkable year for art, culture and beauty in Chapel Hill. It is a town with an exquisite taste for that which is beautiful. I have been lucky to enjoy that, even when in the stress of finishing my dissertation I had to miss some great performances.

The season started for me with Juliette Binoche, of whom I have been a big fan since the 80s, playing Sophokles’ Antigone in the T.S. Eliot translation, what a presence! I love strong women (now you know my vote for November 8).

UNC artist-in-residence, violinist Gil Shaham played Bach’s six violin solos. I think I still have goosebumps.

Two days later Shaham played Verdi and Tchaikovsky with the UNC Symphony.

As I become older, I have become more and more selective in my taste, but being a lover of the Portuguese Fado, I went to see Mariza, It was very nice, although I miss the tavernas in Alfama.

Another highlight of the year was listening to Riccardo Muti, directing the Chicago Symphony’s Beethoven’s Fifth and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. Of course as an encore he regaled us with some Verdi!

In November I saw The Ensemble Intercontemporain play some modern pieces. Pierre Boulez’s sur Incises for three pianos, three harps and three percussion blew my mind. Rock and Rollers talk about Phil Spector’s “Wall of sound”, I have also heard it mentioned about Brian Eno and U2, but this piece is more like a tactile wall of sound, like a curtain of sound. Watch for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments section!

Before the Christmas break, I saw the great Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker. Don’t mess with tradition.

Gil Shaham performed again in February, playing Prokofiev and Beethoven and I got to go with my composer friend, James.

After defending and delivering my dissertation I managed to catch a few more great events. The evening my dissertation was accepted by the Graduate School, I rode old Rocinante to a nice opera recital in Durham, Talya Lieberman sang a fantastic mix of Handel, Ravel, and Kurt Weill. Brava!

Back at UNC’s Memorial Hall I saw Les Arts Florissants perform a repertoire of Baroque Serious Airs and Drinking Songs. What a brilliant way to say farewell to four great years of jaw dropping concerts at Carolina Performing Arts.

Again with my dear friend James, we saw the North Carolina Symphony perform Handel, Haydn and Stravinsky’s modernist masterpiece The Firebird (1919).

On the theater front I saw not one, but two, Chekhov plays: Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, which the last time I saw performed was by my students at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts! I also snuck in one musical: Sweeney Todd, lovely Gore!!!

Of course I always support students’ productions and concerts which included two operas, the UNC Baroque Ensemble, the UNC Symphony Orchestra, and the University Chamber Players.

All in all, an extremely rewarding season, the likes of which I do not foresee enjoying in the near future.