Taos Opera Institute Celebrates its Sixth Year in Taos Ski Valley



The first thing I noticed upon arriving in Taos was the music.  Live music was everywhere.  Good music by talented musicians.  Anything and everything you can imagine:  rock, country, jazz, alternative, reggae, classical, and yes – opera.  And part of the opera scene here is the renowned Taos Opera Institute (TOI).

TOITOI is a highly intensive program for the serious singer, held annually in beautiful Taos Ski Valley.  Singers from around the country audition for the privilege of participating in this program, which is designed to bridge the gap between academia and opera apprenticeships.  Graduates are prepared for careers in regional, national, and international opera companies.

The TOI Festival is a series of free performances of the world’s most beloved opera arias, featuring the Taos Opera Institute Singers and the Cantos de Taos quartet.  Concerts are performed during the month of June at various locations throughout Taos and Santa Fe.  The final performance is a gala fundraising event on June 29th at the Taos Center for the Arts.  The Gala, which is a ticketed event ($25 per person) includes a pre-concert reception, raffle and showcases individual singers and ensembles from the entire Institute.

Taos Ski Valley performances include:

  • Saturday, June 1 – Opening performance in our lovely garden right here at the Edelweiss Lodge & Spa
  • Sunday, June 9 – Resort Center Stage
  • Sunday, June 16 – Resort Center Stage


For a complete schedule, click here.

The Taos Opera Institute was founded and continues to be directed by Mary Jane Johnson and Linda Poetschke.

Linda Poetschke
Linda Poetschke

Professor Poetschke is on the University of Texas at San Antonio faculty as Voice Area Coordinator, Voice.   The soprano has been the featured soloist with the New Mexico Symphony, the Charlotte (NC) Symphony, the Western Michigan Symphony and with the major symphony orchestras in her home state of Texas, including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas POPS at the Meyerson and numerous appearances with the San Antonio Symphony. She has also performed as soprano soloist with the New York West End Chamber Ensemble in a Carnegie Hall appearance of REQUIEM by W.A. Mozart. Ms. Poetschke’s orchestral repertoire encompasses more than 40 oratorical and concert roles, and she has appeared under the baton of Margaret Hillis, Nicholas McGegan, Christopher Wilkins, Elmer Iseler, Lawrence Leighton Smith, Roger Melone, John Silantien, and Kate Tamarkian.

mary jane johnson
Mary Jane Johnson

Mary Jane Johnson is counted amongst the great dramatic sopranos, and is considered one of opera’s premiere interpreters.  Her career highlights include the role of Emilia Marty in Janacek’s The Makropoulos Case, which she sang at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth as well as Katarina Ismailova in Shostakovitch’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which she performed at the Opera Bastille of Paris.  She has also performed the Shostakovitch as well as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, and Strauss’ Salome at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

Ms. Johnson’s career went to the next level when she appeared with Luciano Pavarotti in a televised performance as Musetta in Puccini’s La Boheme with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.  Other important highlights of Ms. Johnson’s television appearances include the nationally televised Pavarotti Plus Gala, Live from Lincoln Center and the CBS “Sunday Morning” with Charles Kuralt.

 LA BOHEME : Luciano Pavarotti – Leyla Guimaraes – Mary Jane Johnson – Franco Sioli – Laslzo Polgar

We’ll be feeding these talented young singers at The Blonde Bear Tavern throughout the month of June, something we look forward to each year.  Their talent is always inspiring.

I can’t recommend these performances enough for any lover of music, especially classic opera.  The setting is magnificent, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as backdrop for the two Sunday outdoor concerts.

Toi, toi, toi!


Wagner’s “Die Walküre” at La Scala: The Reviews are In

Courtesy Corriere della Sera

From Reuters:   

La Scala’s production of Richard Wagner’s “The Walkyrie” drew a 15-minutes ovation on the opening night of the opera house season on Tuesday, though the climate of austerity sweeping Europe clouded the starry event.   

With tickets costing as much as 2,400 euros ($3,200), the opening night at the 18th century opera house is one of the most popular cultural events on the calendar of the rich and influential.   

German mezzo soprano Waltraud Meier, who played the passionate Sieglinde, won particularly loud applause.   

