Can Belto

On the art of singing and those who practice it…

Sometimes you are in the presence of art, and you know it

Last night, after I was done writing my article for Reality TV Calendar, I got an urge to listen to Camille Saint-Saëns’ beautiful Le cigne (the Swan) from The carnival of the animals. This happens to be one of my favorite pieces of music ever and one that realistically would be a great one to walk down the isle to; whenever that happens.

I am sure you know how Anna Pavlova, the legendary Russian Ballerina is forever attached to that piece of music. So among the versions I watched was of course, her painfully short clips that have influenced every interpretation of the piece for the past 100 years. I would say that the original choreography by  Mikhail Fokine is the single most dance choreography of the century; but that statement is not based on fact.


So, among the many traditional recreations I saw some where truly beautiful; and some added an element of irreverent fun, and yet the brilliance of the performer shone just as brightly:

What I was not prepared to encounter is a version making the rounds on YouTube for about a month courtesy of the Brazilian version of So You Think You can Dance. In it,John Lennon da Silva, a 20 year old student shows up dressed in a very urban attire and tells the judges he will do his own version of this classic but with the added twist of not being ballet at all, but in popping. The judges are incredulous and one even drills him with questions like “But you do understand this is a piece usually done by a ballerina, en point and dressed in white, right?”The kid seems unfazed by the whole thing, answer his questions and tells them he is determined to show his abilities. In the face of such determination, and undoubtely expecting the worse, one judge tells him “Well, good luck; I hope your dance is better than your attire, because your attire sucks.”

And the music starts, and the kid starts dancing.
Subtitles should be automatic, but if not click on “Watch on YouTube” and when you are there in the Close Captioning logo (CC)

Yes, sometimes you are in the presence of art and tears are the best response; don’t you think?


April 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Feliz Dia de Reyes!

OK, today is epiphany, or Dia de reyes, as we call it in my country. In my country we celebrate it with gifts, so today I am going to play Melchior with you all and be the one bearing gifts. Hopefully the gifts I bring, all operatic, will make you happy.

  • Gift 1, as the number suggests is from the land of firsts and creation. No, you do not have to figure out what is it to receive it, but you do need to know that you have to open all 4 doors before you know what it is: here are door 1, door 2, door 3 and door 4
  • Gift 2 has both the scent of “rosa vera”; as they would sing in Italy back in the 40’s; but also all the joy of a sweet 16 party. But don’t be fooled, if you piss this princess off, she will have your head chopped off and dance on your grave until she falls dead herself. Just like in the previous gift, you have to walk through 4 doors, but are you brave enough?: Door 1, door 2, door 3, door 4.
  • Gift 3 is of Wagnerian proportions. You will find Witches, Gods, Sea Captains and even Singers. But it is not until you unite them in one voice that you will know what is it.
  • Gift 4 is also perfumed but beware, this perfume is poisonous. In order to get this gift you will need to take a Crusade and ask advise from a Prophet, but don’t trust him too much or you might end up Chasing Goats. No matter what, you will have as much fun as the Devil, but not before you mixt it all up in the same cup.
  • Gift 5 comes from the land where never snows on Christmas day. As a matter of fact, it gets hot as pasta sauce on that day. And before you can enjoy this feast of all Italian dishes, you have to mix the sauce, the pasta, the meat and the olive oil for it to taste good.
  • Gift 6 also comes from the land where it never snows on Christmas day. This time they have cooked a feast worthy of Oktoberfest. This invitation-only Family feast might cause you some headaches because Mom and Dad’s marriage has been on the rocks for decades. To compound the problem the bank is calling in the mortgage and one of the daughters is having issues with authority. Don’t be surprised if the whole feast goes up in flames. The only problem with this feast is that you cannot enjoy the dishes separately, you have to face the entire family and get them to work together. You think you have what it takes?
  • Gift 7 is very special, this gift is only for members of a very exclusive club. But don’t worry about it, To belong to this club you will not be assessed fees. As a matter of fact,  just  by getting it, you have automatically been inducted to The Club.

