Friday, April 11, 2014

Turkish Opera News and Our Recommentations for 2014 Summer Festivals.

Dear Readers,

A city's modernity and wealth are closely related with its number of opera houses and the quality of opera companies. The first opera house in Ottoman empire was built in 1904 in Izmir, Symirna Opera house, a replica of Paris opera house, but a bit smaller parter with four balconies. Symirna opera house was burned down in great fire of 1922. Verdi's Rigoletto was on stage in Symirna Opera house in year 1917.

We have Alhambra Opera House, and "Ahmet Adnan Saygun Cultural Center" in Izmir for opera performances. There is one more new opera house in construction in Bostanli, Karşıyaka, a nice venue on the seashore, where acoustic solutions are applied from Oslo opera house in Norway.

Ankara State Opera house is small with 600 seating capacity. It was build as an exhibition hall in 1940s, turned into opera and theatre performances. Leyla Gencer Opera Hall, TürkOcağı are other opera halls in the capital city. Bilkent Symphony Hall, Odtü KKM, Hacettepe, Şura, Congressium halls are also used for opera performances in Ankara.

In this regard, Istanbul is very poor. There is only Süreyya Opera House in Kadikoy. Fulya, Zorlu Center, Bakirkoy are not available for regular opera activities. Haliç Congress Center, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Irene Church are available for only limited time frame in specific festivals.

Antalya Haşim İşcan Cultural Center is a new beautiful venue for opera.
Mersin opera is in the historical building, with some stage limitations, but the opera company is young with very talented singers.

Samsun AKM opera house has a new building. Their opera program is also very attractive for the newcomer opera lovers.

A metropol, without an opera house, should not be presumed to be a rich, advanced, modern city. Without an opera house, it is just a mediocre dwelling with lots of people. Let us review the opera programs in our opera houses.

Izmir has all great classic works.
Donizetti "Don Pasquale", Handel "Agrippina" Verdi "Aida" Puccini "Madame Butterfly", Bellini "La Sonnambula" should not be missed.

In Ankara we have fantastic program,
Verdi's "Rigoletto", Puccini "Tosca", Verdi "Macbeth", and "Attila", Strauss "Die Fladermaus", Mozart opera "Don Giovanni" and "Abduction from the Seraglio"
George Bizet's Carmen, is new, on 26-30 April, and 7-12-19-21 May 2014.

Istanbul Sureyya opera house, we have a great selection,
Gaetano Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love" on 11-12 April,
Mozart's "The Opera Director",
Richard Strauss "Ariande on Naxos" on 16-18-19 April, ,
Handel's " Glulio Cesare",
Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann",
Benjamin Britten's "The Turn of the Screw",
Rossini's "La Senerentola", on 10-15-16-17 May,

Samsun opera we have a new, exciting, talented, young opera team there.
Giocomo from Puccini "Madame Butterfly" and "La Boheme"
Mozart "Die Zauberfloete" or "the Magic Flute", 17-April, 15-May.
Franz Lehar "Die Lustige Witwe", or "the Merry Widow", on 7, 12 April, 12-May,

In Mersin, in historical environment in town hall cultural center,
Puccini "La Boheme" and "Madame Butterfly",
Bizet's "Carmen" are in program.

In Antalya, in new cultural center,
Verdi "La Traviata", and "Macbeth",
Puccini "Tosca",
Mozart "The Marriage of Figaro", and "Don Giovanni",
Ali Hoca "Tulip Craze",
Hendel's "Hercules" on 6,8,10 May.
I believe that each opera house program has to be carefully followed and watched. Internet tickets are available online. One attendance is not enough. We should see all cast performances.

Tentative dates of 21st Aspendos (30-August, 20-Sep) and 5th Istanbul (3-17 June) opera festivals in summer season are released but we do not know the final program, as well as the names of performances and companies yet. Elsewhere, it is all listed months before, unfortunately in Aspendos and in Istanbul, these details are still not made public.

However there is no harm for our guess for tentative- possible festival programs, here are our list for favorite operas we wish to see,

For 21st Aspendos Festival (30-August-20 September)

Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" - İzmir
Giuseppe Verdi's "Attila" - Ankara
Gaetano Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love" - İstanbul Sureyya
Puccini "Madame Butterfly" - Samsun
Bizet's "Carmen" - Mersin
Puccini "Tosca", - Antalya

For 5th Istanbul Opera festival, here are our recommendations,

Puccini "Madame Butterfly", and Bellini "La Sonnambula" - Izmir
Strauss "Die Fladermaus", Mozart "Abduction from the Seraglio"- Ankara
Richard Strauss "Ariande on Naxos" -Istanbul
Franz Lehar "Die Lustige Witwe", or "the Merry Widow"- Samsun
Puccini "La Boheme" , Mersin
Mozart "The Marriage of Figaro", and "Don Giovanni",- Antalya

These are our selections, nothing related with the opera authority to choose. Classical operas of 19th century are my favorites. My favorite composers are Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti and Wagner. I believe that these operas will be in all our local festival programs.

