Lo Zampognaro (Gianni Rodari)

LO ZAMPOGNARO (The Bagpipers)
(Free English translation by G. Seminatore)

Gianni Francesco Rodari (Italia 1920-80)

An Italian writer and journalist who wrote popular works of children’s literature. He received the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1970.

 
 

Gerald reads Lo Zampognaro in Italian.
(The link will open in a new table so you can follow along with the translation.)

Se comandasse lo zampognaro che scende per il viale,
Sai che cosa direbbe il giorno di Natale?

If the bagpipers piping down the avenue ruled,
What would they say on Christmas Day?

Voglio che in ogni casa spunti dal pavimento
un albero fiorito di stelle d’oro e d’argento.

I want, in every house, growing from the floor,
A
flowering tree of gold and silver stars.

Se comandasse il passero che sulla neve zampetta,
Sai che cosa direbbe con la voce che cinguetta?

If the sparrow pawing on the snow commanded it,
What it would say with its chirping voice?

Voglio che i bimbi trovino, quando il lume sarà acceso,
Tutti i doni sognati, più uno, per buon peso.

I want the children to find, when daylight appears,
All the gifts they dreamed of, plus one more for good measure.

Se comandasse il pastore dal presepe di cartone,
Sai che legge farebbe firmandola col lungo bastone?

If the shepherd in the cardboard nativity scene were a king,
What law he would make and sign with his staff?

Voglio che oggi non pianga nel mondo un solo bambino,
Che abbiano lo stesso sorriso il bianco, il moro, il giallino.

I command that not a single child in all the world will cry,
For they all have the same smile —white, dark brown, yellow.

Sapete che cosa vi dico io che non comando niente?
Tutte queste belle cose accadranno facilmente;

You know what I tell you?
All these beautiful things will happen easily, though I do not command anything.

Se ci diamo la mano i miracoli si fanno
E il giorno di Natale durerà tutto l’anno.

If we only shake hands, miracles are performed,
And Christmas day lasts all year.

West Side Story (2021)–exhilarating, provocative, and worth seeing more than once

AT THE MOVIES: Many films just come and go for me, but this one stirred up some strong feelings. My enthusiasm led to an argument with a friend who chastised me for alleged nostalgia. A recommendation elicited yawns from a colleague. After reading other reviews, I felt restless and dissatisfied, so I wrote my own.

The new film version of “West Side Story” is a masterpiece, albeit with occasional plot jumps and tonal inconsistencies. But every musical has those. The 1957 original’s creative team was Arthur Laurents (book and screenplay), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), Leonard Bernstein (music), and Jerome Robbins (choreography). Often, “West Side Story” is simply presented as a re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in contemporary terms. And the source material certainly shaped the story. But focusing solely on teenage desire and angst would be missing the point. There are deeper, fundamental questions that don’t lead to easy or comfortable answers. What does it mean to be an “American?” How does it feel to aspire to the “American Dream,” and how does it feel when it has passed you by?

First, to acknowledge an elephant in the room. Some recent commentators have asserted that “West Side Story” should disappear as a relic of a colonialist and white supremacist mindset. And the conversation also revolves around appropriation and who can “authentically” speak about the lived experiences of people different than ourselves. Granted, representation in the Broadway show’s and 1961 film’s casting was a problem. And certainly, the work trafficked in stereotypes of Puerto Ricans. Of course, Puerto Rico is unusual in its status as a US territory (since 1898). While remaining largely self-governing, the island often has an uneasy relationship with the mainland. (See the Trump administration as a recent example.) Movements for island statehood have ebbed and flowed without ever really cresting. Is Puerto Rico truly part of the USA, or not? In the 1950s world of the film, the answer is either a defiant no or an optimistic yes. The no is from the white citizens (themselves often from immigrant backgrounds), while the yes is from those hoping to have a better life in their new country. Ostensibly, the conflict between the rival gangs of the Jets and the Sharks is over territory, but it’s really about this question of who is an “American,” who is an outsider, and who is where in the social hierarchy. It may seem that American society has advanced beyond the crude binaries presented by the Jets and Sharks in the 1950s. But if we are honest, “West Side Story” remains a parable for America in the 21st century.

As for representation, this new production actively recruited and cast Puerto Rican actors in many of the roles, embraced some (untranslated) Spanish dialogue, and called upon cultural historians to help shape the film’s depictions of time, place, and daily life. Many of the characters seem to aspire to assimilation into society on the mainland, but there are also explicit nods to a dream of the islands’ independence. For some commentators and critics, these attempts at representation, authenticity, and nuance are not sufficient. For a few, they are futile gestures. Yet for (many) others, the new film rehabilitates an iconic work of American theater for modern audiences. And finally, viewers with no experience of the original show or film will see and hear the work through fresh eyes and ears.

In Tony Kushner’s screenplay, the lost boys of the rival Jets and Sharks are more complex and sympathetic, even when violent or antisocial. Their female companions are also drawn with a finer brush. This strengthens the naturalistic and theatrical heft of the work. Kushner’s expansion and reimagining of the story also point to the artificiality of singing — the same problem faced by any musical aspiring to be compelling drama. There must be an agreement between authors and audience to accept both spoken dialogue and singing as part of the same storytelling experience. Once agreed to, (many) narrative contradictions largely resolve themselves in a willing suspension of disbelief. As with “1776,” “Hamilton,” “La La Land,” or indeed any work in the American musical genre, the stories are told partially, largely, or completely in song. It is ultimately on the viewer to either engage with the work, or not.

Rachel Zegler’s portrayal of Maria is Juliet in another time and place, and her singing satisfies. Ansel Elgort’s Tony has come in for occasional critical knocks, but he does justice to the material, and then some. And he sings well, with a flexible timbre and vulnerability. Mike Faist’s layered Riff startles in the seeming contradiction of his love for Tony and the Jets, and the free rein he gives to his darker impulses. (His last moments with Tony are arresting in their finality.) And David Alvarez’s suave and pugilistic Bernardo is so much more than the caricature of the 1961 film. As Chino says, Bernardo is a fool, but a fool with the charisma needed to balance the magnetism and strength of Ariana DeBose’s Anita. Debose has big shoes to fill, for the original Anita (Rita Moreno) is also here, cast in the newly imagined role of Doc’s widow Valentina. And Moreno is the pole star of the entire enterprise. Tony delivering “Something’s Coming” not to himself as an inner monologue, but rather to Valentina as a statement of joyful possibility, is a masterstroke by Kushner. The number builds a bridge of respect and affection between two generations of performers. And “Somewhere,” which Moreno delivers as a weary and vulnerable monologue about love and loss, may bring tears to your eyes.

Beyond the performances of the principals, the ensembles shine. The singing and dancing of “Jet Song” and “America” are spellbinding examples. Taking the company onto the streets created a huge canvas to choreograph upon, and drew the people (extras) all around into the story. The “minor” players all have individual moments to shine in their ensembles. The satirical “Officer Krupke” illustrates the timing and characterization chops of the Jet players, and adds depth and intelligence to their characters. “I Feel Pretty” becomes a joyful fantasy in the halls of Gimbels department store, where Maria, Anita, and their co-workers have nighttime jobs as cleaners. In this setting, the appealing naivté of the number makes sense, musically and dramatically. Anyone who has spent hours at a tedious or repetitive job and daydreamed of something different will relate.

The cinematography captures broad swatches of time, place, and color in breathtaking detail. As with many American cities in the mid 20th century, Manhattan’s west side is slowly disappearing in a wave of demolitions to make way for “progress,” which would come to be embodied in such iconic locations as the Lincoln Center theater complex. The overall ambiance is gritty, the lighting and art direction often dark. The Jets and the Sharks are disillusioned young people searching for a sense of belonging in a concrete jungle. Their world is literally decaying around them. As with their Shakespearean ancestors, we know they are destined for tragedy, and those outcomes are painful to witness.

Sixty-plus years on, Leonard Bernstein’s music remains fresh and captivating, focusing the aspirations, joys, frustrations, and sorrows of the characters like a laser beam. Steven Spielberg (now 76) could have stopped making movies years ago. That he chose this work as his career capstone(?) demonstrates that big-budget musicals on screen are not only still possible, but necessary. With a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 92 and an audience score of 94 (!), one can only look to Covid reluctance and yet another Spiderman franchise installment as contributing factors to the lagging box office of “West Side Story.” And with this film, we bid farewell to Stephen Sondheim, the last of the original’s creative team, who passed just as the movie was entering theaters. This only adds to the poignancy and timeliness of this reimagined and refreshed American classic.

If you are curious or still unsure if this movie is for you, here is the “official” trailer.

Welcoming 2022

The Covid-19 pandemic was over, except when it wasn’t. And it isn’t. Many independent performing artists and teachers are attempting to resume “normal” activities under abnormal conditions and circumstances. As I re-start singing in public, I am also feeling constrained and concerned about the future. Yet it is time to imagine new projects and content under new conditions. There is a lot of work in the pipeline. We’ll see how this all develops.

This website was the former home of the Spacious Vision Song Project, and content from that five-year period remains archived here. If you are looking for my digital E-Portfolio with professional work history, reviews, and teaching philosophy, please visit www.geraldseminatore.com.

(The cover photo is an accidental abstract of the Seattle Space Needle.)

Summer 2020–Spacious Vision Song Project’s closing chapter

Gerald Seminatore and Taro Wayama, 2017

 

Hello! Thanks for stopping by. This is a valedictory post, shared with some regret.

The Spacious Vision Song Project began in 2013 with a gala concert at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA. The occasion was the centenary of the birth of composer Benjamin Britten. That program subsequently evolved and landed in Los Angeles. Soon thereafter, Spacious Vision became a musical collective bringing together artists on both coasts.  From 2014 through 2018, some twenty different singers and instrumentalists collaborated with me on fifteen different programs. Our repertoire included Elizabethan ayres, German Lieder, French cabaret chanson, American song, 20th-century musical theater, concert repertoire for World AIDS Day, unknown repertoire for the Christmas season, Japanese concert song settings, and even Creole and Haitian folk song.

In 2019, we went on an extended hiatus, as our core group members transitioned into new adventures. These included artist residencies, job re-locations, and the arrival of new family members.

Our hope was to resume collaborations during the summer of 2020 and beyond. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has closed our network of presentation venues on both coasts, and made travel logistics for regional and cross-country collaborations unworkable. It appears these obstacles will persist until a vaccine is widely available. Many small performing arts groups are striving to re-invent themselves and bring their work to online presentation platforms. I have chosen not to attempt this. Regrettably, the five-year endeavor that was the Spacious Vision Song Project has come to an end.

These shared artistic explorations were some of the most satisfying experiences of my creative life. I will always treasure the memories of those performances, and the colleagues and friends who were part of them.

This website will now serve as an archive of our work. Information about Spacious Vision artists and past programs may be accessed via the drop-down menu. Perhaps something here will inspire you in your own efforts at artistic collaboration.

Whatever our circumstances in the coming months and years–may we continue to create opportunities for imagining and enacting a “spacious vision” of our chosen art form, musical or otherwise.

Gerald Seminatore, DMA

 

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FROM BERLIN TO BROADWAY Oct. 17 at the University of Southern California

German pianist MICHAEL SCHÜTZE will be joined by soprano ARIEL PISTURINO and tenor GERALD SEMINATORE for the program “From Berlin to Broadway,” with vocal selections by Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Franz Lehár, Richard Strauss, Kurt Weill, Hugo Wolf, and others.

Weds. Oct. 17, 2018

7:oo pm 
Talk with Prof. Schütze “From the DDR to Los Angeles–An Improbable Journey”

7:30 – 8:45 (approx.)
“From Berlin to Broadway” Concert program

University of Southern California
Max Kade Institute for Austrian-Swiss-German Studies
2714 S. Hoover St.
Los Angeles, CA  90007

This is a free concert; no tickets needed.
However, an RSVP is requested; e-mail kade@usc.edu

Click here to visit the website of USC’s Max Kade Institute.

 

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ARTIST PROFILES

German pianist MICHAEL SCHÜTZE serves as Professor for Vocal Collaboration and role preparation at the Karl Maria von Weber Conservatory in Dresden. He is often engaged for international vocal competitions such as the Robert Schumann Competition and “La Voce” for Bavarian Radio. As a prize-winning solo pianist, Michael learned much about collaborating with singers during master classes with the late Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and with his professors at the Dresden Conservatory. Today, Michael is regularly invited to serve as an accompanist for master courses and concerts by acclaimed singers such as Olaf Bär, Andreas Scholl, Peter Bruns, Andreas Schmidt, and Henriette Göde. Michael has played concerts with singers from the Dresden Semperoper and other theaters, toured to several European capitals, and made a number of commercial recordings. He also works as a pianist and organist with regional choirs such as the Dresden Chamber Choir.

In the United States, Michael was a Boston Symphony Orchestra Tanglewood Fellow for two seasons. He has been invited for artist residencies and recitals at several schools in the USA, including Brigham Young University, the University of Delaware, the University of New Mexico, and the California State University.

The Los Angeles Times hailed American soprano ARIEL PISTURINO as “an impressive young discovery” following her debut performance as Nancy T’ang in Long Beach Opera’s production of Nixon in China. An advocate of contemporary works and collaborations with composers, Ariel performed the role of the Lover in The Industry’s nationally acclaimed production of HOPSCOTCH, and created the role of Laurie in Mark Abel’s opera Home is a Harbor, released on Delos Records. She also collaborated with Abel on his song cycle Five Rilke Songs for the album Terrain of the Heart, also on Delos. Recently, Ariel created the role of Rosina Brandram in a newly written Gilbert and Sullivan review Hail Poetry with Opera a la Carte. She also premiered a new song cycle, Dewdrops, by Alex Miller. Ariel co-curates the unSung! concert seriesin Los Angeles.

 

 

American tenor GERALD SEMINATORE began his professional musical career with ensembles including the Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Early Music Festival, and Emmanuel Music. After completing his formal training at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he went on to operatic engagements with the Chautauqua, Dayton, Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, and West Bay opera companies. Gerald made his European debut at England’s Aldeburgh Festival, and went on to become a member of the solo ensemble at the Dortmund Opera in Germany. He was also a frequent guest artist at the Frankfurt am Main Opera, the Rheinland Pfalz Theater, and the Bremen Opera. Concert performances have included appearances with orchestras and chamber groups in both the USA and Europe. His performances have been critically praised in publications such as The London Times, Opera News, and San Francisco Classical Voice. With pianist Michael Schütze, Gerald has appeared in recitals in Dresden, Paris, and other European venues.

THE STRANGENESS YOU FEEL–Information and Artist Bios


A musical investigation of desire. You may hear an operetta duet, a familiar or unknown musical theater selection, an Italian popular song, or even a country and western trio.

 

Friday, June 29, 7:30 pm
Parish Hall, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
1020 N. Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA

General admission, no tickets needed. Donations requested, $20 suggested
(Cash or check payable to St. Mark’s preferred)

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RON BARNETT is Director of Music and Sacred Arts at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, Glendale. In addition to his work as an organist, choir director, and keyboard artist, Ron is active as a composer. His full-length musicals as composer include: Manson’s Girls with book by Scott Guy, lyrics by Mitch Glaser, which won a “Pick of the Fringe” award and the ALNM Award for Outstanding Songwriting during the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018; A Christmas Carol with book by Barry Kornhauser, published in 2013 by Dramatic Publishing Company, and; When Butter Churns to Gold, which premiered in 2015 at Northern Sky Theatre in Door County, WI. His choral music is published by MorningStar, GIA, and Lorenz. Ron is currently a member of New Musicals Inc. in North Hollywood. Along with lyricist Greg Edwards, he was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 Fred Ebb Prize.

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BernardoHeadshot3

Venezuelan-American singer BERNARDO BERMUDEZ has recently begun to essay roles and repertoire for the tenor voice. He is a long-time crossover performer with a wide repertoire of songs in English and Spanish. As a lyric baritone, his roles have included Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Diego Rivera in Frida, Silvio in Pagliacci, Escamillo in Carmen, Valentin in Faust, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, the title role in Don Giovanni, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Vidal Hernando in Luisa Fernanda, and Schaunard in La Boheme. He participated as a voice fellow in summer festivals at The Music Academy of the West, Opera North, and Opera NEO. Bernardo was a finalist in the Burbank Philharmonic Hennings-Fischer Opera Competition, an Opera Buffs Grant recipient, a semifinalist in the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition, a recipient of the Doug Acker Memorial Vocal Scholarship, and a winner in the Virginia Hawk Vocal Competition. (www.bernardobermudez.com)

