Eilana Lappalainen - The Elegance of Opera
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This is an archive of various review publications about and interviews with Canadian soprano Eilana Lappalainen showcasing her very successful career as an Opera singer in incredibly high demand internationally. Please click
on the desired review title below to read the entire published article.


The New York Times - Opera Review
NEO - July 2015
Classical Voice of North Carolina (CVNC)
Virginia Opera's Milestone Production of Verdi's Il Trovatore, October 26, 2008
- with Link to Youtube-Trailer

Paroslife.com
Paros Summer Classical Music Festival Broadway Comes to Paros

The Hamilton Spectator - Monday, April 30, 2001
The Hamilton Spectator - Saturday, April 21, 2001
Stage Door.com - 2001-05-17
A Wilde Salome at NYCO, OPERA-L Archives, Thu, 17 Oct 2002
Salome in Ottawa, CLASSICAL Archives, Sun, 21 Oct 2001
The Montreal Gazette - September 9, 1999
The National Post - Thursday, September 16, 1999
On Stage/Opera Canada - Fall 1999
WestSide - March 14, 2001
Statesman Journal LIFE - Friday, March 29, 1996
LULU, Lulu
LA TRAVIATA, Violetta
MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Cio Cio San
ARABELLA, Arabella
PAGLIACCI, Nedda
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Lucia
LA BOHEME, Mimi
CARMEN, Micaela
LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Countess Almaviva
TOSCA, Tosca
LES PECHEURS DE PERLES, Leïla
THE MERRY WIDOW, Valencienne
The Spectator - Tuesday, September 28, 1993
Arts & Entertainment
Helsingin Sanomat - October 21, 1992
Ottawa-Hull - September
Opera Canada - Spring 1995
Opera Canada - Winter 1993 - Volume XXXIV / Number 4
The Hamilton Spectator - A night of great opera
Citizen - I loved Lucia: Opera Lyra turns melodramatic piece into great show
The Ottawa Sun - Opera Lyra scores hit with Lucia - Friday, September 10, 1993
The Buffalo News - 'Lucia' in Hamilton is a soaring triumph - Tuesday, September 28, 1993
The Spectator - La Boheme's vamp robbed of sexuality - Monday, April 3, 1995
West Coast Mimi - Eilana Lappalainen brings bright expresion and fresh voices to La Boheme
Entertainment - Hamilton's 'Butterfly' of many colors
Leading singers lift 'Turandot'
Arizona Opera's 'Turandot' in form with singers as its strongest suit
Opera News - January 30, 1993 Vol. 57, No. 10
Virginia Local Press - Sunday, Oct. 25, 1992
The Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger Star - Sunday, Oct. 25, 1992
The Spectator - NOW Life/Entertainment - Monday, September 27, 1993
San Fransisco Chronical - Monday, February 12, 1990
Everybody's News - July 30, 1993 - August 12, 1993
San Fransisco Examiner - Wednesday, February 14, 1990


The New York Times
Opera Review

"The audience gave Ms. Lappalainen a rousing ovation."

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NEO July 2015


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Classical Voice of North Carolina (CVNC)
October 26, 2008

Virginia Opera's Milestone Production of Verdi's Il Trovatore
by William Thomas Walker

Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) was the seventeenth opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The four-act opera is set to a text by Salvatore Cammarano after the Spanish play El Trovador by Leone Emanuele Bardare. That handy reference, The New Kobbé's Complete Opera Book (1976), describes it as having world-wide popularity for many years while its libretto has long been considered "the acme of absurdity." Verdi's "swift, spontaneous, and stirring music" sweeps all the libretto's absurdities before it. The biggest drag on the plot's reality is the fact that so much of the story is supposed to have taken place before the curtain rises.
Enrico Caruso reportedly said that all Il Trovatore needs to succeed is four of the greatest singers in the world. This, wedded to Verdi's dynamic and searing score, will sweep over reservations about the ridiculous libretto and the opera's unjustified length. Virginia Opera's music director Peter Mark's powerful and vocally solid cast, combined with his choice of stage director Lillian Groag, made the strongest possible case for this flawed gem of the composer's maturity. In the pit of Richmond's Landmark Theater, members of the Virginia Symphony were instantly responsive to Mark's expressive and tightly controlled interpretation. The balances between stage and orchestra were splendid, as was the musical co-ordination. There were fine solos from the clarinet and horn. Special kudos should be given to the four percussionists who hammered away on the one anvil on stage in Act II.
I caught part of dramatic soprano Eilana Lappalainen's vocal warm up in the huge assembly room under the auditorium, and I was astonished at the sheer sustained power she could wield. As the tormented Leonora, the Finnish-Canadian singer easily filled Landmark Theater's large auditorium, and her high notes, hit precisely, were spectacular. Her refined, quiet singing was just as impressive. Her Manrico, tenor Gustavo López Manzitti, matched her in vocal heft. He nailed his high notes and his solidly supported voice was a model of good vocal training. His vocal capital has been carefully husbanded and is spent wisely. In his fiery Act III aria, "Di quella pira" ("See the pyre blazing"), he delivered the goods, an exhilarating high C near its end. According to Julian Budden, writing in volume II of The Operas of Verdi, this interpolated note was originated by the tenor Achille Tamberlick, and Verdi countenanced it only if it (the high note) was "a good one." Manzitti's winning tone has a nice Italianate ring. Baritone Nmon Ford was a powerful, threatening Count Di Luna. He had plenty of weight in his dark, rich toned voice, along with plenty of stage presence, allowing him to dominate the stage or hold his own with his Leonora and Manrico. Besides conveying the Count's jealously and rage, Ford's refined control of his dynamics and timbre allowed him to fully bring out the few tender emotions Verdi gave his character. It was a pleasure to see his return to Virginia Opera where we had enjoyed his strongly sung Kurneval in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. (We heard him also in the Spoleto Festival USA's controversial 2005 staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni.) Mezzo-soprano Jeniece Golbourne had a firm, sumptuous lower range for the revenge-obsessed gypsy, Azucena. Her soaring, firmly supported high notes were a pleasant surprise.
The secondary role of Ferrando, Di Luna's captain of the guard, is one of the biggest "minor roles" in opera. His extended Act I ballad gives essential background for the tragedy and his Act III recognition of Azucena is nearly as crucial. Egyptian-born and US-trained bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam was superb in this role, his attractive, dark and sepulchral tone easily standing out in ensembles and giving dramatic weight to his important scenes. Tenor James Taylor was fine as one of Manrico's soldiers, Ruiz. Solid performances were given by soprano Kirsten Hoiseth as Leonora's confidant Inez, baritone Kevin Wetzel as a gypsy, and tenor Johnny Lee Green as a messenger. The chorus, prepared by Joseph Walsh, was up to their usual high standard as they portrayed soldiers, gypsies, and nuns.
In an age abounding in anachronistic staging of opera, director Lillian Groag's choice of Verdi's original time period, 15th century Spain was most welcome. Groag's original touch was to have various scenes "haunted" by the silent "ghost" of Azucena's mother. Both military factions had blunt, stubby wrought-iron bombards (though their gun carriages would have not been strong enough for the real McCoy). Michael Ganio's simple sets featured elements which could be effectively and quickly reconfigured to suggest palace atrium, gypsy camp, cloister, chapel, and prison in turn. Richard Winkler's lighting design was imaginative and outstanding.
This season's staging of Il Trovatore was a milestone in the 34 season history of the Virginia Opera Company, marking Artistic Director Peter Mark's 100th production.




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Classical Voice of North Carolina (CVNC)
October 26, 2008

Virginia Opera's Milestone Production of Verdi's Il Trovatore
by William Thomas Walker

Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) was the seventeenth opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The four-act opera is set to a text by Salvatore Cammarano after the Spanish play El Trovador by Leone Emanuele Bardare. That handy reference, The New Kobbé's Complete Opera Book (1976), describes it as having world-wide popularity for many years while its libretto has long been considered "the acme of absurdity." Verdi's "swift, spontaneous, and stirring music" sweeps all the libretto's absurdities before it. The biggest drag on the plot's reality is the fact that so much of the story is supposed to have taken place before the curtain rises.
Enrico Caruso reportedly said that all Il Trovatore needs to succeed is four of the greatest singers in the world. This, wedded to Verdi's dynamic and searing score, will sweep over reservations about the ridiculous libretto and the opera's unjustified length. Virginia Opera's music director Peter Mark's powerful and vocally solid cast, combined with his choice of stage director Lillian Groag, made the strongest possible case for this flawed gem of the composer's maturity. In the pit of Richmond's Landmark Theater, members of the Virginia Symphony were instantly responsive to Mark's expressive and tightly controlled interpretation. The balances between stage and orchestra were splendid, as was the musical co-ordination. There were fine solos from the clarinet and horn. Special kudos should be given to the four percussionists who hammered away on the one anvil on stage in Act II.
I caught part of dramatic soprano Eilana Lappalainen's vocal warm up in the huge assembly room under the auditorium, and I was astonished at the sheer sustained power she could wield. As the tormented Leonora, the Finnish-Canadian singer easily filled Landmark Theater's large auditorium, and her high notes, hit precisely, were spectacular. Her refined, quiet singing was just as impressive. Her Manrico, tenor Gustavo López Manzitti, matched her in vocal heft. He nailed his high notes and his solidly supported voice was a model of good vocal training. His vocal capital has been carefully husbanded and is spent wisely. In his fiery Act III aria, "Di quella pira" ("See the pyre blazing"), he delivered the goods, an exhilarating high C near its end. According to Julian Budden, writing in volume II of The Operas of Verdi, this interpolated note was originated by the tenor Achille Tamberlick, and Verdi countenanced it only if it (the high note) was "a good one." Manzitti's winning tone has a nice Italianate ring. Baritone Nmon Ford was a powerful, threatening Count Di Luna. He had plenty of weight in his dark, rich toned voice, along with plenty of stage presence, allowing him to dominate the stage or hold his own with his Leonora and Manrico. Besides conveying the Count's jealously and rage, Ford's refined control of his dynamics and timbre allowed him to fully bring out the few tender emotions Verdi gave his character. It was a pleasure to see his return to Virginia Opera where we had enjoyed his strongly sung Kurneval in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. (We heard him also in the Spoleto Festival USA's controversial 2005 staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni.) Mezzo-soprano Jeniece Golbourne had a firm, sumptuous lower range for the revenge-obsessed gypsy, Azucena. Her soaring, firmly supported high notes were a pleasant surprise.
The secondary role of Ferrando, Di Luna's captain of the guard, is one of the biggest "minor roles" in opera. His extended Act I ballad gives essential background for the tragedy and his Act III recognition of Azucena is nearly as crucial. Egyptian-born and US-trained bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam was superb in this role, his attractive, dark and sepulchral tone easily standing out in ensembles and giving dramatic weight to his important scenes. Tenor James Taylor was fine as one of Manrico's soldiers, Ruiz. Solid performances were given by soprano Kirsten Hoiseth as Leonora's confidant Inez, baritone Kevin Wetzel as a gypsy, and tenor Johnny Lee Green as a messenger. The chorus, prepared by Joseph Walsh, was up to their usual high standard as they portrayed soldiers, gypsies, and nuns.
In an age abounding in anachronistic staging of opera, director Lillian Groag's choice of Verdi's original time period, 15th century Spain was most welcome. Groag's original touch was to have various scenes "haunted" by the silent "ghost" of Azucena's mother. Both military factions had blunt, stubby wrought-iron bombards (though their gun carriages would have not been strong enough for the real McCoy). Michael Ganio's simple sets featured elements which could be effectively and quickly reconfigured to suggest palace atrium, gypsy camp, cloister, chapel, and prison in turn. Richard Winkler's lighting design was imaginative and outstanding.
This season's staging of Il Trovatore was a milestone in the 34 season history of the Virginia Opera Company, marking Artistic Director Peter Mark's 100th production.




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Paroslife.com
13 July 2006

Paros Summer Classical Music Festival Broadway Comes to Paros
by Rory Brennan

No, the wind did not come sweeping down the plain; instead it came sweeping across Paroikia Bay and brought with it a gust of musical exuberance. No, the corn was not high as an elephant’s eye (it just doesn’t grow that high on Paros) but the standard of musical excellence was even higher. The evening of Broadway Music presented by Opera Aegean on July 13 at the Hotel Paros Agnanti was one where the great confident songs of mid-century America were given an outing with verve, style, panache. In fact, just the right tone was struck, where style and parody meet in a form of homage. Melody Kielisch, Eilana Lappalainen, sopranos, Giorgio Aristo, tenor, Antonio Stragapede, bass, and Yannis Xylas on piano all complemented each other with great elegance. It is impossible to single one out because all were exemplars of strut, pout, preen, and posture that go with Rogers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Lerner and Lowe, Gershwin, Bernstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber et al. All that remains to be said is congratulations to all and zipitty-do-da, and why not, zipitty-day! And, of course, a standing invitation to a standing ovation. ENCORE!



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The Hamilton Spectator
Monday, April 30, 2001

Canadian soprano Eilana Lappalainen as Hanna Glawari, the Merry Widow, enthralls the men who all
want to marry her for her money.
by Hugh Fraser

Lappalainen's magnificent cancan at Maxim's Café, whilst singing at the top of her incredible voice was amazing
and something only a dedicated artist would tackle.

Click on the article image thumbnail to view full size version
Merry Widow cover clipMerry Widow clip

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The Hamilton Spectator
Saturday, April 21, 2001

A different sort of song and dance
by Hugh Fraser - Special to The Hamilton Spectator

'It's entertainment," says soprano Eilana Lappalainen, talking of her role as the Merry Widow in Opera Hamilton's production of the Franz Lehar hit that starts its run in Hamilton Place next Saturday.
"It would be great for anyone who hasn't been to Opera Hamilton to see an opera," she says. "We're not being
stuffy Opera Singers (she makes the capital O and S ring like bells). It is a piece that anyone can come to without thinking: 'O, my God, we're going to the OPERA'!"
She's right. It is no more complicated that Who Wants To Be A Pontevedrin Millionaire? With the final answer being every single, greedy, impoverished-but-charming member of the Parisian nobility in the glittering City of Light at the end of the century (it premiered in Vienna in 1905) and they seem to lurk behind every curtain and infest every
dance and party.
And this operetta is nothing if not accessible. The dialogue is in English, though the songs will be sung in the
original German.
Of course there's a snag. You can't have comedy without some huge snafu hovering over everything that everyone is desperately trying to avoid. The snag is that the fortune the deceased husband of the Merry Widow is so huge that
the tony eastern European outpost of Pontevedro will go bankrupt and blow away like a dried-up husk if a Frenchman marries the Merry Widow and the moolah toddles off to Gay Paree to be spent at Maxims.
It is something that staff at the Parisian Pontevedrin Embassy cannot let happen.
They do have a lifeline that they hope will provide their final answer to this dilemna. He's an embassy attaché called Danilo Danilovich. He and Hanna (as the Merry Widow is called) were lovers before she married the money. The trouble is, he spends his nights at axims being exhausted by can-can girls. Not that he'd complain. The pain wasn't nearly as bad as people think.
"Since you dumped me!" Lappalainen erupts, pointing her finger accusingly at her Danilo - Theodore Baerg, who has played this part at the New York City Opera and shrugs elaborately in return.
"She never let's me forget it," he replies.
"My job is to make fun of him," adds Lappalainen, still pointing the finger.
"And she's very successful at it," Baerg grins back.
The pair have just enjoyed great success in operetta's most popular work, Die Fledermaus, for San Fransisco Opera and they obviously have a fine rapport not to say a quiverful of retorts.
You can do an "operatic version" of The Merry Widow, but that does tend to make it dull. It must be as light and as vertical as champagne bubbles rising in an elegant glass.
But what about this dialogue stuff? There is no speaking as such in opera. The plot is moved forward in the sing-
song chant of recitative between the great arias. Is it awkward for a singer to transpose from singing to speaking and back?
"No," says Lappalainen. "Because it is this different (lighter) kind of technique for the singing right away. It is all
about the text and the words, making a story. The only real transition, but it works perfectly for the audience, is
having the dialogue in English and the singing done in German.
It is like a musical.
"A European muscial," adds Baerg. "A lot of the numbers in this piece I speak half a line and finish singing it
because the emotions get so big, the 50-piece orchestra miraculously appears and you break into song. It really is European musical theatre."
It is a subtle difference.
Baerg explains that there are moments of really nice song, but not moments of really great singing. It is a distinction more apparent to singers than their audiences.
Even the Widow's most famous song Vilja, isn't "an aria" to Lappalainen.
"It is just a little story she tells and takes personally because she thinks of Danilo. It is just a pretty melody.
I wouldn't even cmpare it to grand opera. That's about singing," says Lappalainen.
"The Merry Widow is about character, the story, the dancing, everything. If I used the voice I'd use for Senta in Wagner's Flying Dutchman, it'd be a joke."
The dancing is big in this production and while director Brian Deedrick is not exactly making his Widow a dancing
fool, she is going to join the girls at Maxims for a spirited can-can.
She is dterminded to break through Danilo's pretense of indifference and this is how.
Lappalainen is a beauty.
She is one of the opera world's most sought after Salomes - she of the shedding seven veils. And Lappalainen shedding veils must be quite something to experience.
"If I was John the Baptist and she was dancing, I'd just say to herL 'Do your thing," quips Baerg.
I can't wait to see her can-can.
That's the hard part of this production for her.
"Remembering all my choreography, all my steps!" she laughs.
The hard thing is pulling the whole product together in such a short time," says Baerg and that they happily lay at
the feet of director Deedrick.
While the pair have romped together though Die Fledermaus to great acclaim and have done Merry Widows all over, this is the first time they've faced each other as Hanna and Danilo.
"And that's a good thing," Baerg thinks.
"We have no preconceptions about each other in these roles and that makes a lot of our reactions to each other spontaneous. And that sontaneity and surprise will stay that way even up to the last performance."
It is working wonderfully in rehearsal, they report.
Lappalainen is happy to be back with Opera Hamilton.
It's been five years since she starred in La Boheme. She debuted in Hamilton in Madama Butterfly, did a really memorable Lucia di Lammermoor - her mad scene was scary - and now is back.
"I didn't expect to come back in The Merry Widow," she confesses.
OK. So when is Opera Hamilton planning to do Salome?


Click on the article image thumbnail to view full size version
Merry Widow's Fortune promo clip

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Stage Door.com, oldest theatre review website in Ontario, Canada
2001-05-17

by Franz Lehar, directed by Brian Deedrick
Opera Ontario, Hamilton Place, Hamilton

Ontario's "The Merry Widow" is a winner. It's the kind of evening in the theatre that has a great start and just gets better and better. The love of the cast and musicians for this operetta pervades every aspect of the performance from first to last.
"The Merry Widow" ("Die lustige Witwe" in German) has been one of the world's most popular operettas since it premièred in Vienna in 1905. Its music is of such a high order of invention that it has become one of a handful of operettas to join the repertory of the world's great opera houses. Like "Die Fledermaus", "The Merry Widow" is set in the contemporary world of its creators which it has since come to immortalize--1870s Vienna in "Die Fledermaus" and Paris at the turn of the last century in "The Merry Widow".
The operetta begins in a whirl of activity in Paris at the embassy of the tiny fictional country of Pontevedro. Hanna Glawari, the young widow of the wealthiest man in the country, is in town and it is of vital importance to Baron Zeta and the embassy clerk that she marry another Pontevedrian as soon as possible--and not one of the score of Parisians pursuing her--so that her millions will not leave the country and bankrupt it. Unfortunately, Danilo Danilovich, the most eligible Pontevedrian in Paris wastes his affection on the "grisettes" of Maxim's and his money on gambling. He also has an aversion to Hanna since she spurned his love when they were young. In the deliciously laxity of Paris where marriage vows are meant to be broken, the baron's own wife is having an affair with a Frenchman which his own bumbling prevents him from discovering. Whether Hanna and Danilo will ever get together and whether Valencienne and Camille will be found out are the twin threads that lead us through Lehár's incomparably melodic score.
This production is so successful because all of its elements are in harmony with the work and with each other. Canadian director Brian Deedrick, unlike so many who approach comic opera, has wisely decided that the work is funny enough on its own without added gimmicks, gags or updating. He directs the operetta with the same attention to detail and character as if it were a comic play where the cast just happens to break into song and dance. Scene after scene is staged to heighten the dramatic impact of the work, whether it is Hanna's entrance tossing banknotes at her money-hungry admirers or the non-singing scene of Act 2 when a waltz offstage subtly rekindles Hanna's and Danilo's memories of love. The vitality that courses through the stage action is matched by the taut conducting of the young American Alexander Frey. At every turn he chooses the perfect tempo and leads the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony to play this familiar music with such freshness that it sounds newly minted. There is so much dance in this operetta that Allison Grant's choreography shares equally in its success. Whether it is the many expected waltzes, the series Pontevedrian national dances, the boisterous can-can of Act 3 or the hilarious routines for the men in "Ja, das Studium der Weiber ist schwer", her work, like Deedrick's and Frey's, is always imaginative and elegant.
Opera Ontario has borrowed a beautiful Art Nouveau-inspired set from Virginia Opera and rented an exquisite set of costumes. Stephen Ross's lighting so blends the set and costumes you would not know they were from different sources. He creates an especially lovely mood of nostalgia in the garden scene of Act 2.
The all-Canadian cast is well-attuned to the Viennese style. Theodore Baerg more fully characterizes the rakish Danilo than I've seen before. He makes clear that Danilo's life of pleasure is really an attempt to distract himself from love lost as he makes clear in his increasingly bitter reprise of "Da geh ich zu Maxim" in Act 2. His strong, ringing baritone and intelligent phrasing ideally suit the suaveness of his character. In the title role Eilana Lappalainen, a fine actress, gives us a Hanna by turns elegant, folksy, sentimental and wild. She certainly must be one of the few opera singers who can hold her own in a can-can line! The "Vilja-Lied" in Act 2 is her finest moment. In secondary roles, Liesel Fedkenheuer, fresh from the COC Ensemble, gives a vocally and dramatically assured performance that makes Valencienne's vacillating scruples about her affair both comic and believable. Kurt Lehmann's Camille de Rosillon is not quite up her level, pleasant but not as powerful of voice and not making enough of the comedy or romance of his role. The comic roles of the pompous Baron Zeta and the harried clerk Njegus are played to the hilt by Gregory Cross and Jim White. Their interactions are laugh-out-loud funny. White even has the chance to display his dancing skills familiar from his many Stratford appearances. Hugues Saint-Gelais and André Clouthier are Danilo's ineffectual Parisian rivals, with Clouthier making the more positive impression. The contribution of the chorus and dancers is excellent.
Deedrick has made the right decision in having the large swathes of dialogue that set up the action played in English while the classic songs are sung in German. It is one of the peculiarities of the perceived split between "popular" and "high" culture that the top price tickets for this eminently accessible, highly entertaining operetta with a cast of - and with - musicians in the pit should cost less that the equivalent ticket for a big musical in Toronto or Stratford with fewer personnel on stage and with at most 15 amplified musicians. If this "Merry Widow" had a longer run, I would not hesitate recommending it to people for their first opera. They would find that it is not as alien as they might suppose. Now that the Canadian Opera Company has moved into more abstruse repertoire, I am glad to see a company like Opera Ontario picking up the kind of large-scale operetta that the COC has seemingly abandoned. In future, I hope we see more of Johann Strauss, Franz Lehár and even Emmerich Kálmán in Hamilton and Kitchener. For, a production like this where all the elements come together can truly raise one's spirits. At the end of the show when the audience is showered from above with Pontevedrian banknotes, it suddenly seemed like New Year's Eve in May.

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OPERA-L Archives
Thu, 17 Oct 2002


A Wilde Salome at NYCO
After the recent Elektra for the Prozac Generation at the Met, it was a relief to see a NYCO Salome performance that churned up emotions. Frankly, that's why I attend opera: to have my emotions churned --whether it's a stirring Salome or well-sung Cenerentola -- opera lays emotions out on the table and makes one confront things you can't/don't deal with in your mundane ordinary life. If an opera does not move, there is no reason for its being.
Perhaps I've been watching Oprah too religiously lately, but tonight's performance was the first time that Salome's misogynism offended me. Upon reflection, I think it may be the most misogynistic opera out there. In other misogynistic operas, there is usually a "good woman" to counterbalance the bad. However, in Salome, there is only the heroine and her mother and they are denigrated constantly. Only the men are sympathetic. It troubled me that Oscar Wilde, a homosexual, would write such a misogynistic play. However, then I realized that most operas based on Biblical themes are misogynistic. Hmmm, perhaps God is a misogynist? But why should she be? {smirk}
Misogynism aside, tonight's Salome was cookin. I don't read every post on Opera-L, I admit, but the general sense of Salome reviews seemed to be negative. As usual, I seem to inahabit the bizarro universe of opera performances --I like the ones everyone hates, hate the ones everyone raves over. Be that as it may, in my universe tonight, conductor George Manahan conducted an agitated Salome whose only fault was that the orchestra's loudness overwhelmed the soloists more than occasionally.
No, that wasn't a crazy Sarah Brightman (isn't that redundant?) on stage....it was Eilana Lappalainen being demented as Salome. I'm sure Lappalainen's performance would have been even more effective had Maestro Manahan turned down the volume a notch or two.Lappalainen is an attractive stage presence and moving actress. Lappalainen even did her own, very energetic, dance. I realized that sopranos who perform their own dance, especially one as "moving" as Lappalainen's, must have a hard time vocally after it. Surely, the dance must wear them out physically and they still have the soprano's showcase to sing! Also, Lappalainen's revelry with Herod's head bordered on the filthy -- I loved it.
Former NYCO diva Linda Rourk-Strummer, resembling Better Davis in the Little Foxes, was a formidable and excellent Herodias. Richard Berkeley-Steele, often overwhelmed by the orchestra,was a suave, sympathetic Herod. Kelly Anderson was a virile Jochanaan. Brandon Jovanovich was ardently touching as Narraboth.
Alas, the only performance left is Sunday afternoon.
So....could anyone who does NYCO Standing Room explain its logistics to me?? Doesn't it conflict with the Met standing room experience.

Roy Wood

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CLASSICAL Archives
Sun, 21 Oct 2001


Salome in Ottawa

I've just returned home from a wonderful Salome. Opera Lyra Ottawa is presenting one of the best Salomes I've ever seen. Central to the production's success, though by no means the only reason for it, is soprano Eilana Lappalainen, who has the title character down cold in a way that I've never seen quite matched.
Yet I was a little disappointed in one sense. When I saw her do Salome two years ago in Montreal, she did much of the dance naked (actually in a transparent body suit) and her sexual frustrations were portrayed in ways that were scarcely less than pornographic. The Montreal critics, in fact, called it pornographic, but not disapprovingly. In Ottawa, she was only naked for a fraction of a second, and her demeanor above the cistern was relatively chaste. For me this weekened the total effect of her portrayal which remained, however, very strong indeed.
I'd be interested to hear from other listers what you've seen in terms of nudity and sexual explicitness in this opera, and to what extent you think such things are desirable or even essential.
And if you happen to be in or near Ottawa, read my review in the Citizen tomorrow morning, especially the last three words: Don't miss it.

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The Montreal Gazette
September 9, 1999

Donna Nebenzahl
You've got to be physically fit to sing the role of Salome - and do the Dance of the Seven Veils - in Richard Strauss's opera of the same name, says diva Eilana Lappalainen.

Standing up for Salome: Opera's bad-girl heroine demanded prophet's head
on platter

I'm in a basement rehearsal room at Place des Arts. The floor is marked with white tape. On a strange granite
square (I find out later it represents the grate above a prison cell), lies a blonde woman dressed all in black, looking tortured. She is Salome, and her role in this Richard Strauss opera is part seductress, part madwoman.
Across the room, a bunch of men stand along the wall. At the piano, a tall man conducts the choppy, tough music. Then, at some invisible cue, everyone moves into place - young, not-so-young, in jeans, T-shirts, shorts. Huge
voices emanate. They sing in German and the blonde silently writhes on top of the granite chamber.
A fellow with a golden goblet has fallen to the floor. Another with a huge spear, T-shirt and Doc Martens crosses the room to sing out at him. Now the blonde is standing, moving. The guy with the goblet is clearly singing to her but
she just sits on the floor, now in centre stage, looking pensive. He sings over her. His huge voice comes pouring out.
He's begging her, he even offers her fruit, but she's having none of it. Another woman, looking angry, begins ro sing. Then a guy sitting near me in a blue shirt begins to sing in a beautiful clear baritone.
This is amazing. At such close quarters it really hits home how much energy it takes to act and sing at the same time.
Salome is still hovering around the cell. She's wearing very tight pants and a cinched belt, her fine long blond hair pulled back. She's seductive, and she has a really big voice. A bunch of guys with scrolls come out and sing one by one. The baritone - turns out he's the ill-famed John the Baptist - is now getting lots of attention. Then the two
women are eyeballing each other. The music swells.
I spend a few days mulling over the Intensity of this art. Opera singers' finely honed voices must be matched by the ability to act out a part while singing in German or Italian. These stories are usually passionate or tragic, which
means alot of acting to match the singing. No easy feat.
Strauss's Salome is considered a particularly demanding part because both singing and acting are so intense.
She's one of opera's "bad girls," and it helps if she's physically attractive. She performs the "dance of the seven veils" for her lusting stepfather, who then must give her the head of John the Baptist. This Salome, Canadian-Finnish-
American soprano Eilana Lappalainen, believes the bad girl is really the product of an immoral environment.
We're talking over coffee in the Place des Arts complex. Lappalainen is in brown today - smart suit with brass
buttons, brown silk camisole. Her silky blonde hair is combed loose, the nails of her beringed fingers are unpainted.
Salome, she argues, is not who people think. "They see just the superficial aspects, like the dance and stripping," she says earnestly. "It's not about stripping. She's a virgin, totally innocent; she's beautiful and has to deal with bad things about her. Her stepfather desires her, her mother sleeps around, and she knows all this.
"Then John the Baptist shows up and talks about her mother's behaviour. And at first she's proud; she doesn't even know good from bad! But she's afraid of the stepfather and he's afraid of John the Baptist. And she wants power..."
"The dance is a way for her to find her own strength."
Now Salome, who has always been admired for her beauty and status, says to John's head: "How come you never looked at me? If you would have looked at me, you would have loved me as well."
Lappalainen shakes her head, "I think that's so sad."
This is a physical role, and the singer's good looks and fitness - she works out regularly - help her on stage. "Usually you don't have to go that far in movement when you're doing a role," she says. But Salome's dance of the seven veils takes about 12 minutes, then "one page later, she has to sing the most demanding arts."
Lappalainen, 32, holds a full-time position at Dessau Opera in Germany, where she works intermittently for a total of four months a year. Then, like all opera singers, she goes on the road. Since her apprenticeship at the Opera San Jose under Irene Dalis when she was in her 20's, a season means about four roles a year.