Last but not least, tickets should be not less than 100 TL, and tickets should be sold through internet minimum 30-days prior to performance to enable everyone- locals, foreigners both- easy to reach. Opera festivals are expensive and they should pay their expenses.

Operas composed by "Richard Wagner" are very suitable for the environment in Ankara nowadays. Wagner's anti-semitic, nationalistic tunes give intellectual messages to diplomatic circles. Wagner operas are to played in original German language with 19th century dialect to keep the high powerful dramatic effect.

In Ankara Opera house, Wagner's "Tannhäuser" opera should be in the repertoire. Other Wagner operas should also be performed, i.e. Walkure, Parsifal, Flying Dutchmen.

When a German businessman arrives to your city, you should take him to a Wagner opera if available. You can not impress a German businessman with wine and dine, or on a yacht tour, but Wagner opera in your city will shock him for sure.

Opera tickets are available to purchase online. In Ankara and Izmir in 15 days, in Istanbul you can get your tickets 30-days prior to performance. Tickets are on sale at 09:30 hours in the morning. So you should be ready on your pc screen at that time to purchase. Tickets are sold within 5-10 minutes. During winter months, it is great pleasure for us to go to opera performance in an another city.

Then we should look for business meetings, seminars, professional events in those cities so that we can have opportunities for opera.
One attendance is not enough to understand an opera performance. We should see all teams in cast. One night on the left, the other night on right side, once in balcony. Front center seats are not good, since sometimes singers are on the floor and you can not see them.

Balconies are to be avoided. If you find no seat on floor, then buy in balcony, but check the available seats in parter. When lights go out, look for an empty seat. Singers do not like to perform to empty seats, so ushers would lead you to the empty seats at front. However Opera is best watched from center at rear seats.

Opera should not be attended unprepared. You should listen to the music at home, at work, while driving car, with cassette, CD, iPod, mp3 player, youtube, spotify, nonstop at least 2-3 times a day. Each note should sound in your head from beginning to the end. You do not need to have conservatory education in order to enjoy opera performance.

On opera night, you should have a dark suit, with appropriate necktie. That is dressing code for men. You should not wear jeans or football fan t shirt. That is not only disrespect to the environment but also to yourselves. Ladies know what to wear for sure.

Go early to the opera house, at least one hour before performance, enjoy the environment, see your colleagues, purchase the opera program. Newcomers may speak to each other, they may review their iphone screen from time to time, ignore them. That could be their only experience once in their life time. Do not take any picture, do not look at your iPhone. In Munich opera house, it is like high criminal act if you create any small noise during performance.

There are a number of local new Turkish Opera compositions in performance, but as long as they cannot be placed on international Opera houses, these new compositions are to be classified/ judged in separate. We have no equivalent classical composer as Puccini, Wagner, Verdi or Mozart. This is not a shortcoming. Classical ages have passed long ago. We all hope that not a classic but modern composers in the future are expected to appear.

However we have gorgeous young Opera Performers of classical composers, we have great artists. Economic décor, and costume with competent professional choir, the Conductor and the staff, all had excellent work performed on three nights. I would like to congratulate them all one by one. I admire their voices.

In Milan LaScala Opera, audience send flowers to artists, then artists try to grab them one by one without missing, the artists taking flowers. LaScala audience is so cruel with no mercy to lower class performers. If you are an artist, director, or even a conductor, if they do not like the performance, they stop applause and start shouting "boos". Our artists do not deserve such nasty treatment. They deserve long round of applause.

In Germany, there are daily tour busses in front of Opera houses carrying middle aged or retired opera funs from nearby small towns. They start early in the morning, make shopping in the big city, watch the evening Opera, return home. We may also arrange such daily tours from nearby towns to Opera.

You do not need to applaud the singer after each aria performed. You may not understand when to applaud so it is better to wait until the end. In the end, you will get the clue to applaud, send flowers, take pictures.

Buy program booklet, but do not try to read on the last minute to follow the performance. Do not try to read digital translations, get prepared earlier, read the synopsis from internet, know the subject earlier, leave yourselves to enjoy the music. The most of classical opera music is so familiar to yourself, surely you've heard if before somewhere.

When you get intermission, get to drink a cup of black coffee which would keep you awake. It would be easy to drive afterwards. You should better spend half an hour in a nearby café. By drinking black coffee or hot orchid better, and also it is good to spend some time to wait the crowd disperses, also it is easier to find a taxi. In most of cities, better to get metro to return home.

We wish all the best for all Opera lovers.

Ankara, 11-April, 2014

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.


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