When the curtain rises on the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Verdi's Otello tonight, opera fans will quickly notice what's not there. For the first time since the opera was first staged at the Met in 1891, a white singer performing the title role will not be wearing makeup to darken his complexion to play the Moor at the center of the tragedy.
It's not easy being a mom, but it's even tougher for mothers in opera. So often they're completely absent while fathers have leading roles in shows like Rigoletto, La traviata, The Flying Dutchman. When depicted at all, operatic moms are usually under supreme stress. They can be murderous, manipulative or simply mad. Only rarely are they the loving moms who brought us into the world. Here your job is to identify the operas and their mothers. Score high and brag to your own sweet (or stressed) mom. Score low and go to your room without supper.
Seventy-five years ago, on April 9, 1939, as Hitler's troops advanced in Europe and the Depression took its toll in the U.S., one of the most important musical events of the 20th century took place on the National Mall in Washington. There, just two performers, a singer and a pianist, made musical — and social — history.
Over the weekend, soprano Kristine Opolais sang her heart out — and died twice.
Friday evening she had sung the lead in Puccini's Madama Butterfly. It was her debut in that role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It was a big deal. Opolais was so excited about it that she stayed up until five the next morning.
Dolora Zajick discovered opera as a 22-year-old pre-med student. "That's when I discovered I had a voice," she tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross, "and I actually had a crack at a singing career. And I decided to take the chance."