Recently, a friend emailed me asking about what opera might be available for free or for little cost online this summer. At first I answered quickly telling him about the MET HD simulcasts that are being repeated this summer. I then decided to share with our readers a list of various sites where opera productions, concerts and librettos can be accessed.

OPERA PLATFORM   http://www.theoperaplatform.eu

I’ve been watching the interesting offerings from Opera Platform for some time now. I just opened the link to it on my computer and did a quick big moment by big moment tour of the Latvian National Opera production of Bizet’s Carmen.

The four principals sing in the original French and acquit themselves very well. Rumanian mezzo-soprano Ramona Zaharia looks great and sings and acts the title role with fire in the belly. Dmitry Golovnin, the Don José sings with a clarion dramatic voice and acts with conviction. Jānis Apeinis, the Escamillo and Laura Teivāne, the Micaëla are very fine too.

Jānis Liepiņš conducts the Latvian National Opera Orchestra and Chorus with a sure hand and a fine command of the score. In this starkly-designed and directed production, director Marie-Eve Signeyrole and designer Fabien Teigné set the action in a contemporary world devoid of much that is Spanish in either ambience or architecture. Overall though, this Carmen is a fine offering – the first of many on this website.

When you visit Opera Platform have a look at Rimsky Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, sung in the original Russian and given with English subtitles. The Rimsky-Korsakov is splendidly sung, with Venera Gemadieva, a spectacular Russian coloratura soprano as the Queen of Shemakha and Pavlo Hunka, a memorable King Dodon. Imaginatively designed and directed by Laurent Pelly for Brussels’ La Monnaie, this is a great introduction to an operatic rarity.

The Opera Platform offerings are impressive: Mussorgsky’s The Fair at Sorochinsk from the Komische Oper Berlin, Handel’s Semele from the Badische Staatsteater Karlsruhe, contemporary works by Ginastera, Reinman, Martin, Nowak in productions from theatres all over Europe. AND JUST THINK: IT’S ALL FREE.

METROPOLITAN OPERA   http://www.metopera.org

The MET season is over until October, but the music continues. On line you can get MET ON DEMAND (http://www.metopera.org/Season/On-Demand for $14.99 a month or cheaper for a year at $149.99. You can watch literally hundreds of past productions from the MET on your computer, tablet, mobile phone or TV.

IMPRESARIO LIBRETTO   http://www.impresario.ch/

If all that operatic Italian, French, German, Czech or Russian intimidates you, go to this site and get the libretto you need to understand the words of operas from Adam to Zimmermann. And if the full libretto in English is not available, a summary of the plot usually is. This site also offers various pages of opera quizzes, trivia, sound links, etc.

OPERA GLASS   http://opera.stanford.edu/main.html

Visit this varied site and click on the link for its well-informed webmaster Rick Bogart for a one-of-a-kind operatic visit. The site has librettos, source texts, performance histories, synopses, discographies, and even a page about who created what role in which opera.

METROPOLITAN OPERA ARCHIVES  http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives

If you ever wondered who the tenor was who subbed at the last minute for an ailing Tristan in a MET matinee you listened to eons ago, this is your source.

Happy listening!

Rafael de Acha





Shawn sang for our concert series, Music For All Seasons four years ago. At that time, just about to receive his Master’s degree in Voice from CCM, he showed a great deal of promise as a fine young lyric tenor. Amazing what four years of hard work can bring about!

Rafael de Acha


What we do is a soul service to others: be sure you are serving and treating yourself well in the process.

“Now what…”…the two words every performer dreads. The two words that force one to contemplate life’s choices, skills, and prospects… Hopefully a little bit of my story and advice can help those who are transitioning into a career, and help enable them to address the question of “Now what” head-on!

I’m very thankful that I make all of my money through singing, whether on stage or teaching. Though it is a difficult career- I’m hard pressed to find one more emotionally challenging – I’m very grateful for the chance to be able to support myself and pay off my student loans through singing!

I made a move to Europe in May of 2015 to fulfill a concert contract. Luckily I landed a fest * contract one month later at the Stadttheater Gießen, where I sing both as a soloist and in the chorus. I also cover** large roles, which has allowed me to expand my repertoire.