From the Associated Press:   

La Scala’s exacting audience — filled for the season premiere with leading political, cultural and business figures — showered Barenboim, the singers and director Guy Cassiers with 14 minutes of applause and bouquets of flowers after the performance.   

Cassiers’ use of video, including the opening scene where Siegmund and Sieglinde discover each other, reportedly angered some of the singers who worried the character’s emotions were being overshadowed.   

But Cassiers said after the performance that reports of discord were exaggerated. In fact, mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier who sang the role of Sieglinde walked over during the curtain calls to bring Cassiers out on stage.   

Cassiers said his goal is to bring all disciplines and technologies together on stage “to create a universe.”   

“The most important thing for me on stage is not the set, is not the light, is not the visuals. It’s the singers. The singers are the guide … to stimulate you, to get you as close as possible to the material Wagner offers,” Cassiers said recently.   

Lighting director Enrico Bagnoli, whose work often gave a sense of motion to the set, said he was surprised by how well the production was received.   

“I always thought it wasn’t a very technological show. We used the media of today to tell a story. I am happy that the public understood. This is a group that didn’t want to create provocations. They wanted to do suggestive images to create a state of mind,” Bagnoli said.   

“Die Walkuere” stars some of the most famous Wagnerian singers, including soprano Nina Stemme as Bruennhilde and mezzo-soprano Meier in the soprano role of Sieglinde — both of whom received shouts of appreciation. New Zealand-born tenor Simon O’Neill appears as Siegmund and Ukrainian bass Vitalij Kowaljow as Wotan, while Ekaterina Gubanova sings the role of Fricka and John Tomlinson is Hunding.   

Opera Chic:   

Before the final curtain call on December 7th — a few minutes after the conclusion of five ginormous hours of Wagner’s Die Walkure that opened La Scala’s new season on Milan’s holiday to celebrate the city’s patron saint, Sant’Ambrogio — the night was engraved as a triumph before the first strains of Wagner’s famous leitmotifs hit the adoring, vaguely taxidermied, Milanese public. Maestro Daniel Barenboim’s victory was sealed when he stepped from the orchestra pit onto the platea floor to inaugurate the evening and spoke out, in Italian, quoting the Italian Constitution (art 9.) to defend the future of culture in Italy, and deafening applause ensued (which was also directed to Palco Reale where Milan’s Mayor, Letizia Moratti kept company with Italy’s President, Giorgio Napolitano).   

As Barenboim entered the orchestra pit at the beginning of Act II and Act III, preemptive cheering for La Scala’s “Maestro Scaligero” guaranteed the final triumph and today’s newspaper headlines, the Italian press creeming themselves in phrases like, “Il trionfo della Valchiria”, “Quattordici minuti di applausi”, “Scala, il trionfo di Barenboim” (massive headlines also addressed the out-of-control student protests which flared-up around Piazza della Scala/Palazzo Marino where the city’s most official post-opera Gala takes place.   

Continue reading “Wagner’s “Die Walküre” at La Scala: The Reviews are In”

La Scala Kicks off its 2010 Opera Season with Wagner’s “Die Walküre”


Richard Wagner’s tale of the struggle for power tangled with familial love and incest will open Milan’s La Scala opera season tonight.   

The opening night at Milan’s famed opera house is one of the world’s most popular events to see and be seen for the global glitterati, who will be treated to a production of Wagner’s Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), which is filled with stars and technological wizardry.  The production is directed by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. 

After the “prologue” of Das Rheingold we arrive at the “first day” of The Ring of the Nibelung. 

Die Walküre marks the start of the saga and the fatal weaving of the plot between the world of the gods, Wotan and Valkyrie rebel Brünnhilde, and the more dramatically human world of heroes, the world of Siegmund and Sieglinde. 

Unravelling the plot in this production are director Guy Cassiers, aided by some of the very latest theatrical technology, musical director Daniel Barenboim and a cast that includes the finest Wagnerian voices of today: Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), Waltraud Meier (Sieglinde), Vitalij Kowaljow (Wotan) and Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka).  Together with Nina Stemme, Simon O’Neill  (Siegmund) and John Tomlinson (Hunding) make their La Scala debuts. 