Lise Lindstrom as Turandot and Frank Porretta as Calaf,‭ ‬in FGO’s‭ ‬Turandot. (Photo by Gaston de Cardenas)

Now for some technical matters: Just like in Turandot

Gli enigmi sonno tre, la morte una

The difference is that in this case, gli enigmi sonno quatro, but just like in Turandot, if you do not answer ALL the riddles, you do not get to play.  So to be able to play with your gift, you must download every single “riddle” from the bullet (or bullets) that you chose. Otherwise the gift is not going to work.

The good part about these enigmas is that they are all solved with a magic wand. Yes, you read right, you do not have to provide answers to any of the enigmas, just download the riddles you want to solve  and use THIS MAGIC WAND to solve them. Now, you need to know what platform you stand on when you solve them, because the wand and your platform need to match or else you are S-O-L.

Well,these are your gifts and I hope you like them. if for some reason you can not figure out all I am saying, send me an email and I’ll try to help you.

Have a safe day,

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Decade in Review

Yes, I know that for many the decade is not over because there-was-no-year-0-and-because-there-was-no-year-0-a-decade-never-ends-on-the-year-0. You can spare me because the Gregorian calendar was 4-7 years off and therefore we are not really in 2010 but more likely in 2017, plus traditionally the beginning of decades have been celebrated on years ending in zero (0), so we could argue that the first decade of the modern world began in the year 10 and what happened before that was just 9 years.

That being said, a celebrated blogger asked in her blog for people to come up with end of the decade lists of important events that shaped or changed the opera world. In tongue in cheek fashion, I came up with the following 10 events and i wanted to share them with you as well. Happy belated new year and Happy (even advanced if you want) beginning of a new decade.

Decade in review: 10 events that gave the opera world a lot to talk about:

  • Villazon enters and exists (and enters and exists and enters and exits) and enters again the world of opera. We are still waiting to see if this one will stick…
  • The Met replaces its Zefirelli Tosca with another traditional production. Some people bitch because it is too traditional, some people bitch because it was not traditional enough, some bitch because it is not by Zefirelli. So the Met has to make peace with the fact that the unifying theme of the new Tosca is the fact that people went  out of their way looking for reasons to hate it.
  • Peter Gelb takes over the Met. Some people bitch because he is not traditional enough, some because he is too safe and some because he is not Volpe; once again proving that not everyone will love you for your pretty face. His marketing strategies prove that he is a genius and he changes the face of entertainment for years to come. His ability to recognise talent (outside a set of double D’s) is still under review.
  • For the first time in nearly a century, an opera house actually leads the way in the entertainment business. Yes, I am talking about the Met in HD series. At first people said it was a loosing proposition, now it is seen as the first of its kind and performers everywhere in the world from the Jonas brothers to Celine Dion are elbowing their way to cash in with their own Live in HD transmissions. Rummors of a 3 Tenors Reunnion Concert in HD sweep the world, but no confirmation as of yet…
  • We get a 3rd British invasion. The invasion starts in the late 90’s when the Commonwealth sends artists like Sarah Brightman & Charlotte Church. It reaches critical mass with artists like Paul Potts, Susan Boyle, and Katherine Jenkins. The imitators are not far behind and we get Bocelli, Josh Groban, Il Divo, Opera Babes, Amici and the rest. The effect is swift, half the world is giddy and the other half believes that it is not true what they say about the education system in the USA being the worst in the world.
  • After a year of fierce battle, Blue Ray wins the format war. This means that opera nuts the world over can let a sigh of relief as they trash their DVD’s and start over their collections with the new format, just like collectors from generations past did when the 78, the 10 inch, the LP, the 8 track and the cassette died a brutal death at the hands of newer technologies.
  • iPods and the iTunes store signal the beggining of the end for the CD. With the introduction and worldwide acceptance of the iPod, digital music is seen as a force to be reckon with and sales of traditional CDs plummet. This causes panic in the upper circles of opera conousieurs because, in their words, the new generation will not know where to go to find their music.
  • The economic environment of the new Millenium propels the death of opera houses in places as varied as Baltimore, San Diego and NYC. Others are sent to intensive care and others are just relieved Mortier never came to NYC, the health of the company be dammed; we dogged that bullet.
  • Maria Callas’ widows all over the globe celebrate the 30th anniversary of her death. Worldwide sales of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Cymbalta skyrocket as Sopranos all over turn to medication to deal with the fact that they still have to hear that bitch’s name as a reason why they will never measure up.
  • A new crop of younger, thinner singers emerge. The backlash is swift and brutal. Charges of singing the wrong rep, or too early or too heavy are thrown like popcorn at a bad movie premiere. Calmer voices try to bring some sense into the discussion but are quickly shoved against a wall (and against their will) by opera nuts. Expert sociologists are called in and they discover that the fans are always 20-30 years too late to see the singers of the golden age. Counter experts say that it doesn’t matter now that Callas is dead and that the level of teaching and taste is worse than they have ever seen; proving that either a group of people have found the fountain of youth or that audiences will never change and in 10 years we will be having the same old fights with the same old terminology.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When one of your artistic influences dies…