Just a side note for those thinking of moving to Europe: chorus contracts are much better than soloist contracts.  You receive better pay, health insurance, and your retirement fund builds up. Also, though this depends on the theater, chorus contracts allow flexibility to travel for auditions or to pursue projects. For me, my multi-faceted contract has offered the best of both worlds.

I have now begun to appear as a guest soloist, and in the coming season will be debuting in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Scotland, and Switzerland. Lots of opera, lots of concert work, and lots of recitals. Bach and Mozart pay my bills!

Having an agent definitely helps, but many of my engagements come from my own research and networking. The biggest advice I can give to singers transitioning into this career is this: make sure your voice, acting, and stage skills are at a very high level. Do not cut corners with your ongoing training, even after school! I know many singers here in Europe who “land” their first contract and then stop working on their voices. This is the exact opposite of what one should do.

My voice has been changing in the last year, and will continue to do so during my late twenties and early thirties. A singer needs to make sure that his/her voice is where it needs to be. Skype makes this very easy for those who travel a lot as you can stay in touch with your vocal coach through it. Also, learn how to mark***. This will save your voice when you have 8-hour days of staging rehearsals.

Another piece of advice, and the biggest thing that I am learning at this moment in my life, is to allow yourself to have interests other than singing. It sounds silly, but this has been a revelation to me. Find your joy! For me it is my Christian faith and my new-found hobby of gardening.  Find things that fulfill and ground you. The career will always be turbulent, so find things that make you feel settled, and learn to enjoy where you’re at and what you’re doing.

Oh, and one more thing and I promise this is the last: save all of your receipts for tax purposes. Whether it is application fees, lessons, audition attire, gas to drive to gigs, save everything, and work with a tax service. You will get a lot of money back. For singers in the US making less than $50,000 per year, the United Way offers a free tax service. Call and make an appointment.

Be courageous, and diligent, and also be kind to yourself. What we do is a soul service to others: be sure you are serving and treating yourself well in the process.

Shawn Mlynek, tenor

J.S. Bach – The Passion according to St. Matthew https://youtu.be/kjBkVGwXSPc

Ah! Mes amis…from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment https://youtu.be/24rttFkfWug

By Strauss – George Gershwin https://youtu.be/_2ghmxhIr7w

* Fest (fixed) – German term for a regular, steady or exclusive performing contract.

** Cover – Understudy on a stand-by basis.

***Mark – To sing softly, rather than full-voice.





julian decker 2

I’ve known Julian Decker for a few years, having first seen him on stage, impressively performing the role of Jean Valjean in a college production of Les Miserables.

Since then, Julian moved to New York City and has worked pretty steadily both regionally and on Broadway, where he is still playing (as of this writing) a featured role in his third musical, Sunset Boulevard.

Along with other young artists, Julian was asked by me to provide some comments on the transition from student to professional. Here are some of his words.

julian Decker 


After Sunset Boulevard closes, I will continue to set goals for myself that drive me, inspire me, and teach me. I know I’ll find more growth as a person and as a performer. After all that is why I do what I do.

My transition to The City after graduating CCM* was trying. It was also filled with blessings. While at CCM my entire world had been turned upside down in the best way possible. The faculty gave me generous opportunities and took a huge risk on me: a frightened youngster who had no insights into the world that he was attempting to be a part of.

CCM changed me as a person. I was surrounded by some of the most brilliant humans I had ever come in contact with, and I couldn’t help but work my butt off. Over four years I grew steadily, and continued to be challenged by my teachers. For the first time in my life I was able to call a single place home. That place was Cincinnati and its College Conservatory of Music.

No one can actually prepare one for the transition into adulthood, especially when one makes the decision to go into a career where one may never get to be on Broadway, let alone be able to pay one’s share of the monthly rent. But I was very lucky in that I had my first NYC audition the Friday after the April Showcase ** and then booked a gig three weeks later. I was about to understudy my dream role, Quasimodo in the US premier of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The downside to that was to make a living while I waited for a show that started rehearsals in September.