Courtesy Associated Press

Continue reading “La Scala Kicks off its 2010 Opera Season with Wagner’s “Die Walküre””

Now Playing: “The Legend of Pale Male” at the Angelika Film Center

“The Legend of Pale Male is the true account of one of the most surprising and remarkable love stories in the history of New York City.  It begins in 1993, when a young man from Belgium looking to change his life has an unexpected encounter in Central Park.  He meets a hawk.  Not just any hawk, but a wild Redtail, a fierce predator that has not lived in the City for almost a hundred years.  Affectionately known to New Yorkers as Pale Male, the hawk becomes a magnificent obsession — a metaphor for triumph against all odds.  His nest, perched high on a posh Fifth Avenue co-op, starts out as a novel curiosity to a handful of avid birdwatchers but becomes an international tourist destination — a place of pilgrimage.  Then, without warning, one December afternoon the building manager dismantles Pale Male’s nest.  The act unites an unlikely family of birdwatchers, movie stars, poets, children, dogs, reporters, and celebrities, including Mary Tyler Moore and David Letterman.  What unfolds next could only happen in New York.”

          — Balcony Releasing

The film has already been recognized with several awards, including Santa Barbara International Film Festival – Audience Award, Palm Beach International Film Festival – Audience Award, International Wildlife Film Festival – Best of Festival, and Best Human Wildlife Interactions.

View the trailer:
The Legend of Pale Male (Documentary) trailer HD
Uploaded by myfilm-gr. – Full seasons and entire episodes online.


Now playing: “666″ at the Minetta Lane Theatre – UPDATE

The reviews for Yllana’s “666” are in:

Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times calls the show’s timing “exquisite and the presentation so startling that the oldest joke in the world . . . is a comic high point.”

New York Post’s Frank Scheck says it “exhibits such superb comic timing and physicality under David Ottone’s precise direction.”

Genzlinger correctly warns that what “they convey is pretty vulgar; if you have a low tolerance for such stuff, don’t go.”  However, The New Yorker counters by saying, “The elegance and brilliance of the pantomime save this show, directed by David Ottone, from being too offensive to sit through.”

Now playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre, next door to Bellavitae.  Check it out.


Now playing: "666" at the Minetta Lane Theatre

Spanish comedy troupe Yllana is coming to off-Broadway with “666“.

The show begins when three dangerous criminals (Fidel Fernandez, Joseph Michael O’Courneen and Juan Francisco Ramos Toro) and one misplaced innocent (Raul Cano) arrive on death row.   Incarceration ironically sets free their wildest fantasies as, trapped between the iron gates and an electrified fence, they interact with each other and with the audience.  At the end of all the comically bungled executions, all hell, quite literally, breaks out.  No one is safe, least of all the audience!

Now playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre, next to Bellavitae.

Now playing: “Greenberg” at the Anjelika Film Center and nationwide

Film director and writer Noah Baumbach used Bellavitae as the set for a short skit he wrote and directed a couple of years ago for Saturday Night Live, starring guest host Paul Rudd.  Noah’s latest latest movie, Greenberg, co-written with his wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, now hits theaters nationwide.

Greenberg connects award-winning comedian Ben Stiller with Academy Award®-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) to tell the moving tale of Roger (Stiller), a single, fortysomething at a crossroads.  While house-sitting for his more successful/married brother, Roger searches for a way to restart his life.  He tries to reconnect with old friends (including his former bandmate (Rhys Ifans), but Greenberg soon finds himself spending more and more time with his brother’s personal assistant Florence (The House of the Devil’s Greta Gerwig), who’s also something of a lost soul.  Despite his attempts to avoid it, Greenberg and Florence forge a connection and he realizes he may at last have something to work for.

Now playing at the Anjelika Film Center, blocks from Bellavitae.  View trailer here.

Now playing: "Vincere" at the IFC Center


Italian master Marco Bellocchio’s (Fists in the Pocket, My Mother’s Smile, Good Morning, Night) stunning political melodrama tells the virtually unknown story of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s (Filippo Timi) secret first marriage.  An ambitious and ruthless young man, he woos and then abandons the woman who launched his career—and gave him his first child — as he plots his rise to power.

Now playing at the IFC Center, across from Bellavitae.  View trailer here.