Voice is a gift that needs to be cultivated, diva says

Last year, she found herself with about eight, "then I told myself, Relax, darling, what are you doing that for?"
She has given much thought to the development of her art. "In my path, I got sidetracked,: she says. "In California,
we never did German repertoire; I was doing Verdi and Puccini. I was trying to focus, to find out where I was best for my level. Then I moved to Germany - Strauss and Wagner are now in my repertoire. It's like starting all over, nut not erasing the past."
Lappalainen says she had wanted to sing since she was a little girl. She performed in all the musicals, anything that had high notes, she says, although it wasn't cool to have such a high voice. The at age 16, she heard a recording of Samson and Delilaj, "I just cried. I had never seen an opera, but soon was attending opera workshops. When I heard that opera, I found myself."
What does singing demand? "An inner strength, to be prepared mentally and physically, "she says. And an ability to analuze. She tells me that great lasy she once met advised her, "Don't make the same mistakes twice."
In such a competitive world, Lappalainen takes a philosophical approach. "Everyone has their time somehow," she says. "It might happen to you and be your destiny.
I'm not going for the spotlight. I'm going there to find myself. I'm not competing, I'm learning."
I ask about the spriritual theme that seems to run through her descriptions. "I feel there's something so special about an opera voice that it has to be a gift, "she says finally. "How does one know, at age 13? It's important to take responsibility for a God-given gift and make it best.
"That is my mission. All I can do is be the best I can."
I arrive at Place des Arts on opening night of Salome, feeling anxious for Lappalanein. This type of life, it's about love of the art, she had told me earlier. So true.
From my vantage point, the stage looks absurdly close to the audience, especially since the opera company is performing just above the orchestra pit, with the orchestra on stage behind them. Something to do with the strike that's now on and how much management can move stuff around.
All those T-shirts and shorts have become beautiful silk robes and chiffon gowns. Lappalainen has turned into a dark-haired coquette, who delivers in song a strange, plaintive need for this man, the doomed John.
It's a demanding opera, of all of them, but nothing is so amazing or shocking as the dance. She reminds me of Jean Simmons in one of those Egyptian-era movies, all draped in white tulle and she's more then fit, she can actually dance. And when she disrobes (except for the thong), we're all kind of breathless. The final scene of her madness is pure tragedy, and then it's over.
A demanding life, a great gift. Her reward: a standing ovation.


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The National Post
Thursday, September 16, 1999