You know? it is funny and it is not when you find yourself in the position to eulogize someone who died 4 years ago. Today I find myself in that position not because it took me this long, but because I just learned of her death. This will mean nothing to many, but the fact is still that Ginamaria Hidalgo was a very strong influence in my artistic life.

How could this be? Well, in Latin America, there is a strong tradition of Bohemia music and singing. Americans think they invented crossover. Well, Ginamaria was one of the first singers to achieve true crossover success. She was a crossover success before Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

Not only was she a pioneer of crossover, she did it right. With her it didn’t have the feeling of someone singing something that was somehow beneath her. When she sang, God! she sang. Her rendition of Silvio Rodriguez’s song Mi unicornio azul (My Blue Unicorn) rivaled the author’s in pathos and simplicity of delivery. You heard Ginamaria sing this song and you just expected that unicorn to come back with his head low asking for forgiveness. Somehow it was the same with Schubert’s Ave Maria. In her voice, this song was transformed from a prayer to a statement of faith. I never sang it better!

Ginamaria Hidalgo performed opera, boleros, tangos, bohemia and many other genres always with impeccable style and never achieving anything less than sublime artistry. This is what crossover singing of high caliber was about. This is was singing of high caliber was about, never mind the style.

I saw Ginamaria in concert 20 years ago in a theater in my father’s home town and what I witnessed that day was an artist in full possession of her voice; capable of reaching the pinnacle of artistry so many of us wish for, but so little actually achieve. From that day I was a fan. I saw someone using her voice in the service of a song, it didn’t matter whether you are singing opera or pop. Her voice was an instrument in the hands of the composer in ways I wish mine ever was. So to her I owe a debt of gratitude because she showed me how you can still use your technique and create music of infinite beauty, how a simple song can transport an audience to realms never imagined; how a 900-seat theater can be as intimate as your living room.

In her honor, here are 2 songs that I heard her sing that night 20 years ago. The first one is the Carlos Gardel song El dia que me quieras, sung with exquisite delicacy and full of yearning.

  Go here for an translation of El dia que me quieras

The 2nd one is the waltz La pulpera de Santa Lucia. I chose to sing this last song on a recital after hearing her rendition and loving what she did with it.

The housekeeper of Santa Lucia
She was blond and her blue eyes
reflected the glory of daylight
and she sang like a lark in a meadow,
the shopkeeper of Santa Lucia.
She was prized in the entire parrish,
how could any gaucho not want her,
and the soldiers of all the four quarters,
sighed with longing behind the shop’s counter.
A Mazorquero sang a song to this beauty
with the sweet moan of ancient guitars
surrounded by the scent of jasmines
in a courtyard with wrought-iron bars.
“With my soul, I love you, shopkeeper
and one day you will have to be mine
while all night in Santa Lucia
the guitars will continue to whine.”
But it was a man of Lavalle
who took her away in the forties,
and her blue eyes no longer sparkle
in the parish of Santa Lucia.
Never more did the soldiers of Rosas
sing their songs to the lovely shopkeeper,
and the jasmines wept on the fences
jealous for they could not keep her.
One last time the bard sang his love song
in the courtyard now empty without her –
a painful serenade to his loved one
that the wind carried down river.
“Where are you, my blue-eyed shopkeeper
who never turned out to be mine?
The guitars of Santa Lucia
will forever for you weep and sigh.”

Translation: Natalie Pepa

Gracias Maestra…

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment