Why Mozart's The Magic Flute is on the Voyager Golden Record

Aria Code is WQXR and Met Opera’s captivating podcast that deconstructs famous arias. Believe me, even if you don't know anything about opera, or think you "don't like it," Aria Code is a fascinating way in. This week, they delve into Mozart's Queen of the Night, "the rage-fest" from The Magic Flute. This is a special episode for me because this aria was included on the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials attached to the Voyager I and II space probes launched in 1977. The Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach to Blind Willie Johnson to Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes to, yes, Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Golden Record on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Our project's resonance with the public, and the Grammy that we were honored to receive for it, are really a testament to the majesty of the original record. It's a stunning compilation that stands the test of time (and space).

Science and philosophy writer Timothy Ferris was the producer of the original Voyager Record. I was delighted to hear him on this episode of Aria Code explaining why the "Queen of the Night" made the cut and is now hurling through interstellar space.

"Mozart is an interesting composer from a mathematical standpoint," Tim says. Read the rest

Killer new trailer for "Bohemian Rhapsody," forthcoming Queen biopic

The long-awaited biopic Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen's incredible story from their formation in 1970 to their outstanding Live Aid performance in 1985 just a few years before Mercury died due to complications from AIDS.

Hitting theaters November 2, the film stars Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury with Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, Allen Leech, and Lucy Boynton. Bryan Singer directed much of the principal photography before he was fired, apparently for repeatedly not showing up to work, and replaced by Dexter Fletcher who completed the movie.

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Hockey Noir: The Opera

A bunch of years ago, I was sitting at a LA Kings Hockey game, noticing the music the game made. The skates on the ice. The slap of the sticks. The puck being handled and passed around. The grunts. The whistles. The roar of the crowd. The bursts of music clips. The Zamboni. And in that moment, I knew that I had come up with the idea that for my new opera it would have something to do with Hockey.

Dog nails first note of Ave Maria

I suspect Master Thalpians' dog had technological assistance after the first couple of bars, but it nailed that first note. Read the rest

Dial-up modem opera

Exhibit A: Opera singers dubbed with dial up modems could be the next big thing – Olaf Falafel.

Exhibit B: The Modem Choir

Exhibit C: Rooster Singing Opera

More science must be done. Read the rest

Vinyl Divas: vintage opera diva album art is weird and wonderful

Vinyl Divas is a comprehensive collection of vintage classical music divas, and it ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous. Includes lists by artist name, collection based on themes, and even vanity albums by self-published divas. The fashion, the makeup, the styles, the taste both good and bad... prepare to go down a rabbit hole of 20th century nostalgia. Read the rest

Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins the Washington National Opera

On November 12th, and for one night only, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will portray the Duchess of Krakenthorp in the Washington National Opera's production of "The Daughter of the Regiment."

Please note: this is not the Notorious RBG's first role in an opera! Also, while the Duchess does not sing she will bust loose with the funny.

Via NPR:

It's no cameo. According to the Washington National Opera, while this opera is "best known for its vocal acrobatics, the high-comedy antics" of the nonsinging duchess "often steal the show."

Indeed, for Ginsburg's one-night stand, the script has been altered. At one point, for example, after the duchess observes that the best leaders of the House of Krakenthorp have been "persons with open but not empty minds, individuals willing to listen and learn," she looks at the audience meaningfully, and asks, "Is it any wonder that the most valorous members ... have been women?"

She goes on to list the qualifications for admission to the House of Krakenthorp, some of which sound suspiciously like the qualifications for being a Supreme Court justice — i.e., "must possess the fortitude to undergo intense scrutiny," and have a "character beyond reproach."

The 83-year-old justice will join a long list of notables who have played the Duchess of Krakenthorp — among them comediennes Bea Arthur and Hermione Gingold and retiring opera stars like Kiri Te Kanawa and Montserrat Caballe.

Ginsburg has had a lifetime love affair with opera. She often lectures about the law in opera and has said that her one regret in life is that she could not be a real operatic diva.

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This puzzle game makes me want to learn about opera

I've never watched an opera before, but the new iOS game Magic Flute by Mozart makes me want to. Read the rest

An opera for sleep-deprived parents

For anyone who has raised children: sing along, you know the words. Read the rest

5 videos that prove helium makes opera singing more fun to listen to

No, really. Read the rest

Music: "Heat, Beat and Treat," Timur and the Dime Museum (2015)

Timur Bekbosunov is an incredible performer, his work with the Dime Museum is not to be missed. This video stretches the imagination.

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Watch scenes from LSD: The Opera!

Five scenes from "LSD: The Opera" performed at Los Angeles's REDCAT last month. It ain't over 'til Tim Leary sings? Read the rest

Mozart, but with more Klingons

If Mozart had thought to populate The Abduction from The Seraglio with Vulcans and Klingons, he most certainly would have.

Instead, this adaptation was left to Josh Shaw, Artistic Director of the Pacific Opera Project (POP). Their production of The Abduction premiered at the Southern Illinois Music Festival, and had a short run in the Los Angeles area.

I did not get a chance to see it, but this review made me wish I had.

POP has translated that German “libretto,” or text, into English. And moved the harem to planet M113. And the Turkish Pasha? A Klingon Warlord. Don’t question it. The results are strangely glorious. And whether you are a rabid Star Trek fan or just versed enough to get by in pop culture, this zany and pitch-perfect opera triumphs in pure laugh-out-loud hilarity.

Opera is becoming harder and harder to sell, but the love for classic Star Trek is not dead. The production brings to mind the fan-made series Star Trek Continues, a fan-made passion project that feels to me like Waiting for Guffman in space; and another fan-made series, the even more impressive Star Trek Phase II, whose New Voyages is looking very snappy. Read the rest

Nazi-themed opera cancelled

A Dusseldorf production of Wagner's Tannhauser was cancelled this week after the producer "refused to tone down the staging, set in a concentration camp during the Holocaust." [BBC] Read the rest

Opera browser popular in Belarus

Why is a boutique web browser so popular in Europe's last dictactorship? Opera's maximalist, ultra-fast caching keeps bandwidth use down when using crappy, metered internet. [The Atlantic] Read the rest

"Where The Wild Things Are" comes alive

Video artist Netia Jones holds a 21st century-style Wild Rumpus in the LA Phil’s production of Oliver Knussen’s opera version of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are.

English National Opera to mount Philip Glass production about Walt Disney's last days

Philip Glass and the English National Opera will stage "The Perfect American," adapted from Peter Stephan Jungk's fictionalized account of Walt Disney's last months.

Glass – described by the ENO as “one of the world’s most important composers” – said the life of the man behind Mickey Mouse was “unimaginable, alarming and truly frightening”.

The story follows cartoonist Wilhelm Dantine, who worked for Disney in the 1950s. The production does not have the rights to use Disney’s most famous characters, but it is likely to find a way to reference them. Berry said: “Glass is very interested in the impact that a personality of that order has on wider culture.”

ENO to stage Philip Glass opera about the last days of Walt Disney

(Thanks, Tom!) Read the rest

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