The soprano singing in Montreal thinks that, underneath, the femme fatale was on of life's victims
Stripping away the veils from Salome
The fact that soprano Eilana Lappalainen is making her Montreal debut in the title role of Strauss' Salome invites several assumptions. Big voice, for a start. Quite probably a big frame, too (many is the time that a heavyweight Salome has waddled behind a piece of scenery, to emerge on the other side as a sylph-like substitute employed
just to execute the Dance of the Seven Veils). A repertoire bordered on one side by Turandot and on the other by Brünnhilde.
Wrong on almost every count. A glance at the Toronto-born soprano's resumé shows that she conforms to no stereotype. The roles she's taken so far suggest prodigious versatality: Rosalinda in Die Fledermorus; Micaëla in Carmen, Lulu, Lucia, Tosca, Jenufa, Arabella, Butterfly...
"It's always kind of been that her repertoire centralized amlittle after she dropped the coquettish "inas" - Rosina, Zerlina, Despina - that are the traditional lot of young soprano. "At first I didn't know what direction I should be going
in and my mentor [Irene Dalis of Opera San Josë] whom I met when I was 16 or 17, tried to help me find my
right way. Eventually I got a group of things that kind of matched together. I still like the idea of being challenged, of putting my expectations a little further. It keeps me interested in the business."
You can't sing Richard Strauss with a narrow set of pipes, however. "I don't think it was ever a little voice," she
agrees. "But it's very clear I'm not a dramatic soprano. So I might sing bigger roles, but in a lighter way. A lyric way.
I don't have to fool myself or anybody else. It's much easier that way."
The importance of being just herself is a recurring theme in Lappalainen's conversation, whether she's discussing the way she approaches her profession or her origins. The 32-year-old soprano has been variously billed as Canadian, Californian, Finnish and all hyphenated combinations. So what's going on?
"Oh, it's so confusing," she admits with a laugh. "I was born in Toronto. The truth is, by descent I'm Finnish. My parents met in Toronto, at a Finnish dance, when they were very young. They'd immigrated here – they didn't speak any English at all.
"They got married, had four children, and then we moved back to Finland. I was about three years old. We stayed there for a bit, then came back to Toronto and eventually moved to California. I feel that there's a side of me from
each place, but my true heritage is Finnish." Diplomatically, she adds: "But the thing to be proud of is that I was
born in Toronto."
Hamilton has been important to her, too. She made her Canadian debut there, almost immediately after emerging
from under the wing of Dalis. "I sang Butterfly and Lucia de Lammermor. This was where I was really doing different types of repertoire at the same time. I don't sing Lucia any more. But at that time, what interested me was the mad scene – the acting thing. Falling off tables, having everyone gasp, was the ultimate! It made me really happy."
"The acting thing" is at the heart of Lappalainen's approach to Salome. She first sang the role in Dessau, Germany. "That's not the music capital of the world, but I was there because of musik theater, a concept that was born in Germany. It's all about movement, like a Stanislavsky workshop. It's about singing and acting as one."
Based on Wilde's play, Strauss' 1905 opera is a study in fevered psychology. The adolescent Salome, stepdaughter
of King Herod, is lusted over by everyone except the imprisoned John the Baptist. In return for performing a
striptease at the request of Herod, she demands the severed head of the Baptist. She serenades the gruesome object, then kisses it, whereupon the revulsed Herod orders his soldiers to crush Salome beneath their shields.
It's a small wonder that the opera ran into censorship problems from the start. Apart from the Baptist, it's hard to
find a character with any redeeming features. To play Salome, however – and remain true to that principle of "singing and acting as one" – Lappalainen has to understand the girl's motivation.
She's a victim," she says unequivocally. "Because I think the mother is the really evil one. Trying to bring my own logic into the situation, I feel that Salome is a young girl exposed to awful things. Through thin walls, curtains – let's say veils – she can hear everything. The mother is sleeping with everyone – she's really the sexual one.
"Salome is a reflection of the mother's wishes. She's learned from her. She has been shown a really bad example.
It comes out naturally in her, but in an innocent way. She doesn't know what she's asking for.
"Also, I think there's a real psychological situation happening with incest, with her stepfather. It's not explicit in the text, but I feel that the dance, when she strips the seven veils – that's when she loses her virginity. She has not
slept with the father. Although he has not done anything physically, he's thoroughly lustful towards her. It's so disgusting that she feels abused and doesn't know how to handle it. Asking for the head of Jokanaan [John] is
the only way she can have power over this man who is trying to have power over her."
Lappalainen accepts that this is a very 1990s interpretation, but from the point of view of a singer taking on the role,
it is has validity. "I think everyone singing roles like Salome or Lulni…I mean, I'm just a normal person. I don't go do things like this. Even though some people would call these characters 'bad girls', I try to find the innocence.
Because I believe every human being comes from good. They're not born bad. There are situations that bring them to that state."
Strauss' Salome has had almost a century of interpretations, with the scales tipping more toward middle-aged Valkyries than the "16-year-old Isolde" the composer dreamed would one day sing the role. The physically and
vocally shapely Lappalainen will help redress the balance.
She is not the first soprano to emphasize the lyric qualities of the part – Montserrat Cabaile recorded a memorable interpretation with the co-operation of conductor Erich Leinsdorf, and Lappalainen jokingly hopes that her maestro in Montreal will notice the number of piano markings in the score.
One thing is certain: She'll not be imitating anyone. "I remember my first Salome. Gwyneth Jones at San Francisco Opera. I was a student and I took standing room. I just thought, wow, what a voice. So big. I'd never heard anything like it in my life. But I also said to myself that I was going to sing this role. I knew I could never be like her.
But I knew I could do that, somehow. All we can do is find out what we do best and see if other people like it, too."


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On Stage
Opera Canada - Fall 1999

