April 2018

Hey, everybody! Antoni, here, with some recommended reading. I will be talking about the article Goddess Excellently Bright: Michaela Schuster and Tannhäuser, which was written by Mansel Stimpson and published on Classical Source in December 2010.   Ah, Michaela Schuster. I have been a fan of this particular dramatic mezzo-soprano ever since I was sixteen. When I read her biography, I was so fascinated with the roles she did even though I did not see her live yet. From the Zwischenfach roles of Sieglinde from Walküre, Giulietta from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Ortrud from Lohengrin, Eboli from Don Carlo, Amneris from Aida, Santuzza from Cavalleria Rusticana, and Marie from Wozzeck to true dramatic soprano roles like Marta from Tiefland to dramatic mezzo roles like Herodias from Salome, Laura from La Gioconda, Brangäne from Tristan und Isolde, Fricka from Rheingold and Walküre, and the Nurse from Die Frau Ohne Schatten to even Charlotte from Werther, I knew from the back of my mind that this was a singer to look out for. Nowadays, aside from chiefly focusing on the dramatic mezzo parts that she is well-known for, she has even ventured into contralto roles like Klytämnestra from Elektra, La Zia Principessa from Suor Angelica, and Zita from Gianni Schicchi, though she also did Auntie from Peter Grimes, Florence Pike from Albert Herring, and Madame de Croissy from Les Dialogues des Carmelites.   In terms of her voice, it has a nice balance of dramatic metal without too much exertion and a luxurious lyricism, in which these vocal qualities make her all the more unique to my ears. Given her training as an oboist, she seems to have impeccable control of her voice when she has to sing either softly and plaintively or when she has to have dramatic outbursts. More than anything, she is a fiery, involved, commanding, and charismatic actress. Whether she evokes Sieglinde’s tenderness, the Nurse’s domineering and nasty nature, Fricka’s pain and suffering, Klytämnestra’s nightmares, Herodias’s venom, or Ortrud’s unhinged desire for vengeance against the Brabantians, she certainly sells it in everything she does to the point where I am in utter awe.   In terms of this article, I initially read this when I was about 19 or 20 years old and I was immediately fascinated. I got to know more about Michaela Schuster’s career and journey and I was thoroughly enlightened and inspired.   Based on the article’s title, this does not solely talk about Madame Schuster’s past engagement as Venus but also her beginnings as a singer and an overall musician. Reading how she went from studying the oboe at the Conservatory of Nuremberg thus getting herself a place in a small orchestra to returning to Salzburg with her sights being set on becoming a singer to the initial hardships she had to go through to get to this point made me relate to her trials and tribulations as a performer myself. This also depicts that the life of a fresh-faced performer whether one would be a singer or an actor or a musician or a dancer is not at all easy. However, if one has a good head on his shoulders and loads of determination and discipline, one can certainly make it. Even more so, success stories like this do not come overnight, as perseverance, courage, and a fighting spirit are needed to make it through.   Speaking of success stories, I beamed with joy when I read that she had her initial success as a mainstay artist at the Darmstadt Staatstheater from 1999 to 2002 after opera director Pamela Rosenberg met her in Berlin and inquired her to do Fricka, as well as her first set of roles being Florence Pike, Auntie, and Penelope from Monteverdi’s Ulisse. I also found it wonderful to read that even though Madame Schuster is extremely for doing Wagner, she aspires to have more flexibility in her repertoire with doing Italian and French roles as well as doing recitals. A part of me even wonders how she would fare doing roles like Azucena, Ulrica, Fidés, Madame de la Haltiere, Mistress Quickly, Gertrude from Thomas’s Hamlet, and/or Genevieve from Pelleas et Melisande, I am pretty sure she would be a knockout, given her superb acting chops and unparalleled skills as an overall musician.   When it comes to her talking about Venus, she makes well-thought-out comparisons in terms of how different the Dresden and Paris versions are especially when it comes to this character, Venus’s attitude vs The Princess di Bouillon’s attitude when it comes to love and rivalry, and even how Venus and Elisabeth love Tannhäuser. I can also concur that Tannhäuser is not even an easy sing for many a Heldentenor, as he not only needs to sing lyrically but also incorporate high notes. Those challenges also go to Venus, as she not only needs to bear a mezzo color to her voice but also hit high notes. Granted, I have not seen Michaela’s performance of Venus in either the Royal Opera House or the Chicago Lyric Opera, so for those of you who had, how did you think she fared?   By and large, when reading this 7-year-old article, I get the impression that Michaela Schuster seems to be a down-to-earth, hardworking, focused, professional, and thoroughly natural person. Moreover, she has become one of my biggest role models of all time and I felt like I learned a lot from her, her experiences, her trials, and her triumphs. I also have to give Mansel Stimpson for not only conducting the interview in such a professional fashion but for also writing this superb article.   Overall, if you have free time, I highly recommend reading this article, especially if you are a fan of Michaela Schuster or opera in general. Your eyes will definitely be open to see how her journey went from bearing hardships to earning success. I give this article 5 out of 5 favorite opera arias for a dramatic mezzo-soprano. It is imperative that you…

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This has been in the making for weeks after I caught the live stream of the Bayerische Staatsoper’s production of Les Vepres Siciliennes. The question remains. How well does the star-studded cast consisting of the young American spinto soprano Rachel Willis-Sorenson, the Italian lirico-spinto Leonardo Caimi, the Romanian dramatic baritone George Petean, and the Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott? Find out in this review, enjoy, and have a blessed Easter week.

