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February 5, 2010

Snowy blast from the past: Music for the approaching blizzard

Here we are again, under threat of the White Death, people frantically stocking up on milk and toilet paper (there's got to be a severe, mid-Atlantic shortage of that stuff by now), canceling or postponing events before the first flake even falls from the sky. Ain't it grand?

Speaking of grand, I figured this would be a good time to seek out another of my universally acclaimed, blog numbers-busting blasts from the past -- this time related to snow, of course. And that made me think of grand opera.

I couldn't find a clip of the avalanche scene in Catalani's "La Wally" or the atmospheric snowy opening to the third act of "La boheme," but the end that third act from Puccini's gem should work as well. I think you'll find a 1979 snippet from La Scala worth a look and listen, since it features the radiant soprano Ileana Cotrubas, giga-star tenor Luciano Pavarotti and sublime conductor Carlos Kleiber.

And maybe this lovely, snow-flecked glimmer from the not-so-distant past will help calm your nerves as blizzard hysteria rises around you:

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:26 AM | | Comments (2)



Now there is a opera that lends itself to concert format Catalani's "La Wally". It has a mesmerizing score, with vocal fireworks and it's outlandish and hard to stage finale begs for a first rate concert version. plus when was the last time it was even performed in the mid-Atlantic? Maybe WNO could trim 2-3 of the 14 performances of Madam Butterfly and add a concert opera. wishful thinking I guess. Have you been following the comment wars on Anne Midgette's W-Post blog? it seems many of her readers feel next season is a little too safe and that 14 performances of Butterfly might be a few too many. Peace!

Great suggestion for a concert version of "La Wally." The one production I got to see featured a tiny swirl of stage snow off to one corner. An avalanche it wasn't.TIM

During last weekend's snow storm, WNO asked its online facebooks fans and followers to name their favorite opera storm moments. We got some great responses. Definitely some Bohemes, but also Onegin, Vanessa, Billy Budd, Snow Maiden, Life of a Tsar. We posted links to videos on our FB page too...something to check out while you're snowed in!

Thanks muchly. (I guess I finally have to break down and get with the Facebook thing.) TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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