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Jan 23, 2008

Opera DVD release "FIGARO" is a first from London's Covent Garden

London's Royal Opera House's first Opera DVD release will be David McVicar's highly-acclaimed production of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" on 1 March 2008: to become available on the Opus Arte label - bought by Covent Garden back in May 2007.

One of the company's greatest hits in recent years, McVicar's Figaro is set in a palladian villa. The cast includes Erwin Schrott as Figaro, Miah Persson as Susanna, Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva, Dorothea Röschmann as Countess Almaviva and Rinat Shaham as Cherubino.

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House during the production's original run, Tony Pappano (pictured left) conducted the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House also playing continuo.

One of the greatest productions of Figaro that many of us had seen in decades, well let's face it, ever: "The audience loved it, from Schrott's macho antics all the way down to Cherubino's sewn in genitalia".

The 2-DVD set features interviews with Pappano, McVicar and the principal members of the cast, as well as a 'cast gallery' and synopsis. It has a running time of 184 minutes and has both DTS surround sound and LPCM stereo.


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Jan 22, 2008

Heath Ledger's Death: Trouble sleeping may have led to accidental overdose.

Heath Ledger, was found dead in Apartment 5A, at 421 Broome Street in SoHo by the housekeeper and the masseuse this afternoon. A police spokesman initially told media that the apartment Ledger was found in was owned by the actress Mary-Kate Olsen, but later retracted his statement and said that was not the case.

The housekeeper and Masseuse who had arrived for his 3:30 house call, tried to wake Ledger up but found him unresponsive at 3:20 p.m. They eventually called paramedics (after first calling one of the Olsen Twins for advice, who sent two of her heavies over) and he was pronounced dead at 3:35. Police confirmed that sleeping pills were found near Ledger's bed (which is not surprising as the poor guy had trouble getting to sleep at night).

The Ledger family, including father Kim and mother Sally and sister Kate spoke to reporters in Perth:
"We, Heath's family can confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda," his father said.

A large crowd of paparazzi and onlookers began gathering outside the building, where several police officers guarded the door. Ledger had a turbulent relationship with stalkerazzi who as usual... hounded him. In 2004 he assaulted a photographer in Sydney. (We like this.) Go get 'em Heath. But in retaliation a photograper at the Sydney premiere of Brokeback Mountain squirted Ledger in the face with a water pistol. Nice behavior.

Early this year Heath was reported to be seeing Gemma Ward after media articles linked the two together at end of 2007 holiday celebrations.

Friends say Heath was extremely health conscious, and ate well, bought the healthiest food he could find locally.
It's all a bit of a mystery still..

Heath Ledger was the son of Sally Ledger Bell (née Ramshaw), a French teacher, and Kim Ledger, a race car driver and mining engineer; fiance of actress Michelle Williams, father of one daughter, Matilda, who was born in 2005. His daughter's godparents are Ledger's Brokeback costar Jake Gyllenhaal and Williams' Dawson's Creek castmate Busy Phillips.

Heath's 29th birthday is on April 4th. Too young to die. He will be missed.

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Jan 13, 2008

Wall Street's Trinity Church "loses" Music Director of 17 years: Doctor Owen Burdick

Note: This article was written before new facts were released: Burdick did not resign his position. The 'resignation' was a cover up. He was ruthlessly fired by Trinity in an ugly plot hatched by Trinity Church's administration. Called in to a meeting by Trinity, Burdick's computer was disconnected, and his tenure terminated. Told to go quietly (if you want to keep your pension, don't talk to the papers... kind of thing) Burdick did what was asked of him by the Trinity Administrators, for a while at least.... New York Times reported later here
Read on:

In a brave move, Dr. Owen Burdick ended his 17 year tenure at the secure and illustrious post of Music Director of Trinity Church. His decision to use his considerable talent to teach and compose has come as a shock to all around him.

Burdick, a man not easily rattled by pressure, politics or fame, has affected the lives of many during his tenure at Trinity; not to mention his self defining interactions with President George W. Bush both in Downtown New York and at the Whitehouse which have been noted by many, if not in the press, for their self-endangering nature. On their second meeting, President Bush was quoted as saying:
"I remember you, I've been thinking about you."
...having been asked directly, during a hand shake protocol, by Burdick to
"Bring the troops home sir."
This is typical of Burdick's egoless yet bloody minded approach to all things. These personal attributes may be the key to both his success at Trinity and his recent decision to set out again, lunch packed, on his own.

As a musician, Burdick's lightest touch has brought enormous change to Trinity Church. His interpretations have brought tired and over played works new vitality, doubling audiences at Christmas time to necessitate repeat performances. Trinity has been kept on the cutting edge with it's state-of-the-art digital organ, which no musician can tell apart from the pipe organ that it replaced (filled with 911 debris). His courageous move to engage an orchestra (the REBEL Baroque Orchestra) that uses only authentic period instruments has been well received by audiences and critics alike, and is the only baroque band in the city that keeps a consistent ensemble of loyal players, without changing personnel willy-nilly as other groups all seem to do.

His choir's almost miraculous tonal purity has been cultivated by Burdick over years of meticulous recruitment and disciplined training (listen). With a budget that he could have blown on expensive soloists, he instead spent money on rehearsal, drawing the soloists from the choir, offering unique opportunities to young singers to be heard around the world from Trinity's Webcasts.

So why then is Burdick leaving Trinity? Reporters have been interrogating everybody who will pick up a phone at the famous church, to no avail.

As one of his musicians of ten years, I can offer this:
The question of 'why so sudden?' lacks the dignity deserved by such a pre-eminent tenure. It's a natural curiosity that should be overshadowed by a healthy respect for his achievements.

Burdick is a builder, and perhaps this vessel is finally all varnished up. The next question is: "Who gets to sail this beautiful craft next?"

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