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With over 30 years in professional show-business, David Cangelosi is known industry wide as one of its most versatile performers. The internationally acclaimed opera singer is also well versed in the areas of musical-theater, night club/cabaret, voice-overs, and his continuing career in the classical vocal arts as a recitalist, master-class instructor, and symphonic guest artist.
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From Gamble Auditorium to List Hall

November 10th, 2014

November 10 (my birthday), 2014

After graduating from Baldwin-Wallace College (now Baldwin-Wallace University) 30 years ago, I had never stepped foot back onto campus to speak to students, present a masterclass, or even sing an alumni recital.  This all changed recently thanks to an invitation from an old classmate (Nanette Canfield) who has run the School of Music/Conservatory as its Assistant Director for quite a few years now, as well as the intercession of a few faculty members and friends in the Cleveland area.

I spent two days on campus and was escorted through new buildings and newly renovated elder facilities.  I could hardly believe my eyes, but would surely have expected some changes after three decades.  I was thrilled beyond measure at the turn of every hallway corner, as well as experienced a few flashbacks regarding my struggles there as a student.

As I explained to the aspiring students in a Friday lecture, I was actually glad to have never been back until now. I felt that I hadn’t anything to say before this point, and also felt I had nothing to ‘give’ by way of offering advice–professionally, personally, or musically.  I did, however, feel that I had something to say and give NOW in the academic year 2014/2015.  After providing a full lecture on Friday, which included several probing questions from students; I tendered a Saturday masterclass in Gamble Auditorium featuring 8 of the finest young singers I could have ever hoped to hear at this august undergraduate institution.  The class attracted the entire teaching team from the vocal wing of the university (which included some current working colleagues from my performance career), members of the community, plus early musical influences of mine from over 37 years ago in the Cleveland area.  Needless to say, I was moved in large degree.  I departed, being told that I was an ‘inspiration’ to these wonderful young students; and received similar follow-up responses once I got back to New York for rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera.  The aspect of being a so-called inspiration is important because of what will now follow… so please read on.

I left Cleveland, Ohio and immediately came to my lovely apartment in New York City that I have had at Lincoln Center for well over a decade.  We began rehearsing the next day for Die Meistersinger, which is one of the largest single-opera undertakings in the entire canon.  I quickly moved from one end of the spectrum as the person who was DOING the inspiring–to becoming the one was now BEING inspired–by the entrance of the legendary James Levine into List Hall for music rehearsal.  He is, and remains, the most celebrated Artistic Director, Music Director, Conductor, and all around Musician of our age.

The delight and absolute satisfaction with which he dispatches a musical rehearsal is beyond anything I have ever witnessed.  I recognized this when I first began rehearsing for my debut in Das Rheingold with Maestro Levine at the Met quite some years ago; but in reality this love-fest began decades earlier when I first became aware of him as he conducted Met broadcasts that I viewed on PBS as a very young and dreamy-eyed voice student in high-school.

The ease with which he conducts, the language he uses when providing advice/instruction to the singers, the complete satisfaction that he exhibits while conducting, and his absolute respect for the musical score which he seems so privileged to conduct, makes one feel as if he is actually inside the score himself.  It is hard to explain in words, but those of us who have been so honored to work with him know what I am trying to feebly express via the written word.

All I can really say, is that during the 6 hours of music rehearsal that we have had (2 separate 3 hour sessions), I forgot all of my problems, worries, and concerns both big and small.  I simply wallowed in the greatness of the miraculous score of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, in which Maestro Levine seemed as a humble vessel who was–in the most simple (but clearly very complex) way–bringing it to life.

Being one who inspired at my Alma-Mater a week or so ago(???)… maybe.

Feeling exhilarated and inspired still, after well over 37 years in professional show-business…DEFINITELY!!!!

djc

 

 

All Hands On Deck at ‘Vann Vocal Institute’

September 30th, 2014

September 30, 2014

When your body (and your wife) finally tell you to throttle back, you had better listen.  Therefore I write this entry from my bed, bored to tears, but still panicked over what must be done in the next few weeks.  The Vann Vocal Institute in Montgomery, Alabama is an intense week for me to be sure; but the planning begins months and months in advance with the final 4-6 weeks posing a particular drain on me.  Coordinating this event–beginning for ME on Saturday October 11 (with others soon to follow)–which features a ‘Celebrity Recital’ by our faculty/artists, and LOTS of teaching, lecturing, and masterclasses to our students, as well as social obligations as the Program Director can be tricky indeed while navigating a full performance calendar.

Fortunately, the ‘human capital’ (aka: the Montgomery Symphony administrative ground team) in Montgomery is first rate!  It would be impossible to do all of this without them.  The success of this program ultimately rests with this program’s backbone…one Kimberly Wolfe, the new Executive Director of the Montgomery Symphony organization, and her team.  She is busy organizing radio, television, and print media spots for me, plus a few early outreach events.  President Cameron West of Huntingdon College, our host for the week, is also checking-in regularly to make sure that we have everything we need.  Generous local donors (Jim Wilson & Associates) step in to provide first rate, private jet transportation and housing for all of us, while I am busy playing travel agent and party planner to everyone.

In the end, this is all in service to our students from five states and the local community.  We raise private funds in order to bring all programs to the students and community free of charge…so the fundraising also never ends.  I pause to give thanks to two major Chicago Arts Foundations for their continuing support to an area of the country that is not part of their direct purview; they do so because of my association with them…and this is the most humbling aspect of all. I can only hope to do justice to their funding, and remain inexplicably grateful to them.

Calling: “All Hands On Deck”!

My wonderful faculty and I are about to invade the friendliest city in America.  Historic Montgomery, Alabama!

djc

Faculty:
David Cangelosi, Program Director
Lori Phillips, Soprano
Elizabeth Bishop, Mezzo-Soprano
Richard Troxell, Tenor
Raymond Aceto, Bass
Dr. Elizabeth Buccheri, Senior Vocal Coach
Kelly Kuo, Vocal Coach
Dale Williams, Masterclass Pianist

 

 

 

 

Build It, and They Will Sing!

July 26th, 2014

July 26, 2014

As I sit in Denver International Airport awaiting my flight to Tokyo and my next work assignment; I am reflecting upon the past four weeks of intense work at Land of Enchantment Opera Institute (LOEOI).

There are more summer vocal study programs out there than you can shake a stick at these days…with everyone, in any exotic locale, trying to get in on the act. It is a full-court press of sharp marketing and big names, all in an attempt to lure young singers to their special program… always for a fee.

Italy, Germany, Sicily, France, Prague, Austria…the list goes on and on. Not to mention the plethora of such programs to be found in the sexiest of American cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Gallup… WAIT A MINUTE… WHERE??… GALLUP? (As in, New Mexico?)

Please allow me to continue.

These programs usually proclaim “intensive” language study, voice lessons, and vocal coaching with some of the world’s finest practitioners. They produce concerts and operas; often at little or no cost to the public (but often at a large cost as well). Several of them deliver the goods as advertised, while others leave participants disappointed… and broke!!

Gallup, New Mexico may seem an odd location to house a summer opera institute, and I would agree. Nestled amongst the Navajo Nation, with glorious mesas on one side, Indian casinos on the other side, and Historic Route 66 slicing it all in half; it would hardly seem to be the place where artists of renown would gather to teach the classical vocal arts. I would have agreed whole-heartedly, until I accepted an invitation to teach for four of its five weeks at the behest of my friend and colleague Peter Strummer, basso par excellence.

His mission: Teach the next generation the rudiments of true classical opera and voice.

His vessels: Active, world-class colleagues.

The results: Amazing.

The grounds aren’t fancy, the accommodations are only basic, the main building creaks (but not from old age), and there is no air conditioning. But the students who come are some of the finest and most talented I have ever had the pleasure (and challenge) to instruct. Jaw-dropping young talent that made me wonder what irradiated agriculture field their vegetables came from in their youth. But there they were, in Gallup, NM singing and studying their heart’s out.

Were there frustrations? You bet!

Were there tears? Guaranteed!

Were there defaults? Absolutely!

Were their breakthroughs?? You better believe it!!

Will more come next year? You can bet the farm on it!

Overall, this is a low-cost program when you add it all up. But no matter what these students have paid; they got their money’s worth and a whole lot more! I know this because I was one of their instructors and Master-class teachers; and I don’t allow much sway. Neither did the other outstanding instructors/mentors that were brought in to pass their knowledge along. There is a lot of great young talent out there, and many of them found their way to Gallup, NM this summer. I eagerly promoted this program, because I knew I was going to be there. But more importantly, I knew every OTHER faculty member that was going to be there as well.

I was challenged, and I was fulfilled. But most of all I was impressed with the level of dedication and drive that thankfully still exists out there for the classical vocal arts.

I run my own small vocal institute in Montgomery, Alabama (The Vann Vocal Institute) whose faculty has boasted some of the world’s finest; therefore, I know the challenges that my colleague Peter faces with his extended program of five full weeks that is packed with concerts, recitals, fully staged operas, and lots and lots of instruction.

But in the end it’s fairly simple:

Build it, and they will sing!!

 

djc

 

A Cunning Little Production

May 14th, 2014

May 14, 2014:

When I was contacted a year and a half ago about participating in a concert version of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, I told my agent/manager: “Great, no problem; it’ll be fun.  Little did I know how much fun it would be…but how much ‘work’ it would be too!!  Below is the link to an interview that I just completed regarding this entire process for Cleveland Classical.  I have also enclosed the full text of the article by Mike Telin.  Best of luck to the entire wonderful cast for this week’s opening of what is a groundbreaking idea of presentation!
djc

http://clevelandclassical.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/the-cleveland-orchestras-cunning-little-vixen-a-conversation-with-tenor-david-cangelosi/

Opera librettists take their inspiration from novels, novellas, plays and legends, but rarely from a daily comic strip. “The Adventures of the Vixen Sharp-Ears,” a serialized cartoon by Rudolf Těsnohlídek and Stanislav Lolek in the Czech newspaper Lidové novini gave Leoš Janáček the idea for his comic opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, for which he wrote the libretto himself.

Is it children’s entertainment? The characters include animals, birds and insects, as well as a few human beings, but Janáček himself seems to have intended it to be a philosophical reflection about the cycle of life and death. The plot is open to a whole spectrum of interpretation, “but I can tell you that this production will appeal to the widest public components possible,” said tenor David Cangelosi, who sings the roles of the Schoolmaster and the Mosquito. “It just has something for everybody – the littlest of kids straight through to the most seasoned opera or symphony goer.”

The Cunning Little Vixen, a made-for-Cleveland production designed specifically for Severance Hall and directed by Yuval Sharon, will feature animations by Bill Barminsky and Christopher Louie of Walter Robot Studios, projected on three giant screens. The opera will be performed on May 17, 20 and 22 at 8:00 pm and May 24 at 2:00 pm. The 90-minute production involves a large cast of singers, with The Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Children’s Chorus conducted by Franz Welser-Möst.

David Cangelosi feels this production is the most innovative multi-media integration he has ever been involved with. He points out that many companies including the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera have incorporated projections into productions, “but this is the first time we’ve been asked to sing with our heads through a porthole and have bodies projected onto us,” he said with a laugh during a recent telephone conversation. “So we are integrated into the projections, not just having them behind us. It’s been hilariously fun because we’re being told what to do and which direction to look, while having no idea what our bodies look like, although we were able to see the animations early on during production presentations, so we do have some idea.”

CANGELOSI-David

Another feature of the production Cangelosi finds fun is the use of masks. “These masks that have been created for us by Cristina Waltz are incredible. I must say there’s been a lot of laughter during rehearsals as we try to get the portholes open and our heads through them. I’m a mosquito and the mask has this gigantic stinger for a nose. So until I became used to it, I was bumping into everything backstage. It’s been really funny.”

Throughout the conversation Cangelosi speaks about the fun he and he fellow cast members are having. He attributes that to the director, Yuval Sharon, who is constantly in a good mood. “He laughs a lot and you can’t help but laugh with him. He enjoys a good joke — both telling one and receiving one. And if we struggled a little bit early on, it wasn’t the kind of intense struggle that leads to frustration. It’s been a struggle that has evoked laughter.”

When first approached about the project, Cangelosi had only a vague idea about the form the production would take. “The earliest reports were that it was going to be a semi-staged Cunning Little Vixen.” As time passed, it became clear that this was going to be one of the most innovative productions ever — a fully-staged opera with animated accoutrements.

“Fully-staged” had its own innovative twists. “At first we thought, great, all the audience will see is our faces, so we don’t have to learn any staging,” Cangelosi said. “This is going to be really easy. Then we discovered that the portholes were on different levels so we would have to climb different staircases backstage. Then we realized that we would only be animated as animals. When we are in our human incarnations we are going to be onstage in costume complete with wigs.”

The innovations continue with the location of the instrumentalists. “The orchestra will be seated on three different levels using pit formation. Maestro will be on the lowest level with a good portion of the orchestra a short level up, with another portion on the next level. Then you have the stage level — I call it a tiered display. I think that as soon as they enter the hall, even before a note is played, people are going to realize that they are about to see something completely different.”

Cunning Little Vixen incorporates both an international and local cast. “Everyone from top to bottom is as first rate as any I have worked with at any opera house anywhere,” Cangelosi, himself a Parma native, said. “We hope the audiences love it as much as we have had fun preparing it. Because that is exactly what it has been, a great joy.”

A Day In My Life

January 5th, 2014

I have been asked on occasion to write a few articles for our trade publication: The AGMAzine.  Below is a copy of the article which has (or will) recently appeared.  This may be a good way to kick off the year 2014…since I have rehearsal later this morning to start the post holiday season!

A day in the life of an opera singer has many permutations depending upon the time of year, or where in the performance calendar one happens to be.  On this particular day in late September, I have only begun my daily processionals into the opera house by a week or so… in this case, the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  As a multi-decade principal artist of this august organization, I have by now seen almost every post, from General and Artistic Director right down to the fine doormen and service staff, change hands.  There is an old saying:  “Hang around long enough and you will become part of the establishment”.   I know just about everyone here, and everyone knows me (for better or worse, in the case of the latter).  But make no mistake, in the dynamic environment of a major international opera company; some things are always changing, while others never do.

I am up early on this day (6:00 a.m.) since the schedule indicates that I’ll be rehearsing some of my big scenes today.  Those paper rehearsal slips located in our artist mailboxes in the rehearsal department, have now become a thing of the past.  I head to my iPad to look at the new online schedule that we now receive daily via email while the morning coffee percolates.  A quick glance through my emails, then it’s right to that schedule.  Yes, I remembered correctly, an 11:00 a.m. start… and I had better warm up my voice this morning!  A few sips of half-caff coffee as the WGN Morning News plays in the background.  Can’t stand the damned iPad keyboard when I must write an email to my manager/agent about a free time period that I would like filled on my calendar; so it’s up and out of my comfortable lounge chair and into my office to get my laptop.  I write that snarky email, read it over and over again, send it off to my agent, and then perseverate over it for the next 20 minutes.  “Why won’t they hire me?” I ask myself.  “Am I too old?” “Have I gotten too expensive?” “Do I not sing well anymore?” “Did I do something wrong?” …wait a minute… “I have never even sung there, how could I have done anything wrong!?” I finally tell myself.  Look at the clock; I’m going to be late for my 7:15 a.m. spin class at the gym.  Out of the chair, into my gear and out the front door.  Leave the gym by 8:15 and back home by 8:25.  Pour another cup of coffee and take a quick look at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” before heading into the shower.  Lip trills while shampooing gives me confidence… ”lots of resonance in here”, I say to myself.

It’s 9:15, but I wait until 9:30 to sit at my piano and start the vocal exercises.  Easy does it at first.  Computer ‘ding’ tells me I have email.  I glance through the junk correspondence and focus like a laser-beam on the reply from my agent.  He promises to call Houston again… (yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say.)  I want to be out of the house by 10:15 but thankfully I have a contract in quadruplicate that I must sign for a future engagement before I depart… one copy for me, one for AGMA, one for my agent, and one for the company.  “Well, at least I have somewhere to work in the future” I tell myself.  Envelope, stamp, return address? ‘Check!’ Got ‘em all; and into the outgoing mail on my way out.

I enter the Stage Door, and there he is, security doorman extraordinaire Mr. Holliday (one of the great things that hasn’t changed)!!  “How ya feelin’???” he says with a smile, and comes around to give me a hug.  “You know, just trying to stay busy my man”, I reply.  Into the building and say hello to Gabby and Sal in the rehearsal department (two new members of our Lyric Opera family).  “You have mail in your box, Mr Cangelosi!”…“Please, call me David… ”  How nice, an invitation to the opening night party for the Madame Butterfly cast.  No time to deal with that, as I must rush up to the music library on the 6th floor.  Wendy, the Librarian, helps me pull several scores that I need for current and future reference.  I duck into one of the practice rooms for five more minutes of warm-up, then on to rehearsal room 200 right on time! 

It is the start of a four-hour rehearsal with so many familiar faces in the stage management staff, with hugs all around almost every morning.  Everyone is in a good mood (Maestro Armiliato, James Valenti, Amanda Echalaz, Christopher Purves, Mary Ann McCormick,  just to name a few), including our wonderful understudy/cover cast; and I think how lucky I am to be working with such great colleagues.  A break after 90 minutes sends most of us to the washrooms, or the coffee pot.  Hello to John Coleman in the elevator and Lucy from wardrobe in the hallway, a hug to Marina whom I have just seen for the first time since arriving back, a schedule clarification from Ben, a favor to ask of Josie and Amy in the rehearsal department, a shout out to ‘Junior’, Mack, and Charlie (stage-hands)… all on the way to the coffee pot.  DAMN, no one has made any fresh coffee!!!  Stage manager Caroline Moores calls over the system-wide intercom (in her ever elegant English accent): “The Butterfly staging rehearsal will resume in 5 minutes, all principals and maestri to Room 200 please.”  (Didn’t really need coffee anyway, I tell myself.)

Back in the rehearsal room:

I am surrounded by delightful people, stunning vocal talent, fabulous pianists, and outstanding conductors, directors, and choreographers.  We laugh as we make mistakes, compliment each other as we work, ask for a costume piece or prop that we have forgotten, lumber up the raked stage, trip up a stair, or lose our balance slightly on a ramp.  The set is new, and we are getting our bearings.  “I love this job”, I sigh to myself.  “Thank you Lord”, I whisper in virtual silence, as we all attempt to stay relevant.  We check our cell phones for emails, sneak out a text message to our friends and loved ones, or look at photos on these hand held marvels and wonder what we did before they existed as a ‘palm accessory’.

We finish our work after 4 hours (but we usually rehearse for 6); there is more to do, but I am done for the day at the opera house.  I stop by the FedEx Office to make a few copies of items I need, then head home.  I live two short blocks away, by design.  Sometimes we have 2-3 hours of break in between rehearsal periods, and commuting long distances in between became too much for me about 10 years ago.  Because I’m so close, no matter the circumstance, I never have to worry about being late and can always run home in between rehearsals or for lunch.

I arrive home by 4:00 p.m., but my workday hasn’t finished.  Seated in my study chair… the one that faces away from the television, I crack open that score of Cunning Little Vixen.  Czech isn’t my best language, and I struggle mightily trying to put the text to the rhythm.  I’ll be singing it with the Cleveland Orchestra in the Spring, and it’s got to be perfect.  That’s what a lot of folks simply don’t understand; we work at home in silence, or at our pianos for hours on end, and do not get paid for it… that’s just part of our profession.  I grow weary, frustrated, and angry because the text just won’t come out!!  C’mon David, c’mon!!!  I slam the score shut and curse my lot…

I make a light dinner, pay a few bills online, check in on the news of the day, FaceTime my fiancée, and call my parents.  But still I see that score sitting on the piano… it taunts me.  I hate you, you ‘Cunning Little Vixen’; I can bear you no more today.  The phone rings at 6:30 p.m. (7:30 in New York), I recognize the number.  It’s him.  “Yes John”, I answer without saying hello.  “Daaaviiiid, Houston just hired you for back-to-backs in 2015… what do you think? ”

“I love you John… and thanks for this.”
I guess I CAN study that Janacek score for another 45 minutes before ‘calling it a day’ after all… .

 djc
1/5/14

The Age of Envy

December 17th, 2013

This article below was excellent. Mr. Reich’s appearance last weekend on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” has proven yet again that his ‘broken record, same old, one-note, sour tune’ still resonates with tin-ear followers. I have spent 35 years in show business in an attempt to bring joy to a world with my meager talents, live life, and be a good citizen…and to do so as a working artist.

Thankfully, there have been grand men and women, and the dreaded, hated, reviled “corporation” that have made this possible to a large extent. I also gainfully employ some of my artist friends to help pass-on the procedurally conservative ‘artist’s skills’ to the next generation at an annual symposium in Montgomery, Alabama. A generous real estate developer flies us to the event in his private jet…because he WANTS this for his community, and to help salvage our budget.

Why??? Precisely because many of our young aspiring artists are from the more economically challenged sector of his community. All students attend for free, thanks to the donations of other like minded philanthropists.

Take a lesson from the Barack Obama play-book Mr. Reich:
“We must do this in a balanced manner.”

The President, of course, was talking about deficit reduction (another subject altogether). But I’m talking about sating a spiritual hunger…which also has it’s noble place in a civilized society…

Charitable giving must also be done in a ‘balanced manner’, and at the sole discretion and directive of the donor themselves.
djc

 

The Age of Envy
The most embarrassing sin produces the worst politics.
By Kevin D. Williamson
Of the seven deadly sins, envy may not be the wickedest, but it is the most embarrassing. To be possessed by envy is to admit a humiliating personal inadequacy: We do not envy others those attainments that we think we too might achieve, but those we despair of ever possessing. Wrath, greed, pride, lust — all assume a certain self-possession. Sloth and gluttony are practically standard issue in times of plenty such as these. Wrath and pride are the sins of great (but not good) men. Envy is the affliction of the insignificant. It is the small man’s sin.

Which brings us to Robert Reich, who, having practically made a cult of envy, has taken to abusing the well-off for their acts of charity. Professor Reich, a ward of the taxpayers of California (at $246,199.84 per annum) and a federal ward before that, is persistently unhappy about how other people use their money, and he scoffs that America’s rich philanthropists are phony and self-serving, investing too much in opera and ballet and fancy colleges, and too little in feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. He particularly resents the fact that our tax code encourages such giving, with deductions that reduced federal revenue by some $39 billion last year — federal revenue that could have gone toward employing men such as Robert Reich.

This calls to mind Edmund Spenser’s description of Envy personified: “He hated all good works and virtuous deeds / And him no less, that any like did use / And who with gracious bread the hungry feeds / His alms for want of faith he doth accuse.”

Professor Reich being Professor Reich, you can guess how his argument unfolds. (If you have read one Robert Reich column, which is one too many, you have read them all.) He writes: “As the tax year draws to a close, the charitable tax deduction beckons. America’s wealthy are its largest beneficiaries. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $33 billion of last year’s $39 billion in total charitable deductions went to the richest 20 percent of Americans, of whom the richest 1 percent reaped the lion’s share.” It goes without saying that he makes no attempt to compare the apportionment of charitable tax deductions with charitable donations — that would only complicate things and invite an unpleasant encounter with reality.

For a sense of perspective, consider that that $39 billion in tax deductions was associated with $316 billion in charitable donations. Our innumerate class warriors dismiss philanthropy as a complicated tax dodge for the rich, but in fact tax deductions amount to about 12 percent of total charitable donations, meaning that our wily robber barons have figured out a way of beating the taxman by . . . giving away far more money than they receive in related tax benefits. Even if Professor Reich got his way on tax rates and they went up to 90 percent at the top, you still don’t come out ahead by giving away money.

