Interrupt Your Day – Lighten Up


Sometimes we need to take ourselves out of the world and transcend to a mental place that provides perspective — and perhaps a little joy — to our lives.  Today, the above video did just that . . . and suddenly, out of nowhere, my day got a little better.

Shot at Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain, a little north of Barcelona, the performance was orchestrated by the financially-challenged Spanish bank, Banco Sabadell.  The bank brought together 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfonica del Valles, Amics de l’Opera de Sabadell, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera to perform.

The music, of course, is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (sometimes known simply as “the Choral”).  Among critics, it is almost universally considered to be among Beethoven’s greatest works, and perhaps to be the greatest piece of music ever written.

Beethoven finished the symphony when he was nearly deaf.

The Ninth Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824 in Vienna’s Theater am Kärntnertor.  This was the composer’s first on-stage appearance in 12 years; the hall was packed.

Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him.  Two years earlier, Umlauf had witnessed the composer’s attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio, which ended in disaster.  So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost totally deaf Beethoven.  At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos.  He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.

BeethovenWhen the audience applauded, Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting.  Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause.  According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.”  The audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven — who could not hear the applause — could at least see the ovation gestures.

Hearing nothing, but seeing the tumultuous applause of the audience, Beethoven wept. Continue reading “Interrupt Your Day – Lighten Up”

On the Soundtrack: East Village Opera Company


A few years ago, I was summoned to a table to answer a question regarding the music playing on our soundtrack, a request that happened fairly frequently.  I approached the young woman, who was chatting on her cell phone.  She asked me with enthusiasm, “Do you know what’s playing right now?”  I replied, “Of course, it’s the East Village Opera Company.”  She smiled and spoke into her phone, “They’re playing our music at Bellavitae!”  A member of the string section, she delighted in hearing the group’s music to the pleasure of all our guests.

Since then, of course, the group has released two more CDs, and have toured the world with a unique live show, combining a seemingly incongruous classical string section with a powerhouse rock band.  Time Out New York said that the group “electrifies the classics for a new generation.” The Associated Press mused the band was “dramatic” and “mesmerizing” while The Wall Street Journal agreed noting, “The band rocks hard, and deranges the opera stuff with savvy skill.”

In a rare feat not many artists can claim, EVOC headlines around the world in both eclectic rock clubs and some of the most prestigious classical concert halls.  The band’s appeal is evident in both cases – The Chicago Tribune raved, “nobody puts a fresher, friskier contemporary spin on opera’s greatest hits than the East Village Opera Company.”  The band has also performed at events such as the Sundance Film Festival, the Miss USA pageant, and the world-premiere of the Da Vinci Code.  EVOC was also celebrated at the 2006 Emmy’s with an award for their PBS Special “EVOC LIVE”, and they have received commissions to pen new works from both the New York Public Theatre and the New York City Opera, for whom they have also performed at Lincoln Center.

Here are a few selections you can review / purchase:


Album releases:

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Started as somewhat of a lark in 2004 by Canadians Peter Kiesewalter and Tyley Ross after collaborating on a film project, EVOC turned the heads of New York’s music community with a series of electric genre defying shows at Joe’s Pub, the intimate venue housed by the New York Public Theatre.  Initially meant as a one-off project, they were quickly signed to Decca/Universal records and met with universal praise from both classical and rock critics and fans.  The Washington Post proclaimed – “Opera crossover acts are becoming a veritable cottage industry, but the East Village Opera Co. is markedly different.”

The East Village Opera Company – once again proving that classic opera is timeless.


“Habanera”, from Georges Bizet’s French opéra comique Carmen, which premiered at the Opéra-Comique of Paris on March 3, 1875:


On the Soundtrack: Sergio Cammariere

Every night you would hear Sergio Cammariere on the Bellavitae soundtrack.  A native of Calabria, Sergio has a unique compositional style — one that blended very well with the ambiance of our restaurant.

After a career as a niche musician, distinguished by his collaboration with poet and singer/songwriter Roberto Kunstler, he appeared at the Sanremo Festival in 2003 performing the song Tutto quello che un uomo.  He placed third and won the Critics’ Choice award.

My favorite album, Sul Sentiero, was released a year later, in November 2004.  It features rich string arrangements, fiery jazz influence, and syncopative point – counterpoint.  Two years later, Cammariere released his first self-produced record, Il Pane, Il Vino e la Visione, collaborating with several well-known jazz artists, including Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins and Bebo Ferra.

Many of his songs are not available in the United States via MP3 releases, but you can click below to sample / purchase some of his music:


Album releases:

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My favorite, “Libero Nell’Aria”:


Sergio Cammariere – Libero Nell’ Aria
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Further reading: