Tuesday, March 22, 2016

World's first-ever Performing Arts university rankings


LA Opus, Los Angeles

LA Opus shares a press release received today from the QS Press Office. Lovers of the performing arts can celebrate new attention given to the field's university level training. While the rankings have the USA's Juilliard ranked number one, also notable is that half of the top ten universities are in the UK. LA Opus cautions that comparisons in this survey seemingly compare apples and oranges, with music, theater, and dance lumped together in the general category of "performing arts." It also appears from the schools listed below that music is the survey's dominant field. A more inclusive worldwide spread among the top twenty honorees follows in the narrative below.

QS Press Office
World University Rankings
London, March 22, 2016

The Juilliard School has been ranked as the world’s best university for the study of Performing Arts, in what is the first ever rankings for this subject. The ranking was reported in the sixth edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject, released today on TopUniversities.com, which features a record-breaking 42 disciplines, making it the largest-ever ranking of its kind.

The expert opinion of 76,798 academics and 44,426 employers informed the results, alongside the analysis of 28.5 million research papers and over 113 million citations sourced from the Scopus/Elsevier bibliometric database. This led to QS considering for inclusion 1,008 institutions offering Performing Arts-related courses, nominally ranking 974, before finally publishing the top 100.

In second place for Performing Arts is University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, from Austria. Completing the top three is the Royal College of Music from the United Kingdom.

This year’s first ever ranking features the world’s top 100 places to study Performing Arts, ranking those institutions that offer courses with a practical focus in at least one of Music, Drama, and Dance. The most-featured country in the ranking is the United States which takes 6 top-20 places, and 26 places overall. It is followed by the United Kingdom, which is home to 24 of the world’s top 100 places to study the subject. The University of Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music are also in the top five.

However, though the United Kingdom and the United States dominate, QS recognise that institutions from nations across the globe are providing a world-class education for aspirant thespians, dancers, and musicians alike. The rankings feature institutions from 27 different nations, with Finland’s Sibelius Academy finishing 7th. Also in the top-20 are representatives from Sweden (Royal College of Music in Stockholm, 11th), France (Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, 12th), and Switzerland (Conservatoire de Musique de Geneve, 19th).

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) continue to take the lion’s share of top places in the overall rankings, leading in 24 subjects between them. Each takes twelve leading positions.

QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2016: Top 10 (Performing Arts Institution, Country)

1   Juilliard School, United States
2   University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria
3= Royal College of Music, United Kingdom
3= University of Oxford, United Kingdom
5   Royal Academy of Music, United Kingdom
6   Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Formerly Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama), UK
7   Sibelius Academy, Finland
8   University of California, Berkeley (UCB), United States
9   Guildhall School of Music and Drama, United Kingdom
10 Indiana University Bloomington, United States

© QS Quacquarelli Symonds 2004-2016 http://www.TopUniversities.com/

Ben Sowter, Head of the QS Intelligence Unit, said: “Though the US and UK remain dominant, our most inclusive rankings ever show that excellence can be found in an ever-increasing number of places. Nations like Austria, South Africa, Finland, Brazil, China, and Sweden can be found in the top ten of our tables. Our new top 100 for Performing Arts acknowledges academic excellence in 27 different countries, with institutions from 8 different countries in the top 20.”

QS Quacquarelli Symonds have been providing expert insight and analysis for both the higher education and the business sector since 1990. Their QS World University Rankings are the world’s most popular based on Alexa data and other social media metrics. Their annual World University Rankings by Subject provide employers, students, parents, and academics with the most comprehensive insight into global university performance at the subject level. They can be found in their entirety here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

J'nai Bridges Morphs from Sports to Suzuki in 'Butterfly'

By Erica Miner

When it comes to rising stars in the opera world, J’nai Bridges is one to watch. Since participating in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s esteemed Ryan Opera Center, the award-winning young mezzo-soprano already has become recognized for her multi-varied sound ranging from rich and impassioned to delicate and sensitive, and has has proved her vocal versatility in repertoire that includes operas of Verdi, Rossini, Dvorak, Bellini, Mozart and Bizet. She makes her San Diego Opera debut as Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Sat., Apr. 16. 

EM: J’nai, welcome to SDO! I’m fascinated by your name. What is the story behind it? 

JB: The story behind my name is fun. My parents loved the music of soul singer Freddie Jackson. One of their favorite songs is called “Janay.” It’s a love song so they always called me their love child because I was named after this song. They were very creative with the spelling. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jackson a couple years ago and when I told him the background of my name, he hugged me and didn’t let go. 