Beyond stealing altar offerings from the almighty god of revenue, our philanthropists offend Professor Reich’s sensibilities in another way: They don’t give to the sort of enterprises he wants them to give to. “A large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America’s wealthy are for donations to culture palaces — operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters — where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors. . . . These aren’t really charities as most people understand the term. They’re often investments in the life-styles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have as well. Increasingly, being rich in America means not having to come across anyone who’s not.” Unsurprisingly, Progressive America’s favorite non-economist-who-plays-an-economist-on-TV does not bother to document what he means by “a large share.” Giving to art-and-culture organizations amounted to just over $14 billion in 2012, or about 4.5 percent of charitable contributions, far less than was given to health, human-services, or public-benefit organizations. There are a fair number of single organizations that run into the billions per year, including YMCA ($6.24 billion), Goodwill Industries ($5 billion), Catholic Charities ($4.4 billion), and the Red Cross ($3.12 billion).

Professor Reich is writing in a very old tradition, one that is especially familiar to Catholics: Why spend money on beauty when there is necessity? Protestants have a long and rich tradition of abusing the Catholic Church for its supposed wealth — why not auction off the Sistine Chapel and give the money to the poor? The egalitarian liberal’s equivalent: Why incentivize donations to Princeton when we could be spending that money on food stamps? I like to imagine Robert Reich at the Nativity: “Gold? Frankincense? Myrrh? Try something useful!”

Why should we, things being as awful as they are, encourage such frivolities as take place at Lincoln Center?

A question, though: If spending on art, music, and culture is self-serving when private citizens do it, what is it when government does it? Essential, necessary, crucial — of course. The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs by itself spends some $150 million a year on precisely that sort of thing. The state spends dozens of millions more. A good deal of that money goes to subsidizing theater, including big-ticket theater. In my role as a theater critic, I am constantly surprised by how many shows selling tickets for north of $100 are publicly subsidized. It isn’t huge money — without public support for the Manhattan Theater Club, that $120 ticket to see Laurie Metcalf in The Other Place (excellent, be sorry if you missed it) might have been $125 instead. But it adds up: a few dozen millions from the state, a hundred million from the city, a billion and a half from Washington.

Try cutting a piece of that and you’ll hear howls about how vital every farthing spent in the service of culture is. Unless you’re David Koch, in which case it’s “Thanks for giving the New York ballet a nice place to perform, now please die.” I wonder how many New York balletomanes know that the David Koch in the David Koch Theater is that David Koch. Perhaps it is the urge to put one’s name on things that so offends Professor Reich and his colleagues at the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy.

Or he might contend that government spending on arts and culture does go to important causes, such as bringing us interviews with Robert Reich on NPR and subsidizing screenings of his dopey documentary film.

At its root, this is not about tax revenue or the woeful state of the federal cash-flow statement. This is about envy and its cousin, covetousness. Progressives know that they will always enjoy disproportionate influence in the public sector, but they are vexed that there exist large streams of money that are, for the moment, utterly outside their control. They convince others — and themselves, probably — that they are driven by compassion, but they are in fact driven by envy: Note Barack Obama’s insistence that tax rates on the wealthy should be raised even if doing so produced no fiscal benefit — it’s just “the right thing to do,” he said, necessary “for purposes of fairness.” The battle hymn of “Nobody needs that much money!” has a silent harmony line: “And I get to decide how much is enough!”

Prayerful people bargaining with God over lottery numbers no doubt imagine that they would do some worthy things with that money, on top of buying a Ferrari. Progressives imagine all the wonderful things they could do with other people’s money, and no doubt some of them are well-intentioned. But envy poisons whatever good intentions they have, which is how men such as Professor Reich come to write resentful indictments of people who are, remember, giving away billions of dollars of their own money. He’d prefer their money be given away by him, or by bureaucracies under the tutelage of men such as himself. As the moral philosopher Hannibal Lecter put it: “He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet? Do we seek out things to covet? No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.”

Megan McArdle once observed that in our public discourse, “very rich” is defined as “just above the level a top-notch journalist in a two-earner couple could be expected to pull down.” There is no envy like the envy of a $250,000 man in a world of $250 million men, as Robert Duvall’s crusty newspaper editor explains to a financially frustrated employee in The Paper: “The people we cover — we move in their world, but it is their world. We don’t get the money — never have, never will.” But being in that world, they learn to covet, which helps explain why Professor Reich’s old boss, Bill Clinton, ended up with $50-odd million in the bank after a lifetime of public service.

Americans gave away $316 billion in 2012, and will give away as much or more this year, and Professor Reich composed 731 words to explain the problems related to that. He should have composed two words, especially relevant to this season:

“Thank you.”

An Interview with David Cangelosi

December 3rd, 2013

A very nice young man who is studying our craft, and starting his career, was given an assignment at school recently.  His charge was to seek out a professional colleague and interview them.  His questions were so good, and his intentions so sincere, that I decided to post the interview to my blog.  Thank you Scott Gates for stopping by my dressing room that afternoon.  It was a great pleasure to have met you!!  Best of luck as you pursue your career!
djc


An interview with David Cangelosi

 

SG – What is your educational background?

DJC – I received an undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance at Baldwin Wallace College in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am from a suburb of Cleveland so I was able to do some prep work at the Cleveland Institute of Music but did not get a degree there.  After a few years of being a nightclub entertainer and performer, and some musical theater work, I went to get my Master’s Degree at Boston University.

SG – What was your first exposure to opera once you decided to pursue music as a career?

DJC – I have to credit it to my junior year in high school around 1982 or 1983.  Our English teacher made us watch the opening night television broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera.  We were studying Shakespeare and the broadcast was Otello.  The cast included Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes, with James Levine conducting.  Watching this made me say, “Hey, that is really spectacular stuff.  I wonder if I could ever do that.  I wonder if I could ever be on that stage, or a big stage.”  There were no microphones or artificial enhancements and that was fascinating.  The power of the voice reaching that many people in a hall was something I could only dream about doing.