Every interview I went on was a success until I said that I had an acting job that I’d be leaving for come September! This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have some sort of schedule. I found myself helping my best friend to create a company that now, three years later is growing rapidly. We got an apartment and began settling down, but at the same time I was finding myself on a downward spiral. I had spent four years in a rigorous training program where I had a schedule each day of the week. In NYC I didn’t. I’d stay out till 4, wake up at 3 and repeat that routine day after day. I began to realize that I was relying on partying and drinking to be happy. I found myself feeling depressed, and I had never felt what depression was like. I had zero idea about how to deal with things other than by drinking and surrounding myself with friends that seemed to bring me happiness. Some days my innate instinct for hustling would kick in, and I’d make great progress and feel good. But the bad days outweighed the good ones.

Navigating all of this and adapting to a completely new environment continued to challenge me. It took about a year and a half, for all of it to pass. I was doing well and then the Hunchback cast found out that the show wouldn’t transfer to Broadway. That was an extremely sad day for all of us. I couldn’t understand how you could spend almost a year of your life working on something so unique and special, with audiences that leaped up to their feet at the end of the shows, and still not be good enough for Broadway. I was doing great work in my auditions but I remained in my depression slump.

It wasn’t until my boss at the company I was working for sat me down and said, What is the deal? You have so much potential…but your heart and determination are lacking, both here and in your art. You need to choose a focus. Make a 1-2-3 LIST in order of importance.

I had to make money so that became my number 1. I had to keep the dream alive while working a job, so that was number 2. My relationship with my beautiful Katie became number 3. The day after the talk with my boss I got another regular job, and on the first day of employment I found out that I had been cast in Les Miz.

I couldn’t believe how it all played out: it was completely unexpected. I had an idea of what it would be like, and it couldn’t have fallen more short of my expectations. I realized that early on, and I allowed myself to focus on learning from the bad experience as opposed to letting it bring me down. I focused on getting my body in shape. I also focused on making positive connections with my colleagues. That paid off because I had never laughed so much in my life. The backstage antics were crazy.

I started to focus on my career as an actor. Whether I got the job or not, it was the process that mattered. I began getting my self worth back. I stayed in Les Miz for 9 months and then had an opportunity to go to work on a new version of Hunchback where I’d be playing Quasimodo this time. It was hard to make a decision because the voice in my head was saying “You’ll never get another Broadway show! You have to stay!” The company was made up of folks that had done Les Miz consistently for 7 years. I knew that I wanted to take control over my career so I said yes to the new gig. A few months later I found myself in Utah.

I grew as an actor. I was bringing ideas that had given me sleepless nights for over a year to my version of Quasimodo! I morphed my body so that I could really dive into the role physically, emotionally, and mentally in 100 degree weather. I loved the journey and it changed me as a person. I started to see the world and my career differently. When I came back to NYC after that contract I felt at home again. Then I was cast in Sunset Boulevard, which will be closing its NYC run in a few weeks.

It has been an incredible experience being in that show. Glenn Close has taught me many valuable lessons not just as a performer but as a human being. She has taught me how to be the leader of a company and how to grace the stage with ease and class. I continue to find growth in everything I do and in every good or bad choice I make. So much in this business is a waiting game. The NO‘s don’t really bother me much anymore because for every no there will be a yes, and as long as I’m doing good work and making the people I love proud, I am proud.

After Sunset Boulevard closes, I will continue to set goals for myself that drive me, inspire me, and teach me. I know I’ll find more growth as a person and as a performer. After all that is why I do what I do.

Julian Decker, actor, vocalist

https://youtu.be/Mu-gKpdlmqQ Julian Decker sings Bring Him Home from Les Miz

* University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music *

* Annual Musical Theatre Showcase held by CCM in NYC for agents and casting directors to see the work of the graduating CCM Musical Theatre class.



A preamble…Recently I reached out to several friends in the arts asking for them to share some thoughts with my readers on the subject of transitioning from Academia to The Real World of Show Business, whether Opera or Regional Theatre or Broadway of the Concert Hall. Among the responses that have come in so far I find John Riddle’s one of the most compelling. Here he is in his own words…

 Be the person that everyone wants to have in their show and rehearsal room

“The transition from college to the professional world is completely dependent on the artist—you are in complete control of your artistic future.  I think this begins with identifying the type of artist you want to be by the time you graduate, so that all of your energy is efficient and focused on achieving your goals. 