EM: Your musical and educational background is amazing: Curtis Institute, Manhattan School, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s prestigious Ryan Opera Center training program. What was your journey getting there? 

JB: I am extremely grateful for my musical and educational background. It came about in a very unusual way. I was an athlete in high school with my sports being Track & Field and basketball. I had a few scholarships to play in college, but I turned them down when I discovered and fell in love with classical vocal music. I have played the piano since the age of five, so classical music was always a love of mine. However I had not been exposed to opera. My junior year in high school I needed to take an art elective, so I decided to join the choir. My choir teacher immediately identified a natural gift in my voice and suggested I take private lessons. I did and instantly fell in love with singing classically. I didn’t have much time to get and audition pre-screening package together, but nevertheless I did! I quickly learned and recorded songs in Italian, French, German, and English per the undergraduate audition requirements. I was granted a live audition at Manhattan School of Music and was quite nervous but I sang my heart out. The next thing I knew, I was admitted into MSM in the spring! From that point on I worked extremely hard and graduated with the highest honors, one of them being admitted into The Curtis Institute of Music. Curtis is a special place. We got to sing a large amount of roles long with a ton of stage experience. We also auditioned for opera companies, orchestras, and management almost weekly. Given the opera studio is extremely small and selective, we basically got one-on-one attention at all times. This is what sets Curtis apart from other conservatories. At Curtis, the Lyric Opera of Chicago came for auditions. They heard me and immediately accepted me into their young artist program. I always say that I didn’t choose opera but it chose me. I have just been listening to my heart, gut, and God. It was also helpful that my parents and family supported me 100% through this decision, and they still do! I do give credit to my athletic background because I have gotten great discipline from it. 

EM: What happened after Ryan Opera Center? 

JB: After my graduation from the Ryan Opera Center I immediately took a vacation. The Ryan Center was an incredible three years of almost working non-stop, so it was due time to grant my mind and body some rest. My next engagements included performing at CSO with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and preparing for the “Cardiff Singer of the World” competition. Both were extremely exciting experiences! Following Cardiff I sang my first Suzuki at the Wolftrap Opera Festival. 

EM: Ravel’s Chansons madécasses with Yo-Yo Ma and the CSO. How exciting was that? 

JB: Performing with Yo-Yo Ma was absolutely life changing. The first time he saw me he said, “Wow, you’re so beautiful and it’s an honor to make music with you.” I honestly thought he was talking to someone else. (Laughs.) He is one of the warmest human beings I have ever encountered. His energy and connection to the piece made me dig extremely deep into myself onstage. We made beautiful music and I am still on a high from that day.

EM: Who have been some of the most influential singers you’ve studied and worked with? 

JB: Simon Estes without a doubt has been influential. We haven’t worked with each other on vocal repertoire, but he gives me wonderful advice and encouragement. Not to mention he is an absolute legend. It means a lot to me as an African American who had many struggles so I could be where I am today. Renee Fleming has also been quite influential. We worked many times together while I was in the Ryan Center. She is an excellent teacher and gave some great career advice. 

EM: What are some of your favorite operatic roles? 

JB: Carmen, Charlotte, Idamante, Amneris, Adalgisa to mention a few. 

EM: What roles are you most looking forward to performing for the first time? 

JB: I’m very much looking forward to performing Lucretia this summer at Wolftrap. It’s a role that I have always wanted to sing. I love the dark emotion she portrays. I’m also looking forward to performing Bersi in Andrea Chenier in San Francisco and again in Munich! I love Verismo opera. Lastly, I am very much looking forward to playing the role of Nefertiti in Akhnaten at L.A. Opera. I have always had a love for that Queen and I find Glass’s music incredibly mesmerizing. 

EM: Do you have a preference between performing opera and symphony, or do you love them equally? 

JB: I love them equally! I hope my career always brings me a combination of both every year that I sing. With opera, I enjoy completely transforming into another character and collaborating with other singers in that operatic manner. The costumes, makeup, sets, and rehearsal process are all so magical. Being a mezzo, we have a plethora of symphonic and orchestral works to delve into. I enjoy the intimacy of singing this repertoire and collaborating closely with the conductor and orchestra. Both opera and symphonic/orchestral work are very close to my heart. 

EM: What are you most looking forward to in SDO’s Madama Butterfly

JB: Besides the fact that I will be in an incredible city with gorgeous weather for a month, I am looking forward to collaborating with all of the amazingly gifted artists of this production. It’s always interesting to experience the different dynamics that make a show. I cannot wait to sing alongside Latonia. When I went to Curtis she graduated from AVA a few years before, and I have always admired her. Now I get to sing with her! Lucky me! I already feel so welcomes at SDO so I am looking forward to the whole process!