SG – Who are your musical influences?

DJC – My earliest influences in classical music are from the early experiences of the Cleveland Orchestra when I was in grade school.  I was around to see George Szell, Lorin  Maazel, and then Christoph von Dohnányi.  But also, in my teenage years, being a part of the Cleveland Orchestra Festival Chorus under Robert Page.  He was a man of extreme charisma, very musically apt and bright, with a great sense of humor and a powerful demeanor.  He was the real thing and took an interest in younger people, so I had access to a great guy who made sure I was heading in the right direction.  I was also blessed, which is very rare these days, to have had outstanding public school teachers.  In junior-high I really fell in love with the ‘voice’, and my high school music director is the one that turned me on to the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus.

SG – You mentioned going back to school for a Master’s at Boston University.  What repertoire were you singing?

DJC – I was singing baritone repertoire at the time and then went to the Aspen Music Festival one summer and a teacher from Juilliard had suspicions that I might be a tenor.  I had heard this before, and he began steering me in the direction of singing ‘tenor’ repertoire.  This began a long process, which is not unusual for young baritones switching to tenor.  It is a procedurally conservative change that has to be administered over the course of 3-6 years.

SG – So when you finished the transition to tenor, what were you singing?

DJC – I transitioned from the Romantic/Lyric Baritone repertoire and was fiddling around with a number of different possibilities in the tenor range including baby heldentenor rep, lyric rep, and a few character rep arias because of my big personality.  But I will be honest with you, there was only one role in the entire tenor rep that really caught me; and this precipitated my entrance into the high-end character rep for good.  My wife at the time had given me a full cassette-tape box recording of the ‘Ring’ cycle for my birthday.  I don’t know why, but I started with Siegfried as opposed to Rheingold, because someone said there was a great part in there for me, and that was Mime.  I started listening to it right at the beginning where the character first appears.  He’s the very first thing you see and hear, and I said, “THAT is the one.  That is the one I want to sing. Whoever that is, whatever that is, that’s what I want.” That was me, because it had heldentenor characteristics to it, and it had wonderful character qualities too. It had interesting text, and you had to have a big personality, so whatever that fach was, that’s where I was going.  That was the final nail in the coffin that made me put everything else aside.

SG  - So you made a clear decision that you wanted to do that.

DJC – It was a clean, clear-cut decision.  It wasn’t a default position, it was “that’s what I want to do, and that is the role I want to do”.  And with it, I found a whole wealth of repertoire in all the other character roles.  I am thankful for it, because to have a signature role of that magnitude is great; meaning Mime.  I have recorded it, performed it all over the world, and it has kept me in this repertoire for all these years.  I just want to keep singing it and get better at it.  I don’t care if it’s a full-length recording, staged version, new or old production, covering it, scenes of it; as long as it can be a part of my life.  I’ve literally been working on that role for 20 years.  There are large sections you can learn which take a long time, and there are all these interjections that take just as long to learn.  There may be harder roles than Mime, but it is one of the top 20 towering roles in all of opera.  The only character that sings more than Mime in Siegfried is Siegfried.

SG – What is your definition of a character tenor?

DJC – Someone that combines winning individualized characterizations with the ability to provide beautiful singing along with modified characterized singing.  In other words, you have to be a really good actor and approach the music with the best of vocal intentions before you can stylize anything.  You want to be remembered as a strong character.  (There are no small roles, just small voices.) There is a huge movement component that can be built into these roles too, but you have to sing them beautifully first.

SG – Is there a tradition of certain character roles that you sing through time, such as a young character tenor building a career?

DJC – Beppe is absolutely something you can start with.  Basilio, Goro, Gastone are all great roles you can get mileage on.  Little Bat is one that a young person sings as well.  Then there are some age appropriate characters such as the Dancing Master, Cassio, Prunier, Tybalt, etc.  You don’t sing Mime until you are 40, not because you can’t, but because of the weight of it.  You might be able to sing it, but the real question is, can you recover enough to sing it again 3 nights later?

SG – What has been your most rewarding moment?

DJC – There were two moments, both while singing Mime.  The first was 2004 in the MET”s legendary Otto Schenk production of Das Rheingold.  Immediately following the performance, my dressing room phone rang.  I never get calls so I assumed it was the wrong number.  I answered just in case someone was lost, and it was James Levine on the line!  “James Levine here.”  I was in shock.  It was very common for him to call Renee, or Placido, and talk about how much he enjoyed a performance…but me? That was a very proud moment because I knew I had done my job and that led me to several other engagements.

The second was the summer of 2011 in San Francisco.  Before doing the full ‘Ring’ cycle, they were performing Siegfried as a standalone in their regular subscription series.  I worked extremely hard on this performance from day one.  I had some requests regarding staging and props, and was very adamant about it because knowing this character so well, I knew it would make a huge difference in the show.  I rarely make demands, but these were things I had to have.  The director gave in and was very thankful for it in the end.  And I’m sorry, but when I came out for my curtain call it was like a bomb went off.  It was so loud you almost couldn’t hear it.  It was so humbling, not a “hey, I’m a big shot” moment.  The kind of applause that is reserved for Wotan or Siegfried was given to me.  It happened every time we performed it.  I was especially proud because my colleagues knew how hard I worked and they all congratulated me instead of having ego issues.  This really wasn’t about the amount or volume of applause; it was more about audience appreciation that was so rewarding.

SG – When did you know that you were successful in this career?

DJC – I think it was in London around 2000 or 2001 when I was doing a film version of Tosca.  It was going to be premiered at the Venice Film Festival.  I was the only American on the project and I remember them flying me back and forth between Chicago and London to do the recording, and then an onsite location in Italy and Germany, and finally a flight to the Venice Film Festival to view the premiere.  While I was going through this whirlwind of getting measured for costumes, being asked my opinions on the film set, and being escorted from my trailer and having eyes on me everywhere; I thought, “This is for real.  This is real.”  My MET debut had already been scheduled, and many other things scheduled into the future, and I realized, “Ok, you’re in.  Recognize you’re in and enjoy it…and be grateful.”

