The Podcasts Opera Pros Tune To
“Aria Code” is an increasingly popular podcast. But what else do opera professionals listen to? Here are some recommendations. (Their comments, by email, have been edited and condensed.)
Merrin Lazyan, co-creator and lead producer of “Aria Code”:
I’ve enjoyed the podcasts produced by Glyndebourne Opera and LA Opera, as well as the new one from San Francisco Opera called “North Stage Door.” The Met’s other podcast, “In Focus,” is a great source of information about the history and context of various operas.
Another music podcast that I enjoy, which features some opera but isn’t opera-specific, is “Soul Music” from the BBC. It’s a little like “Aria Code,” in that each episode includes several people talking about a single song and capturing its emotional resonance. But when I’m out for a run, there’s no Maria Callas or Marian Anderson, just Madonna and Michael Jackson.
Nicky Spence, tenor who will sing the role of Laca in “Jenufa” starting Tuesday at the Royal Opera House in London:
Opera singers are often plagued with earworms of the music we’re in the midst of learning or performing, so I often take solace in the world of spoken-word podcasts. I’m a huge fan of Jess Gillam’s podcast “This Classical Life,” where she chats casually about classical music in a really accessible way with a fellow young musician. They don’t try to make classical music hip, but they are very cool with some great content. It’s the perfect gateway into the genre.
Another lovely, informative podcast is “AA Opera!” headed by two young ladies — Ash and Avi — who manage to interview the starriest names in opera but make it sound like you’re just sitting at their kitchen table, which joyfully demystifies the concept of opera’s being grand.
My guilty aural treat is “Screaming Divas” with opera royalty Sondra Radvanovsky and Keri Alkema. They take on my favorite folk in interview including Jamie Barton, Ben Heppner and Kate Lindsey as they pick through everything from popular culture, turning left at sex toys and of course, opera!
Cori Ellison, an opera dramaturge who is a member of the Vocal Arts faculty at the Juilliard School and has appeared on “Aria Code” and other podcasts:
“Aria Code” is absolutely top of the heap, intriguingly and beautifully curated, with high production values. “He Sang She Sang” is a slightly older but also terrific opera podcast by the radio station WQXR [co-hosted and produced by Ms. Lazyan]. Also very worthwhile are the “OperaHERE” podcasts by the Michigan Opera Theater and podcasts by the English National Opera; Opera North from Leeds, England; “The In-Tune A-Z of Opera” by the BBC; LA Opera; Seattle Opera; Minnesota Opera; and Glyndebourne in Sussex County, England.
Gillian Brierley, assistant general manager of marketing and communications at the Met:
“Switched on Pop,” produced by Vulture, is a great music podcast that analyzes pop songs, interweaving musicological tidbits in a very approachable way. They had a great four-part mini-series with the New York Philharmonic called “The 5th” about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday.
Amy Burton, New York-based soprano who has sung at the Met and the White House and teaches at Juilliard and the Mannes School of Music:
Opera can be intimidating to people who don’t speak foreign languages, or who are put off by the grandeur and scale of it all — the gigantic forces, the lengthy evenings, the audacity of the emotions expressed. “Aria Code” could really help people find their way into the art form. And for those who already love opera, it may provide a deeper understanding.
However, my tendency after a day of teaching opera singers is to listen to podcasts about subjects other than music. By listening to poets, comedians, filmmakers and other artists, I feel it recharges my batteries creatively, both as a singer and a teacher. I wish I could recommend other music podcasts, but in my free time my focus is more on language — “The Writer’s Voice,” “The Plot Thickens,” “The Moth,” “Coffee Break French” — and “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” because I need laughter.
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