Purebred Opera Stars and Their Canine Companions

Coming up on August 26 is National Dog Day. Anyone who owns a dog knows that they are the best companions, friends, and even listeners when no one else is around. They are loyal, dedicated, and are happy living their virtually simple lives of eating, sleeping, playing, and cuddling. However, some doggies lead more exciting lives, including activities such as traveling the world with their owners and getting to sniff foreign scents. Several furry little friends have accompanied their opera star owners across the world, as they need plenty of love and support for such a difficult career. Here are some singers who have taken their pets to work:

Renata Tebaldi and New II

Renata Tebaldi and her poodle (Source: http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~san/tebaldidog.jpg)

Renata Tebaldi and her poodle (Source: http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~san/tebaldidog.jpg)

New II was not only a traveling companion of Tebaldi, but also a star at the Met himself! On several occasions he would appear as the Marschellin’s dog in Der Rosenkavalier and take the spotlight along with Musetta in La Bohème. He also had his own set of fine vocal cords, warming up along with Tebaldi in her dressing room as she would sing and he would howl. One time, in fact, his singing was so loud that it disturbed Franco Corelli in the neighboring dressing room. Corelli busted into her dressing room half-naked demanding that the dog be silenced, but he continued to howl. The vocal world can be so competitive! (Source: http://www.fondazionerenatatebaldi.org/default.asp?id=1144)

Franco Corelli and Loris

Franco Corelli and his dog (Source: http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~san/corelliscan2.jpg)

Franco Corelli and his dog (Source: http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~san/corelliscan2.jpg)

Loris and Franco had quite a few adventures together. One of the greatest stories about them occurred in and around performances of Turandot. In 1961, while the Met was on tour in Chicago, Corelli’s dog fell very ill on the night before a performance of Turandot. Loris had seizures that were cured by a veterinarian, but she ended up hemorrhaging early the next morning. Corelli had to sing Calaf that same day. He insisted on canceling, but Rudolf Bing told him there was no backing out. Digging in his heels to avoid going on stage, Corelli repeatedly told those around him that he could not go on; he was too distraught to sing. Finally, his manager Merle Hubbard gave him some encouraging words by saying, “Franco, canto per il cane”, (Sing for the dog!), to which Corelli responded, “Provo!” (I’ll try). With those words, he sang that night. The next city on the Met’s tour was Detroit, and Corelli was sent there ahead of the rest of the company. He refused to leave the Detroit train station once they arrived before he spoke to Loris on the phone. Yes, you read that correctly, he wanted to speak to his dog on the phone. A little whimper from the other end of the line satisfied him, and he continued on with his performances and the tour. (Source: Franco Corelli by Rene Seghers, pages 221-224).

Frederica von Stade and Hannah

Frederica von Stade and her Westie © Terrence McCarthy 2014

Frederica von Stade and her Westie © Terrence McCarthy 2014

According to a recent interview with Ms. von Stade, Hannah was a 60th birthday present to her by her children. She takes her adorable Westie almost everywhere with her and said in the interview how wonderful company she can be. Coincidentally, she said that she took Hannah to the same doggy daycare to which conductor Patrick Summer’s takes his dog. Opera dogs are everywhere! (Source: http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/interviews-musicians-artists/interviews-musicians-artists/a-delightful-chat-with-beloved-mezzo-frederica-von-stade.html)

Jennifer Larmore, Sophie, and Buffy

Jennifer Larmore with Sophie (left) and Buffy and her husband (right). © Audra Melton 2007 (left) and Ken Howard (right)

Jennifer Larmore with Sophie (left) and Buffy and her husband (right). © Audra Melton 2007 (left) and Ken Howard (right)

Ms. Larmore has owned two furry little friends, however, I do not know if she had them at the same time or separately. In a 2007 interview for the Divas Divulge, while she was singing in a concert with Music of the Baroque conducted by Jane Glover, she posed with her dog Sophie. In the interview, she answered the fun question “If you couldn’t sing what would you do?”, by saying she would be writing a series of children’s books about her dog’s musical adventures. If that response does not evoke Ms. Larmore’s warm and effervescent personality I do not know what does.

Sophie also starred, alongside Ms. Larmore, in The Barber of Seville at San Francisco Opera in 1996, acting as Dr. Bartolo’s pet. Initially, when Larmore arrived at the theater, she was told that no dogs were allowed inside, but an exception was made for Sophie by company director Lofti Mansouri. Thus, John del Carlo, singing Dr. Bartolo, carried Sophie around on stage as Larmore sang Rosina.

In a more recent 2015 interview, she posed with her adorable dog Buffy, saying in the interview that she was her most prized possession.

(Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/10/style/chronicle-739413.html?ref=topics and http://www.chicagomag.com/core/pagetools.php?pageid=4225&url=%2FChicago-Magazine%2FApril-2007%2FThe-Divas-Divulge%2Findex.php&mode=print)

Deborah Voigt and Steinway

Deborah Voigt signing autographs at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. with Steinway by her side

Deborah Voigt signing autographs at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. with Steinway by her side

Steinway has been Ms. Voigt’s loyal Yorkshire Terrier companion for quite a long time now. He has traveled with her practically everywhere she has sung. When she was living in New York, she would regularly take Steinway on walks and to doggy socials in Central Park, according to a New York Times interview done while she was performing the role of Brünnhilde at the Met. Now, she resides in Fort Lee, NJ, where hopefully Steinway enjoys the suburbs. Steinway has also been taken to autograph sessions, greeting fans as they stick photos and pens in his mom’s face (as seen in the photo above). She also loves dressing him up in various outfits and costumes for social media, especially on Halloween. He is an older doggy now, making it more difficult for him to travel extensively. (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/nyregion/deborah-voigt-soprano-at-the-metropolitan-opera-unwinds-on-sundays.html?_r=0)

Luca Pisaroni, Lenny, and Tristan

Lenny and Tristan getting ready to go on another trip! © gbtimes

Lenny and Tristan getting ready to go on another trip! © gbtimes

Lenny (Golden Retriever) and Tristan (miniature dachshund) are nearly as famous as their opera star owner Luca Pisaroni. They even have their own Facebook page and blog! They travel everywhere with him and his wife Catherine, because according to Mr. Pisaroni, having them with him makes him feel like he has his family even on the road. He takes them to rehearsals and performances when he can, where they lounge in his dressing room with the door closed so they do not go out on stage.They are even smart enough to know when Pisaroni has a performance, as they always lie on the floor quietly and look at him when he is warming up or vocalizing. After shows, he and Catherine often walk the dogs, get fresh air, and talk about the performance or catch up. Traveling with pets may sound difficult, however, in Mr. Pisaroni’s opinion, it can be very easy if you are organized. “Dogs enjoy what they are used to. If you take them on your trips, then they know that traveling is part of their life”, Pisaroni stated. Tristan even had a chance to star in the Salzburg Festival’s most recent production of Le Nozze di Figaro, something his owner had always dreamed of. To summarize, he told gbtimes that he could not imagine life without his dogs, they simply make his life better. (Source: http://www.lucapisaroni.com/press/pressitem.php?id=42)

This Don is on Fire: A Review of the Met’s Don Giovanni

On Wednesday night the premiere of Don Giovanni took place at the Met. The cast included Swedish baritone Peter Mattei in the title role, Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, South African soprano Elza van den Heever as Donna Anna, Emma Bell as Donna Elvira, Kate Lindsey as Zerlina, and James Morris as the Commendatore. This performance was the beginning of another run of the Michael Grandage production which opened in the 2011-12 season.

Peter Mattei in the title role in Act II of Mozart's Don Giovanni. © Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera 2015

Peter Mattei in the title role in Act II of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. © Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera 2015

Peter Mattei was the highlight of the show. His voice shimmers and has a sincere, sweet quality to it that has worked for his Don Giovanni, as well as other heavier roles such as Amfortas in Parsifal. This sweetness was particularly prevalent in “Là ci darem la mano” and “Deh vieni alla finestra”, as he used that tone especially well when serenading and flirting with various women in the opera. I, on cue, practically melted in my seat. His intensity on stage was also admirable. For a man well over six feet tall, he was able to stoop down to other singers’ levels, jump on tables, and sink into the fires of Hell without letting his vocal quality decrease. His diction was also impeccable; I had never heard “Fin ch’han dal vino calda la testa” sung with such crispness. Overall, Mattei was the highlight of the evening, wowing with me with every line that poured out of his mouth. He had the entire audience in the palm of his hand.

Pisaroni played a hilarious Leporello; his comic timing is priceless. He had the audience howling with laughter when Giovanni forces Leporello to put his own clothes on in disguise to woo Donna Elvira. His reluctant facial expressions and his collapsing out of fake infatuation for Elvira were hysterical. Pisaroni’s singing was largely lyrical, just as it was in La Cenerentola last season in the role of Alidoro. His “Catalog Aria” was not overdone; it was sung beautifully.

Elza van den Heever wowed the audience with her “Non mi dir”. She played a largely independent Donna Anna, rarely putting her head on Don Ottavio’s shoulder. I only wish that “Non mi dir” and “Or sai chi l’onore Rapire a me volse” could have been on the more exciting side. The tempi seemed to drag under the baton of Alan Gilbert for many portions of the opera. I felt the same way about Emma Bell’s “Mi Tradi”, one of, if not the most exhilarating aria of the evening. It did not feel driven enough, in my opinion, as entrances were hesitant and long lines tended to drag.

The septet at the end of Act I of Mozart's "Don Giovanni". © Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera 2015

The septet at the end of Act I of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. © Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera 2015

Kate Lindsey’s voice seems to grow richer each time she steps on the stage. She is sounding more and more like a dramatic French mezzo, or the likes of Susan Graham. As the petite Zerlina, she sounded grounded and steady. Her voice did not waver or go sharp, which can happen to more “flighty” Zerlinas. Her counterpart, Masetto, sung by Adam Plachetka, was very solid in his Met debut. Russian tenor Dmitri Korchak also made his debut on Wednesday in the role of Don Ottavio. Other than some unsteady approaches to high notes and taking more time then needed on some phrases, he sang a lovely performance.

The Met Orchestra was captivating. The Met Orchestra musicians always play Mozart so well, as they keep it very chamber-like and crisp. The Met Chorus also did a wonderful job; they sounded lithe and graceful in the happy scenes and dark and menacing in the scary scenes!

Performances of Don Giovanni run through March 6. Go see this Mozartian drama before it is too late!