SG  - What are your goals from here forward?

DJC – Thank you for asking.  I am getting to the point where the majority of my career is behind me now, but I hope to have another good 10 years of doing what I do.  I have worked with every major conductor, legends, future legends, stage directors, film directors, and the best coaches in the world; and if there is one thing I want to do from this point forward is pass on the knowledge.  I have a little vocal institute in Alabama where a lot of my friends come down with me to work with the next generation of young singers.  I’m the last of a generation to work with the old-timers who are now almost all gone.  There are many aspects and concepts of this business that I want to teach going forward because one of the worst things an adult can do in any industry is to not pass on your knowledge to the next generation that is interested in learning.

SG – What do you wish you had more of before you started your career?

DJC – More piano as a child and rudimentary work on an instrument, and foreign language study.  I wish I had learned at least one foreign language fluently when I was much younger.   I was already an adult before I was speaking a few languages well; but I should have concentrated on this sooner!

SG – What advice do you give to young singers trying to start a career?

DJC – It is not really about the size of your voice.  It just isn’t.  Natalie Dessay has a smaller voice than most, so would she have a career if that is all that people believed?  It’s about carrying power, not about decibels.  When your voice is developing, back off the decibels and pump up the quality.  Don’t try to get too big too fast.  I’ve been around a long time and have seen so many people come and go who were always “the next big thing.”  Young singers picking up roles that are too big makes them leave a piece of their voice behind in all those instances; and in 5 years they are done.  Everyone wants the new beauty, the young handsome fresh-voiced singer; and companies want to showcase them.  A lot of ego is involved and people think, “If I don’t do it, someone else will.  I’m going to miss my chance.”  Do you want a long career, or do you want to be a rising star and flame out?

 

 

When all else failed…

September 3rd, 2013

Now that Labor Day has passed, and many of us in the artistic community have completed summer festival employment and/or vacations; we turn our sights to the main arts season dated 2013/2014…the time expanse that begins in late August/early September 2013 thru April/May 2014.  For most of us, this means that we must align ourselves, by design, with one or more performing arts unions as a matter of course.  For the most part, I like to think that our Unions and the management(s) of the Arts Organizations that hire us work in a symbiotic fashion.  The good sense behind this is the fact that we are all usually headed in the ‘same direction’ artistically, and we don’t dabble in politics.  Every once in awhile, however, we hit a snag along that road and it requires additional hands on-deck to assist us.  Below is an example of what can happen when a Union and an Arts Organization work hand-in-hand to help just one person.  In this case, of course, it was me!  It is also an affirmation to the usefulness of our performing arts Unions, who are too often maligned for taking money from their members, and doing nothing in return.  (For the sake of propriety, I do not identify the specific company or company-players involved.)

As a solo singer in this business, it is sometimes unclear as to exactly how we should handle a contract issue or dispute.  Generally speaking, we attempt to follow a specific chain-of-command, establish a reliable chain-of-custody regarding correspondence, and hopefully resolve any issues amicably between all parties.  Despite our best efforts, and recognizing the myriad of variables that a “problem” produces–regardless of it’s point of origin–we sometimes find ourselves at an impasse. 

A few years ago, I began an inquiry through my manager/agent regarding an extra week of rehearsal that was requested for a major project at one of our most visible and respected opera companies.  I was indeed available for this extra week, wanted no additional rehearsal pay or overall fee, but was expecting a contract revision (a fully executed contract had already been in place) that provided for one week’s worth of living expenses.  This exact same issue occurred a few years earlier with the exact same company, and this is how the issue was handled.  In fact, the offer of an additional week’s worth of expenses was their idea at that time, and it seemed fair to me.   The cost?  About $600-$700.

We began asking for this written addendum some 9-10 months in advance of the start of the rehearsal period.  An addendum was sent out, but no word regarding expenses was in the document.  Luckily we had a reliable email sequence regarding this matter with the Artistic department.  To be fair, the role of an Artistic Administrator in this working environment and economy is a tough one.  They are forever putting out fires, dealing with critical artistic matters, being tugged-on from every direction, and being told to hold-the-line on all expenses/expenditures that come their way.  It is therefore easy to see how my matter could receive low priority when it was queued into their inbox, but I was signing no document until my issue was resolved in writing. 

As the months passed, another major opera company offered me the opportunity to perform an outstanding new role on very short notice.  I was to replace an artist who had to cancel his obligation.  The only problem was that the last week of performances conflicted with the extra week of rehearsal that I was not yet contracted for because the “one week of living expenses“ issue had still not been addressed.  Now, of course, I didn’t even want to obligate myself to this extra week of rehearsal because an additional contract hung in the balance.  When I was no longer available to rehearse, and was not obligated by signature, the company was quick to respond to our 9-10 months of inquiry, and yes…were suddenly willing to discuss additional compensation regarding living expenses.

A tug-of-war ensued; and while I was “in the right” contractually, I simply did not want to be considered a bad colleague.  Neither opera company wanted to give-way, and the original company in question felt they were still ‘”in the right”.   With my agent/manager now tussling with not one, but TWO different opera companies, a capable Artistic Administrator, a General Director, and now the actual Director of the original project…all of whom wanted supremacy over the situation…I stood aside and realized that my reputation and thousands of dollars hung in the balance.  Let’s be clear; I am NOT a power-player singer.  If I were, the situation would have resolved itself quickly.  I am, however, a well-respected, reliable artist who must maintain good relations all of the time.  But I simply did not know where to turn…

So, I tried AGMA.  I emailed Alan Gordon, AGMA’s National Executive Director, late on a Friday night in hopes that he could help sort things out…at least from a contractual perspective.