 This means that your instrument is in top shape, that you are healthy both physically and mentally for whatever demands are placed on your body, and that you have a point of view about your craft.  

 When I was first starting out, I said yes to any opportunity—concerts, readings, etc.—which opened many doors both artistically and socially. It also opened my eyes to taste and kept my skills sharpened, now that I no longer had the structure of a school setting. 

 After about two years post graduation, I began working regularly in the theater.  Work came because I was prepared—I became very good at auditioning.  The secret:  preparation.  Someone is always going to know the material backwards and forward, and will be able to perform it in the audition room as if it is opening night.

 So that person might as well be you. 

 There is power in being good at auditions. After all, most of us in the theater are simply subjects for professional interviewers, with a performing habit every now and then. 

 So get good at it!! 

 Finally, just become a good person.  I have been in a number of professional shows with actors, directors, designers, etc who are simply not kind.  It would be best if that bad energy were not part of the creative process.   So be the person that everyone wants to have in their show and rehearsal room. 

 Again: preparation, but also respect, professionalism, humor, honesty, and kindness.”  

 John Riddle, actor, vocalist, pianist

John will soon be opening on Broadway in the role of the Prince in Frozen.

From his 2016 cabaret show at Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below Lonely House (Street Scene) – Kurt Weill https://youtu.be/IZcXCgtbVVU

Class – Stephen Sondheim https://youtu.be/rGImrS696x4

Go slow Johnny/Shooting High – Noel Coward/McHugh & Koehler https://youtu.be/dnTPYB0g3cE

The Mermaid” (Great Big Sea) – George Abud  https://youtu.be/hp3eUZqHla0

I didn’t know what time it was – Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart https://youtu.be/pOSLLZYgDr8



NOW WHAT? Stories from the Trenches, part 2


I get to sing for a living and I am already extremely glad of where I am and where I’ve been.

I graduated in 2013 from CCM with my Masters Degree in Voice in 2013.

My first year out of school was tough in the sense that I was not getting much income from singing. After that, continuous work has sprouted up for me throughout the Midwest.

Some of the long established opera companies that I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with include Cincinnati Opera, Dayton Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Columbus, Nashville Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Therefore, I have been able to keep Cincinnati as a home base. These companies house me when I work for them, but I still have a place to call home in Cincinnati, that has mostly been a very central location to most of my work.

I am very lucky.

Balancing financial planning as an independent contractor has its pros and cons. I have done a substantial number of young artist contracts, as well as principal artist contracts, but the pro to the young artist work is that it can be continuous work for months at a time. Although main-stage/principal artist work pays higher, it is often for one show at a time, while you can be a young artist at a company for an entire season and actually feel like a normal person with a 9-5 job, although that’s either a 7-3 for outreach, or a 2-10 for opera rehearsals!

Regardless, I am thankful!

I think the idea of travel is something that is glorified when one is a student in a conservatory. While there is a sense of excitement in being able to travel thanks to your craft, it really becomes a large portion of the job.

I did not realize I would become a professional traveler as well. In this year alone, I will work in 7 cities and while that sounds grand at first, it is extremely fatiguing to move each time, to reorganize your things, your routines, and your brain every time. I think the reality of the career of a musician really catches most people by surprise once they’re living it. It did me.

Although you may be able to explain what the future is supposed to look like, you surely can’t know what it feels like to live it, until you are doing it. I didn’t realize I would miss the people I care for as much as I do and I surely didn’t understand until what age you can be a “young artist.”

I did have a bit of a problem right out of school- and that is that I auditioned for EVERYTHING. This is a problem because auditions are investments. I did gain employment to fill my seasons from these auditions, but you find the balance of how much you are investing, with how much income the won opportunities afford you.

I sing about 25 auditions a year and when I’m not in rehearsal, I am learning music for an upcoming engagement. There is also a lot of work in promoting yourself, keeping in touch with contacts, and arranging your travels, as well as so many other things that are just as much a part of the job as doing the craft itself.

Although it is a strenuous and hard-working life, it is also one of passion and one filled with music. I have not worked a non-singing job in three and a half years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I get to sing for a living and I am already extremely glad of where I am and where I’ve been.



Melissa Bonetti, mezzo-soprano



Because of Cincinnati’s thriving arts community, I do not see myself relocating any time soon.

“Now what?” That is a good question…

There is no question that the road to becoming an opera singer is not an easy one. While I have been lucky to have coaches and directors supporting me by offering me work at the regional level throughout the country, I still struggle to find enough work to support myself without having to find another job. This brings me to the major struggle of being a young opera singer, money.

Being an aspiring opera singer is expensive. I need to apply to young artist programs, which can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the number of programs to which I apply. If an audition is out of town, which many are, I need to find affordable travel to get me to and from the audition. Further, I need to prepare for these auditions by working with a coach as well as my teacher which, now that these services are not provided by a school, can be extremely expensive.

There is also the important subject of college loans. I am grateful that most of my education was paid for by scholarships, but I still managed to accrue a significant amount of debt which I am currently paying off. All of these things led me to the realization, “If I am going to succeed in this business, I am going to need a job…”

I am fortunate to have a job teaching voice at the college level. This job allows me the flexibility (within reason) to take outside gigs (both large and small) and, also, keep auditioning for companies. However, because I need to be available to my students, I have to be very specific as to which auditions/gigs I take. This makes it difficult to follow the advice “sing for everyone”, as there simply is not enough time.

Overall, teaching offers me great freedom to take gigs when I can or want to. Further, living in a city like Cincinnati, which has such a thriving arts community, allows me plenty of opportunity to perform. These opportunities have come in many forms outside of the classical voice genre. While living in Cincinnati, I have performed in musicals as well as straight plays. These experiences have proved invaluable to my growth as an artist as they force me to focus more on my stagecraft rather than my singing ability.

Because of Cincinnati’s thriving arts community, I do not see myself relocating any time soon. Many of my colleagues are moving to Europe, specifically Germany, to try and begin a career at a company through a Fest * contract. I have thought about this option many times, but have not yet made the commitment to travel across the world to do so.


Tyler Alessi, baritone

NOW WHAT? PART ONE (stories from the trenches)



It seems to be the looming question that rears itself up, troubling the minds and souls of young musicians transitioning from Academia to the Business of the Arts: Now, what?

Now, what? More auditions? More part-time teaching jobs? More competitions? More regional work? Europe? America?

Now what?

We contacted several friends who are just on the brink or already embarked on a professional career.

They all received the same questionnaire.

Most of them responded. Their responses were by and large candid, positive. All were hopeful.

Some, a few, not many – have opted out of the hassles of “the business”

They have traded their make-up kits, fiddles and songs for careers in non-profit management.

Or they now work as agents, producers, in the business of the arts…

A few who should not be perceived as deserters are happily pursuing dissimilar interests.

But somehow all are still finding ways to sing or play or act a gig here and there.

Here are some of their stories, faithfully using their own words.

After graduate school at CCM, I was finally able to throw myself into the community and expand my connections in Cincinnati beyond the walls of UC.  Luckily, everyone needs a pianist, so finding work wasn’t terribly hard.  I’m very glad for this year of transition in Cincinnati, which afforded me new professional contacts and personal relationships, and gave me an outlet to begin a new concert series, the Cincinnati Song Initiative.  CSI has helped bring together myriad artists (both local and from across the country) in a shared love for poetry set to music, in an effort to connect diverse communities throughout the Queen City.


Samuel Martin, pianist


In the past three years since graduating from CCM, I have done a fair share of Young Artist programs, all of which took me up and down the east coast of the United States.

 I had most of my belongings in my car for the first two years, and was lucky enough to have housing provided for me at programs like Sarasota, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Virginia Opera, and PORTopera (now Opera Maine).

 I often traveled to New York City and still do for many auditions, and competitions. Competitions can be good for winning some extra cash and making some connections, but I am interested more in singing roles onstage.

Yes, I have covered*, but am now moving into being onstage more often than not, which I of course prefer! I am currently a Resident Artist at Pittsburgh Opera. It is a rare program in that it uses its young artists on stage a great deal, and we are given an extra AGMA fee on top of our weekly stipend for each show (however, we still have to find our own housing).