Photos used by permission of: Kristin Hoebermann

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Furlanetto Shows Mastery in San Diego Concert

By Erica Miner

To witness the American debut concert of a renowned, distinguished, much beloved opera star is truly a unique opportunity. That this established world-class musical celebrity has long been one of San Diego Opera’s most cherished stage luminaries makes the event even sweeter. 

On Mar. 5, Ferruccio Furlanetto celebrated the 31st anniversary of the singer’s debut with SDO by presenting a concert featuring excerpts from some of the singer’s most favored arias. Making his debut on the podium, young maestro Emanuele Andrizzi conducted the full forces of the San Diego Symphony. 

Consistently praised by critics, Furlanetto carried the heavy, difficult program with unflagging confidence, astonishing consistency in his range from highest to lowest notes, and a stage presence that remains as imposing as ever.

The packed audience at the Jacobs Music Center at Copley Symphony Hall confirmed Furlanetto’s local fandom with their unqualified enthusiastic response, both to his appearance and to his passionate renderings of his chosen repertoire: a veritable feast of operatic favorites, coupled with a few unexpected treats.

Furlanetto opened with two crowd pleasers, starting with Don Basilio’s delightful La Calunnia from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. In this aria, Furlanetto exhibited the deft humor that has become characteristic of his renderings in comic roles. He had no qualms about exaggerating the character’s buffo qualities, while still maintaining the musical deftness that the composer had in mind.

On a comedic roll, he launched into Leporello’s familiar “Catalogue” aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Furlanetto tossed off the aria with ease, demonstrating the vocal impressiveness of his early years. As in the Rossini, he played up the humor with unabashed delight, as the audience reacted in kind. In another Don Giovanni favorite, Finch’ han dal vino, Furlanetto showed his versatility in switching from comic to bold and daring. Massenet’s Don Quichotte (http://www.laopus.com/2014/03/ferruccio-furlanetto-filtering-emotion.html), and Mussorsgky’s Boris Godunov (http://www.laopus.com/2014/03/furlanetto-russian-soul.html) are two of Furlanetto’s most memorable roles, and his rendering of both of these massive death scenes has become iconic. His mastery and longtime experience were in full evidence in his carefully crafted performances: both were poignant and moving, yet bold and powerful. Furlanetto’s Quichotte died with dignity; his Boris with stubborn passion. Performing both of their deaths in one program amounted to a feat of astonishing scope and accomplishment.

In a different vein, Furlanetto channeled Ezio Pinza with three Broadway musical excerpts: “Ol’ Man River” from Kern and Hammerstein’s Showboat, and “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Nearly was Mine” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Most striking was Furlanetto’s interpretation of “Ol’ Man River,” which came straight from the heart. His low notes were astonishing, and his “American” English was impeccable.

A surprise pleasure was the aria “I am He Whom You Called” from Anton Rubinstein’s rarely performed The Demon. A more recognizable pleasure was the Méphistophélès aria Vous qui faites l’endormie from Gounod’s Faust. Both were performed with gusto and assuredness.

Without question the evening’s most anticipated work was King Phillip’s aria, Ella giammai m’amò, from Verdi’s Don Carlo. Furlanetto has expressed his reverence for the role, and especially for this exquisite piece, and his facial expressions and affecting rendering demonstrated the depth of that veneration. Each wrenching note, each subtly nuanced phrase, built unwaveringly toward the heartbreaking conclusion. The audience was mesmerized by the sheer beauty and power of Furlanetto’s performance.

Though he didn’t always follow Furlanetto precisely, the youthful Andrizzi showed keen understanding of the Italian operatic style. The overture from Verdi’s Nabucco, which opened the concert, was impressive in its rhythmic intensity, and the Intermezzo from Puccini’s was lovingly phrased. One would have liked to hear more Verdi, and Furlanetto delivered on this desire with his encore, Mentre Gonfiarsi l'anima...Oltre quel limite from Verdi’s Attila. Notwithstanding the relative infrequency with which the opera is performed, Furlanetto performed the piece as if Verdi himself had coached him: with great aplomb, virtuosity and keen understanding of the style.

It was a fitting close to a thoroughly engaging performance by a venerated international opera icon, who, to our delight, chose San Diego as the setting for his American concert debut.

Photos used by permission of: San Diego Opera

Erica Miner can be reached at: [email protected]