To my delight and surprise, I received a phone call–on a Saturday morning no less–and Alan and I discussed the matter in full.  He felt that no ‘heavy-handed’ posturing was needed and asked me to allow him access to the matter.  On Monday morning, with one simple email (he Cc’d me on all communications) and one phone call, the problem was resolved.  He simply posited that reasonable people should all be able to work together, and appealed to everyone’s sense of fairness.  Things began to move quickly thereafter.  Alan spoke with the Associate General Director, the Director of ‘project A’ spoke with the General Director of ‘project B’, my agent spoke with both Artistic Administrators; and VOILA, problem solved!

In the end, it was AGMA’s intercession that truly got the ball rolling again.  This is the kind of representation for which we pay dues…both annual and 2%.  Make no mistake, I got my entire 20 years worth of dues investment back a few times over on just that one occasion.  Our head-office can be a powerful tool, to be sure; but it did not take ‘power’ to resolve this situation.  However, a phone call and an email from our National Executive Director was the one component that made all the difference, and there were (hopefully) no residual hard feelings. 

BOTH projects that I was then able to participate in were enormous successes both artistically and personally.  It took some flying back and forth, and some creative rehearsal scheduling, but we did it!  Ultimately however (along with the dedicated assistance of ALL the players), it was AGMA that saved the day. 

Thank You Alan, and Thank You AGMA!!

This is why AGMA is there.  Alan and AGMA staff are well equipped to assist you should the need arise, so do not hesitate to contact them!  Artistic Administrators and company liaisons are also there to help provide  a road map to peace, so please do not hesitate to contact them early on as well!!

Respectfully submitted,

djc
9/3/2013

**The above article is a reprint from the spring issue of AGMAzine for which I was asked to write about just such an experience.**

 

 

 

 

 

Saluting a True ‘Arts Philanthropist’

July 12th, 2013

Yesterday  (July 11 2013), I spent a lovely afternoon at the invitation of the local Wagner Society here in Santa Fe as they paid tribute, via slightly belated birthday party, to a long-time Patron of the Arts.  Edgar Foster Daniels has been supporting the arts (with opera being his particular primary interest) for decades.  He has given millions of dollars to arts organizations of local, regional, and national scope, as well as doing his part ON the stage (and screen) over his many years as an actor and performing artist.

A number of ‘arts-locals’ (including Bruce Donnell, LeRoy Lehr, and Joe Illick) gathered for lunch which was served in between acts of the Glyndebourne/David McVicar production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger starring Gerald Finley as Hans Sachs.  This is a production which I myself just completed, along with a slew of wonderful colleagues, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago this past winter season.  Armed with anecdotes from this production, as well as a rousing version of Happy Birthday which I was honored to lead, a great afternoon was had by all.

In my brief remarks, I mentioned that I met Mr. Daniels in 1996 at LOC when he sponsored a new production of Menotti’s The Consul.  I have run into him regularly since then in Chicago, Washington D.C., Santa Fe, and New York City.  Mr. Daniels, who turned 80 last month was in good spirits as we discussed the current state of the operatic world and my upcoming Wagner-related engagements thru 2018.  Each guest, in fact, spent a respectful amount of time with him throughout the day.  He loudly admonished the crowd at 3:00 p.m., asking us to stop the verbal tributes, because the last act of Meistersinger was a full two hours in length.  We all laughed, took our seats, and watched a riveting final act; with special kudos going to Mr. Finley and Johannes Martin Kranzle (Sixtus Beckmesser) in this ever so detailed, and thought provoking production.

Many of my colleagues and I have actually earned a living because of Edgar Foster Daniels and others like him.  Mr. Daniels knows the value of the arts, and realizes how vital they are to our society.  As artists, it is ever important to put a quality product onto the stage; but just as important, is to acknowledge the generosity of those who allow us to ply our craft.

To you Mr. Daniels:  Allow me to offer every expression of my esteem and gratitude!

And special thanks to Yoko Arthur and the Host Committee for Saluting a True ‘Arts Philanthropist’.

djc

July 12, 2013

‘The Ring’ will ‘Cycle’ itself anew…

May 20th, 2013

With much media attention, but little celebrated fanfare; the dedicated and hard-working Metropolitan Opera stage crew reportedly disassembled and loaded for transport perhaps the most talked about set in Met history:  “The Machine”.  Its 24 articulating half-diamond shaped planks are to be housed in a warehouse somewhere in upstate New York for an indefinite period of time.  Until now, the most recently “most talked about” set at the Metropolitan Opera (but coming in a distant second place by comparison) was that of the three separate gigantic, and rather beautiful, sets that served as the back-drop for Puccini’s Il Trittico…a production that I sang in twice (Il tabarro) in the last handful of years.  It was considered the largest set(s) to have ever occupied the stage of this august arts facility, requiring some 18 tractor-trailer trucks for transportation.  The difference is that it was believed that the sets from the latter firmly enhanced the underlying music/drama that Puccini so perfectly embedded into his operas.  In the case of “The Machine”, this was less than the majority opinion; with everyone entitled to their own perception.

The effect of “The Machine”, as opined by many, has almost overshadowed the glorious singing, acting, conducting, and instrumental expertise that was so clearly evident and on full display for the past three seasons as the Metropolitan Opera presented Richard Wagner’s time-shifting masterpiece, Der Ring des Nibelungen.  The magnificent casts of singing actors dominated this music-drama in ways that may never be equalled…at least until the next rendering on as major a scale comes down the pike.  Let us never forget that the reason opera companies commission such productions, whether controversial, loved or hated, or otherwise, is because of scores and libretti that scream for such.  I can hardly speak to the cost of this recent Met production (way above my pay-grade), or its impending hiatus from the company’s schedule in the out-years.  All I can say is that I was happy to be a small part of this production, aware of a nod toward history, and to be amongst such talented and gifted colleagues.

Looking ahead:
There isn’t a major musical arts institution that doesn’t dream about bringing The Ring to fruition.  One such organization is currently working on its casting for what may well be the most serious and sublime of ‘Ring’ recordings and presentations in recent times.  I am not at liberty to speak to this matter at this moment; but one thing is for sure…

The Ring will Cycle itself anew…you can count on it!!

djc
5/20/13