  • understudied

 I have one more year to go, even though I am in talks with a few managers, but I have been given another role there next year and rather enjoy staying put for the moment. I still drive or fly to NYC often for auditions. Once again, I have many friends in the city willing to put me up for a few nights, so the cost of travel is lower (for now). I will be subletting a room from another mezzo-soprano for six weeks while I perform in the city, but I have been able to save up for it from the lower cost of living in Pittsburgh.

 Throughout these three years, I have supplemented my singing work with teaching work, first teaching young students beginning piano and voice at a music store (which paid well, surprisingly). I enjoy teaching and learn a lot about myself in the process. This past year, while employed at Pittsburgh Opera, I made one trip a week to a liberal arts college in West Virginia to teach voice lessons as adjunct faculty. It was wearing to work 7 days a week, but worth it to have on my resume. I also learned more about my own singing in the process, and as I said, I do love teaching. 

 I have done a couple of musical theater auditions, and it has been suggested to me that I move to Europe where I will have more opportunity to grow into my repertoire (higher Verdi roles such as Eboli and Amneris). This has been suggested to me by management. I am often cast in Young Artist programs as an older woman, more contralto than mezzo, because I can sing low, and my physicality fits the bill (look is a BIG part of this business-those hiring you want you to “look the part” as well). I haven’t done as much concert and oratorio work as I would like, but that is partly because of my young artist engagements.

After next year, I am no longer a “young artist”. 

Leah Marie de Gruyl

Leah de Gruyl, mezzo-soprano

https://youtu.be/lN-jSzce5ycAll’orror delle procelle from Handel’s Riccardo Primo


Knowing that graduation from CCM was just around the corner, this audition season was the most intense I have ever experienced. I was determined to walk away with a job, no matter how many auditions it took.

After many auditions and a few offers, I chose to accept an offer to be a Resident Artist at Pittsburgh Opera for the 2017-2018 Season. I will get to sing Barbarina (Le Nozze di Figaro), Shepherd Boy (Tosca), and a performance of Adina (L’elisir d’amore).

Another perk of being in this program is the cover opportunities I receive, like Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro). After singing 1st Spirit in Cincinnati Opera’s production of The Magic Flute this summer, I will relocate to Pittsburgh.

I think for the majority of young American sopranos, there is the ever-present ticking time bomb that comes with Young Artist Programs. They are wonderful opportunities that get you noticed, on your feet, and able to pay off some acquired student loans, but they aren’t something you can count on for very long.

Most of these programs have an age limit of about 30. These programs, along with hard work can often lead to other next-level opportunities. There are so many sopranos for a very limited amount of jobs every season, so we must find ways to stand out.

Getting hired is just the beginning – we have to keep the job and get hired again! My goal going into every job is to make more connections and to be the most professional, consistent singer that I can possibly be.

Resident Artist Programs aren’t the only way to go about achieving a singing career, however. I’ve seen a lot of new music specialists spring up with all of the incredible living composers we have access to in the States. I recently worked with new composers at the Virginia Arts Festival, and know that this is a fruitful path for many singers. Most companies do at least one new(er) show every season.

I have also seen very successful singers establish themselves through regional company work and concert work. Others make their careers in Europe, after polishing up their languages. Balancing other jobs and families can be difficult, although not impossible as a young singer. I have spent a lot of time as a teacher, and I found it to be challenging to give my students a fair amount of time and attention while constantly travelling and focusing on my own career. I think it’s possible, just not ideal.

Also, I think it is very important for young singers to be flexible in all areas, including concert works, opera of all types, and musical theater. More and more opera companies are receiving donations by people who request more musical theater. Because of this, we singers have to be able to successfully perform whatever we are given. I usually have to include a musical theater song with the aria package I present for auditions, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have experience in this field. In my opinion, the most successful performers of my generation are extremely flexible and able to excel in all types of music. As a soprano, I am always asked to sing challenging new music (such as the new opera I recently sang that included semi-tones!), musical theater numbers, oratorio arias, art songs, and operatic favorites. As a result, I’m constantly learning music, and loving every minute!