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Happy Easter, once again. Antoni, here, with another Inuyasha fanfic recommendation. This time I will be taking a look at Twenty Truths: My Daughter written by NalaxSimba and published on April 19, 2014. It’s rated T. It’s in English. It’s Family/Romance and the main pairing is Kohaku and Rin. Sesshoumaru is made to be Rin’s adoptive father, Jaken is still present as his lackey, and Inuyasha, Kouga, Ayame, and Kagome are mentioned. This fanfic is told in twenty themes chronicling Rin’s childhood, teenhood, and adulthood. So, I would say she ages from being 8 to 14 to 18 to her early 20’s. Out of all the Inuyasha couples, I truly love Kohaku and Rin when they are together. What makes them compatible as a couple is that they are not obnoxious with their bickering and squabbling, and they truly, genuinely, and purely care for each other. Sure, they may have been kids, with Kohaku being 11 years old and Rin being 8 years old, but they are a breath of fresh air compared to the whole soap opera antics that Inuyasha, Kikyo, and Kagome get themselves into. I support Kohaku and Rin as a couple then and I still support them to this very day. There is an innocence and radiance that these two have together. Whether it would be on the TV show or in fan works, they shine all thanks to the potential they have to grow as a couple to the point where I mark them as my OTP next to Inuyasha/Ayame, Ginta/Shunran, Miroku/Sango, Sesshoumaru/Kagome, and Shippo/Souten. When it comes to Sesshoumaru and Rin, I do not see them as a romantic couple in the slightest. First of all, Sesshoumaru is much more experienced and older than the youthful Rin, given that he appears to be about nineteen. In fact, I see their relationship as more of father and daughter. Think about it for a second. Rin was an orphan, whose parents and brother’s lives were lost to marauders. Surely, this experience would traumatize many a child. That is until she met an injured Sesshoumaru does she start to look up to him and admire him in a platonic way. She was then initially killed by Kouga’s wolves and Sesshoumaru used his Tenseiga to save her life. From there she has become his traveling companion and the way I interpret this is, he finally found an adoptive daughter through Rin, giving his own brand of discipline. In my mind, I always love to pair Sesshoumaru with Kagome, as he has Rin as his adoptive daughter and she has Shippou as an adoptive son. If they were to marry, then Rin would be the big sister to Shippou, thus making one strong family, with Sesshoumaru as the stern, disciplinarian, yet well-meaning father to his children, Kagome as the nurturing, strong-willed mother, Rin as the jolly, respectable, and loving older sister, and Shippou as her adorable little brother. Along the way, Sesshoumaru and Kagome will end up giving birth to little hanyos, making their family a little more exciting. Once Kohaku marries Rin and Shippou marries Souten, they will have kids of their own, thus making Sesshoumaru and Kagome grandparents in their 30s yet still mentally and physically active. Come to think of it, this calls for a fanart idea on my part. With all of this rambling aside, let’s get on to what I thought about the story. Ever since Rin has been living with Sesshoumaru, Jaken, and Ah-Un, she has become his adoptive daughter. He does things like buy kimonos, wrapping her under his mokomoko on frosty winters, and generally caring for her. That is until one fateful day that Rin had to live in Kaede’s village surrounded by humans. Rin comes of age and dates Kohaku, and being the stern father Sesshoumaru wants to ensure that her beau will keep his daughter safe, which is the same policy he gives him all the way up to marriage. By and large, this story is a very down-to-earth, simple, genuine, and lovely look into Rin’s family life with Sesshoumaru, Jaken, and Ah-Un. Even more so, this is a coming of age story of Rin’s journey from childhood to teenhood to womanhood. I dare not spoil the ending, but sufficed to say, it will leave one with tears of joy by how everything wraps up in a poignant, beautiful, and lovely way. The characters that really stole the show for me were Sesshoumaru, Kohaku, and Rin. Starting off with Sesshoumaru he does begin with his usual cold, overprotective self. However, as the story progresses he becomes slightly more understanding and compassionate not only as a father to Rin and future father-in-law to Kohaku but as a person. Kohaku starts off as a passionate and strong teenager not only in terms of his skills as a warrior but also how he persuades Sesshoumaru that he deeply loves Rin and wants to take her on a date. Eventually, in his adulthood, he proves himself as a loyal, noble husband to Rin. Rin is indubitably the main focus of this story, as this is her journey of becoming a woman. She starts off as the usually peppy and kind-hearted girl and she maintains that kindness and optimism all the way up to her adulthood. Jaken’s butt-monkey status has been thankfully reduced in this fanfic and is just the loyal servant. The other characters like Inuyasha, Kagome, Kouga, Ayame, and Kaede serve their purposes well. In terms of technicality, I did not spot one single error. Moreover, the layout is clean and well-organized. Overall, this was a touching Kohaku/Rin fanfic with Sesshoumaru as Rin’s adoptive father. Everything is so well-woven in a simple package that it comes off as charming and gentle. You know what I am going to give this fanfic. It deserves a full A+. On a technical standpoint, it’s flawless. From a narrative standpoint, it is excellent. Well, that’s all for now. Boy, taking a good look at these Inuyasha…

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Happy Easter, everybody! Antoni, here, with another Inuyasha fanfiction recommendation. I will be taking a look at An Odd Pair, which was written by JapanLurve101 and published on November 10, 2008. It’s rated M. It’s in English. It’s Romance and the main pairing is, get ready for this, Inuyasha/Ginta.   Before I talk about this fanfic, I want to talk about Inuyasha and Ginta as a shounen-ai couple. It is a guilty pleasure, and I kind of enjoy it because at least they are not related in any form. However, if you ask me, I actually ship them as a BrOTP. In my mind, their dynamics will function with Inuyasha functioning the large-and-in-charge, strong-willed, hotheaded and badass big brother to Ginta’s meek, endearing, jolly, and beware the nice one’s younger brother.   In terms of shipping them with characters of the opposite sex, while I pair Inuyasha with Ayame to the nth degree, I always thought about pairing Ginta with Shunran of the Panther Devas. Sure, they clashed a bit in the anime, but I think Ginta/Shunran has potential. Think about it, Ginta is a kind, sensitive, sweet guy and Shunran is a feisty, fun-loving, lively girl. He would find her cute, fun to be with, and agile in her movements and she would find him hilarious, charming, and super strong. Sooner or later, they would hit it off rather well. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but the thought of Ginta and Shunran as a couple always seems to fascinate me and it can be plausible.   Okay, enough rambling. Let’s get on to what I thought about this story.   Deep in the forest, Inuyasha is his usually vexed self, as he is thinking about Kouga’s blunt unwillingness to challenge him, as Kagome is not present. Just by thinking about what Kouga said is enough to make Inuyasha all the more riled up to the point where he is thinking about executing him by cutting off Kouga’s tail. A voice manages to startle Inuyasha out of his psychotic fantasy and then he sees that the voice belonged to Ginta, who exposits that Kouga is not in the area. Inuyasha is initially disappointed until Ginta decides that he needs to take a bath in the hot springs, for someone is about to take over guard duty. Inuyasha is initially hesitant until he decides to join Ginta along. What follows is the brewing relationship between the hotheaded hanyou and the innocent wolf yokai. By and large, this story is a mixture of humorous, charming, and rather steamy in the climax. By steamy, I mean there is male fanservice and eroticism, but it’s done in a way that does not feel too forced, as the story builds itself up quite nicely. It does not obnoxiously thrive on the fanservice and it’s balanced with substantial interest on the characters’ part. For one chapter, I thought it had a sufficient enough story, so high marks there.   Talking about the characters is talking about Inuyasha and Ginta. It’s always a pleasure to see Inuyasha’s brand of toughness, brashness, and strong will present in this fanfic until he lets his defenses down. He was very much in character.   Ginta is fleshed out the most. In the anime, he and Hakkaku function almost like fraternal twin brothers and are usually either the butt-monkeys or just the comedic sidekicks to Kouga. It’s a major shame because I would’ve loved to have each of their personalities fleshed out a lot more. Here he does keep his brand of innocence, charm, meekness, and youthfulness but it’s also backed up by a slightly mischievous attitude, especially when he realizes Inuyasha’s desire for some sensuality.   There were not so many spelling and grammar errors, which made my overall reading pleasure a blast for the most part. I also have to give it high marks for the descriptive and varied enough language.   Overall, this is a story I thoroughly enjoyed, especially with Inuyasha and Ginta as the main crack pairing. With their different personalities meshing together so well helped by a sufficient story and steamy action going on between Inuyasha and Ginta, I say go check it out if you are a fan of this crack pairing. With that said, I give this fanfic a grade of A+. Minute errors aside, I still say that this is a worthwhile read if you enjoy having Inuyasha and Ginta as yaoi couple.   Well, that’s all for now, tune in later for another Inuyasha fanfiction recommendation centering around Kohaku and Rin with Sesshoumaru playing a paternal part, Twenty Truths: My Daughter written by NalaxSimba. Until then, have a most pleasant Easter. An Odd Pair by JapanLurve101

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