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Ariel_pisturino_headshot_web

The Los Angeles Times hailed soprano ARIEL PISTURINO as “an impressive young discovery” following her debut performance as Nancy T’ang in Long Beach Opera’s production of Nixon in China. An advocate of contemporary works and collaborations with composers, Ariel performed the role of the Lover in The Industry’s nationally acclaimed production of HOPSCOTCH, and created the role of Laurie in Mark Abel’s opera Home is a Harbor, released on Delos Records. She also collaborated with Abel on his song cycle Five Rilke Songs for the album Terrain of the Heart, also on Delos. Recently, Ariel created the role of Rosina Brandram in a newly written Gilbert and Sullivan review Hail Poetry with Opera a la Carte. She also premiered a new song cycle, Dewdrops, by Alex Miller.

Ariel co-founded the performance troupe Chamber Opera Players of Los Angeles (COPLA) and the summer concert series unSUNg, focusing on new and unknown vocal music. Highlights of her work with COPLA include the commission and premiere of The Last Silent Voice by George N. Gianopoulos, and performances of Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters who are not Sisters. Other credits include her performances with Long Beach Opera in Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth, the premiere of the electronic opera The Master and Margarita by Russian composer Gamma Skupinsky, and the premiere of the oratorio Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides by Neely Bruce.

Ariel also performs more traditional operatic roles such as Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), Micaëla (Carmen), and Second Lady (The Magic Flute). She has also been heard as the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem, Fauré Requiem, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Requiem, and Rutter Gloria. (www.arielpisturino.com)

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gerald_seminatore

 

 

The American tenor GERALD SEMINATORE’s first public appearances were in musical theater roles, and as a cover band singer. He began his professional musical career with ensembles including the Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Early Music Festival, and Emmanuel Music. After completing his formal training, he went on to operatic engagements with the Chautauqua, Dayton, Glimmerglass, Oakland, Santa Fe, and West Bay opera companies. Gerald made his European debut at England’s Aldeburgh Festival, and then went on to become a member of the solo ensemble at the Dortmund Opera in Germany. He was also a frequent guest artist at the Frankfurt am Main Opera, the Rheinland Pfalz Theater in Kaiserslautern, and the Bremen Opera. His operatic repertoire has embraced a wide range of roles in works by Handel, Mozart, Donizetti, Chausson, Janáček, Britten, Stravinsky, Strauss, and others. His concert performances have included appearances with many orchestras and choral ensembles. Gerald’s singing has been recognized with numerous awards, and praised in publications such as the London Times, Opera News, and San Francisco Classical Voice. Recent collaborations include recital appearances with pianist Brian Moll in Boston, and with guitarist Taro Wayama in Los Angeles. Gerald is a teacher of vocal and performance techniques for college age and pre-professional singers and is currently a member of the Vocal Arts faculty at Georgia Southern University.

 

New program for June 29 “The Strangeness You Feel”

After a long hiatus, this is a re-union for Ron, Ariel, Bernardo, and Gerald! They will team up for an offbeat program of songs, duets, and ensembles. You might hear an operetta duet, a musical theater standard, an Italian popular song, or an unexpected surprise. It is more or less guaranteed you won’t be bored.

For more information about the program, click here to view our event listing on Performing Arts Live.

 

 

 

Bernardo Bermudez and Ron Barnett perform “The Girl from Impanema”

Though we are currently on hiatus, we will continue to share audio and video files from our 2016 programs. For “The Not Quite Paris Cabaret,” Bernardo Bermudez and Ron Barnett performed Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic “The Girl from Impanema,” in both Portuguese and English. (Translation in the video).

Ariel Pisturino and Ron Barnett perform “Bewitched” (Rodgers and Hart)

Though we are currently on hiatus, we will continue to share selected audio and video files from our 2016 programs. From “The Not Quite Paris Cabaret” in Los Angeles, here are Ariel Pisturino and Ron Barnett performing Rodgers and Hart’s classic “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”