Ashley Fabian, soprano


Rigoletto – Verdi


Postlude with Facts

Opera America’ membership lists 8 major regional opera companies whose budget, programs and season allows them to have in place an ongoing Young Artists program. Outside of the “majors” – Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, the MET – there is a second tier of companies with smaller budgets and shorter seasons that employ early-career artists on a short-term basis, often for summer seasons that last a few weeks.

The Metropolitan Opera Company holds annual auditions throughout the year in 42 districts, part of 12 regions. Out of the hundreds of contestants that audition for the MET every year, a few make the cut and go to NYC for the National Finals.

Getting to the finals is no guarantee of anything remotely resembling a contract. Often the rewards for the handful of winners are cash awards.

With more than sixty opera companies that operate year-round, Germany continues to be the go-to destination for young singers in search of an opera career.

NOW WHAT? will continue in later postings with more stories from the trenches.

Rafael de Acha











So far, roughly a year after I started Rafael Music Notes in May of 2016, I have had 8,482 visitors from the United States, 246 from Canada, 122 from the United Kingdom, 108 from Germany, 106 from Mexico, 43 from Brazil, 42 from Italy, 32 from the Czech Republic, 34 from Spain, 29 from Australia, 25 from Norway, 24 from Russia, 22 from Ireland, 21 from Switzerland, 20 from Puerto Rico, 22 from France, 21 from Japan, 15 from India, 15 from South Korea, 15 from Romania, 14 from Austria, 16 from Finland, 12 from  the Netherlands, 11 from Israel, 10 from Poland, 7 from Argentina, 6 from Taiwan, 6 from China, 6 from Ecuador, 5 from New Zealand, 5 from Thailand, 5 from the Philippines, 5 from Indonesia, 5 from South Africa, 4 from the Dominican Republic, 4 from Estonia, 3 from Slovenia, 3 from Iceland, 3 from Sweden, 3 from the United Arab Emirates, 3 from Hong Kong, 3 from Malta, 3 from Croatia, 3 from Belgium, 3 from Hungary, 3 from Chile, 2 from Belgium, 2 from Vietnam, 2 from Kuwait, 2 from Venezuela, 2 from Latvia, 2 from Dominica, 2 from Denmark, 2 from Colombia, 2 from Tunisia, 2 from the European Union, 1 from Montenegro, 1 from Cuba, 1 from the Faroe Islands, 1 from the Ivory Coast, 1 from Egypt, 1 from Morocco, 1 from Bahrain, 1 from Sint Maarten, 1 from Oman, 1 from Turkey,  1 from Iraq, 1 from Kyrgyztan, 1 from Greece, 1 from Kazahstan, 1 from Nigeria, 1 from Serbia, 1 from Malaysia, 1 from Portugal, 1 from Kenya, 1 from Jamaica, 1 from Nicaragua, 1 from Pakistan, 1 from Singapore, 1 from Macedonia, 1 from Sri Lanka.

105 posts…approximately 10,000 visitors from over seventy countries… Thank you for helping us prove that the arts matter.

Rafael de Acha



Franz Schubert – The Complete Original Piano Duets – Goldstone & Clemmow

From his Fantasie in G Major, D 1, published in 1822 when he was twenty-five years old, through the Andante in A minor, D 968, composed in 1831, the final year of his short life, Franz Schubert wrote many piano duets. These compositions, meant to be played on one piano, four hands were among the most beloved of Schubert’s compositions, ranking in popularity with his songs in the salons of Vienna of the composer’s time.

During the years they were active as a concert piano duo, starting in 1984 and continuing through Golddstone’s passing in 2017, Caroline Clemmow and Anthony Goldstone  concertized widely in the UK, in Europe, and in the United States. They also recorded in addition to this set of the complete piano duos of Franz Schubert , eighteen other CD’s of music for piano duo by composers ranging from Mozart to contemporary English ones all under the creative supervision of Stephen Sutton, of Divine Art.

The boxed set,  Franz Schubert – The Complete Original Piano Duets – Goldstone & Clemmow (dda21701) is nicely produced and annotated by the artists themselves.  The total playing time of close to nine hours requires the listener to set aside quality time to devote to the enjoyment of this set of seven CD’s. I did, over the course of a week and came away from the experience with very positive feelings and a sense of accomplishment.

Because the selections are not played in any particular order other than that determined by the choice of the artists, it would be unnecessary to list all the selections, and nearly impossible to give a critical commentary on each of the several dozen compositions. Suffice then for one to share overall impressions, starting with that of being awestruck by the undertaking itself.

We listened with admiration to the youthful  Sonata in C ‘Grand Duo’, D. 81 and to the mature Fantasie in F minor, D. 940, the Allegro in A minor (‘Lebensstürme’), D. 947, and the Sonata in C ‘Grand Duo’, D. 812. The playing of Goldstone & Clemmow is assured at all times, idiomatic, quite often virtuosic, and always unfailingly imaginative. The musicianship, the accuracy, the inventiveness are there, and throughout all seven of these recitals on CD one senses from this invaluable duo an abiding love for this music.

The artists recorded the set over two years – 1998 and 1999, and the acoustically friendly environment of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Alkborough, North Lincolnshire in the artists’ native England gives the set an up close sonic quality that is most satisfying.

As is the case here and with title after title in the Divine Art catalogue (www.divineartrecords.com) this boxed set is an indispensable treasure trove of musical rarities played by two remarkable artists.

Rafael de Acha



With program notes as insightful as the ones written by Stewart Goodyear for Stewart Goodyear Ravel, a new CD from Orchid Classics (www.orchidclassics.com) not much is left for the reviewer to add, other than raves.

Goodyear takes the listener on a 68 minute journey that spans Jeux d’eau, Sonatine, Miroirs, Gaspard de la Nuit and Pavane four une Infante defuncte. Throughout he keeps the listener enthralled with his technical wizardry, his elegance, his ability to color the sound in a myriad of ways. All the while one senses that the artist is ever at the service of the composer, not as an obliging servant but as a knowing collaborator who understands the quirky twists and turns of Ravel’s music.

Ravel, half Basque, half Swiss, French by birth but Iberian by temperament, finds much to mine for inspiration in the music of the Peninsula and never more than in Miroirs. Goodyear one would dare say, feels the Spanish mix of ice and fire that colors Noctuelles, Oiseaux tristes, Une barque sur l’ocean, Alborada del Gracioso and La vallee des cloches. His playing of this work is as memorable as I have ever heard.

The album is handsomely packaged in a (thank goodness!) 10 millimeter case and accompanied by insightful program notes.

Rafael de Acha




Just on the outside chance that you may have not heard of François-André Philidor, Michel Blavet, or Jean Pierre Guignon – all three of the same generation (more or less) that reigned musically during the reign of Louis XIV and a bit into the troubled years of Louis XV – allow this superb group of Baroque specialists that call themselves Les Délices (www.lesdelices.org )to introduce you to the delectable music of these three French masters.

In the CD, Age of Indulgence, Messieurs Philidor, Blavet and Guignon keep comfortable company with Jean Philippe Rameau, the giant who literally wrote The Book that pretty much defined the tenets of 18th music for France and beyond.

But lest all this musicological babble send you running for the nearest exit into the easy listening Gallic land of Debussy and Ravel, let me entreat you to seek out this treasure and purchase it from www.NavonaRecords.com, whether digitally or in hard copy.

I obtained a sample reviewer’s copy but, rest assured, I would drive all the 284 miles between the Queen City and the Mistake by the Lake, playing this CD on my car radio just so I could hear oboist Debra Nagy, violinists Julie Andrijeski and Karina Schmitz, violoncellist Emily Wallhout and harpsichordist Michael Sponseller dispense their musical delights in concert.

Baroque music does not sound…well…Baroque (!) unless it is played with period instruments: violins and cellos with gut strings, wooden oboes and, most importantly, with the flair and muscularity that this Cleveland-based five-person ensemble elicits. They play almost without vibrato, which in simple terms means that they have to be dead-on pitch or else. They are. No matter how intricate the divisions and ornamentations, no matter how long the phrases, they individually and as an ensemble land on the musical bull’s eye time and again. Lucas Paquette, the engineer of record does a superb job keeping the sound up front and intimate.

The music-making of Les Délices is lively and elegant and mercifully never ever pedantic, all he time reminding us that Baroque music – whether for the stage or the salon of the King – was and is entertainment.

 Merci beaucoup!

 Rafael de Acha