Dramatic Soprano Eilana Lappalainen elishes the Challenge of Bringing Strong Women to Muscial Life by Alan Horgan
Soprano Eilana Lappalainen is little known at home. The young diva, currently under contract in Dessau, returns to Canada on September 18 for a rare appearance here - her Montreal debut as Salome.
Born in Toronto (she laughingly refuses to give a date), Lappalainen grew up in Tampere, Finland, and then San Jose, Ca. She was a musically talented teenager and says she "had to choose between being a section violin in the pit or a leading lady on stage." Her music teacher gave her some arias to learn, and an audition was arranged with famed mezzo Irene Dalis, who later became Lappalainen's mentor. In preparation for the occasion, Lappalainen listened to a recording of Christa Ludwig singing "Mon coceur s'oeuver à ta voix" from Samson et Salila. "I started crying, and said, 'Mom, this is what I'm supposed to do.'"
Lappalainen still clearly remembers her audition. "I went to Dalia's house and, even though I wasn't mezzo, I sang the Samson et Dalila aria. Dalis said, "Honey, don't sing this till you sound like this.' Then she sang a few phrases back to me. It wasthe first time I actually heard an operatic voice live."
Immediately following high school, she entered California State University at San Jose, where she graduated with a degree in vocal performance. She had already, at 17, joined the fledgling San Jose Opera Company, where she was eventually to take 30 leading roles. Her official debut was as Adèle in Die Fledermaus, followed by Violetta in La Traviata and Madama Butterfly. "I didn't even know Butterfly was difficult. The hard thing was learning the Italian - notes and stamina were not the issue. What hurt the most was when people tried to frighten me, saying it was dangerous to be singing heavy roles like Butterfly at such an early age." Lappalainen backtracked, and undertook soubrette roles for awhile. "I did 'ina' roles," she says, "Adina, Norina, Rosina, Rita Patané, who coached me in New York, said, "This is not good for you. You're doing this to fit in but you're not being yourself.'"
In 1989, Lappalainen became principal artist in residence at San Jose. In 1992, she decided to move to Europe, and for the past four seasons, has sang mainly in Dessau, with additional engagements in Essen, Halle, Bielefeld, Berlin, Trieste, Paris and Helsinki.
Lappalainen describes Salome as the perfect vehicle for her. Pacing presents no problem. "My first production was with Johannes Felsenstein in Dessau, and he was really tough. I had to run, sing and so fourth. Now, if I run out of breath, I go work out at the gym. It doesn't scare me. It's the difficulty that thrills me. I like the pressure." Of the Dance of the Seven Veils, during which she removes everything, Lappalainen explains, "At first I refused, because this is not the subject of "Salome. It's not the reason I do the part. I went through a eprsonal questioning: Eilana versus Salome. It was difficult, but on stage I'm not Eilana, I'm the character."
Among her 40 roles, which range from lyric coloratura through to dramatic, Lappalainen singles out Salome, Arabella, Tosca and Butterfly as favorites. "I like to play strong, complicated women. Of course, I do consider vocal considerations were the stratospheric passages in Berg's Lulu, which she performed in San Fransisco in 1998. "In this score, there are both higher and lower options, but it's a matter of taste and what the conductor wants. I discussed it with Teresa Stratas, who at one point in the second act, said, 'Here you should take the higher passage and it went very well. I was really happy."
To decide if a role is right, Lappalainen looks first at the dramatic side. "My challenge is to look it, sing it and act it. I'm interested in the combination. When it comes to stage business, I'm not afraid of heights or jumping. After I work something out, I do it the same every night. To make it fresh and natural each time - that's the challenge."
Lappalainen is outspoken about bizarre and avante garde productions. "I've been fortunate not to have too many of them. Although I'm open to modern productions, everything has to be logical. It has to fit the character and text. I have to believe the character myself before I can sell it to the audience. For my first Maraschallin, in Dessau during the 1989/99 season, I was asked to be in my underwear and I refused. No one wants to see the Marschallin in underwear! It's total nonsense."
Lappalainen's previous Canadian appearances include a Roy Thomson Hall opera gala in Toronto and 1996 performances as Moni in Hamilton and Lucia in Ottawa, Expatriate, but strongly nationalistic, she declares, "Sometimes it's forgotten I'm Finnish-Canadian. When I sang in Toronto, I thought, 'Oh my God, I was born here!' I hope that I can sing there again some day.
"It's like my life - overall, I try to achieve a balance. Being a good person is very important too. Happy singers make happy high notes!"


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WestSide
March 14, 2001

Soviero triumphs in OdM's lavish Mefistofele by Myron Galloway
For a critic to focus on the triumphs of a singer or actor in an opera often suggests that the rest of the production is medoicre.
To point out soprano Diana Soviero's unique triumph in L'Opóra de Montróal's current million-dollar production of Arrigo Boit's Mefistofele, which opened last Saturday at Place des Arts, is high praise indeed because the production is a veritable knockout.
It has an outstanding cast of singers, a sensational chorus, and overpowering sets and costumes created by New York designer Allen Charles Klein (influenced by the paintings of Hubert Van Eyck and Pieter Brueghel).
Its vocal and visual attributes are further enhanced by a magnificant rendering of Boito's exquisite score by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under the inspired direction of Italian conductor Edoardo Muller, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin responsible for the impecable work of the chorus, and Bernard Uzan, free from the responsibilities of administering the company, outdoing himself in his direction of the enormously complex action on stage.
It is all of this that Madame Soviero triumphs over in her relatively brief appearances as Margherita. Long after this ultra lavish production has slipped into the background of one's memory. Soviero's prison cell and mad scene and her heartbreakingly beautiful solo leading into her duet with Antonio Nagore as Faust, will not be forgotten.
While I certainly do not hesitate to recommend this Mefistofele as a triumph for the company itself, this does not mean it is without minor imperfections.
The showstopping star of this retelling of teh Faust legend should be the bass who sings Mefistofele. The Italian bass Andrea Papi is still ridiculously young, but for his age he is surprisingly a well-seasoned and gifted vocalist. If he is not yet capable of sending chills down listeners spines and reaching the depths of Samuel Ramey, that will undoubtedly come with age and a little more experience.
Antoni Magore has a powerful, well-focused tenor that is a joy to hear. His problem is that his acting fails to convince us he is emotionally involved with anyone else on stage. A few acting lessons are all this intelligent artist needs to round out his performance as a whole.
The role of Helen of Troy is sung by the Canadian soprano Eilana Lappalainen (who was a sensation in the role of Salome with the OdM in 1999) but on opening night was somewhat less sensational as the Trojan temptress. This could have been a case of opening night nerves because we all know the voice is there. Those attending later perofrmances may be more enthusiastic.
Also deserving of high praise on a par with that of the soloists is the stunning beauty and power of the opera's choir, which is on stage throughout serving as a kind of Greek chorus, with the addition of an amazingly fine contribution by the chorus of youngsters located in the top row of tiers.
Uzan's direction is shamelessly daring with the stage teeming with seemingly dozens of naked male and female bodies throughout the sntire Witches' Sabbath scene madly cavorting about in pagan circles.
Klein's set design for the Helen of Troy scene, replete with lots of tiny Christmas tree lights strewn about the floor is not without elements of blatant kitsch.
But in a production of this magnitude these flaws are negligible. The action throughout is non-stop, the singing - especially when Madame Soviero is on stage - comes close to the miraculous, and the spectacle of the production as a whole is enough to make the jaw drop.
We don't get productions like this here often enough which is why this one, for lovers of opera, on no account should be missed.


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Statesman Journal LIFE
Friday, March 29, 1996

The full-throttle emotion of 'Jenufa'
Don't look for any laughs in Portland Opera's latest production, a work filled with anguish amid thunderous music.

by Ron Cowan
Portland - If you're looking for light and frivolous fun at the opera, you're probably not looking for "Jenufa," the Leos Janacek opera that opens Saturday at oPortland Civic Auditorium.
"They're aren't too many funny moments in this one," said mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, whose character turns the one cherry momont - a village celebration - into disaster in the Portland Opera production.
"Jenufa," a Czech work first produced in 1904, is a maelstrom of anguish, awash in twisted love, jealousy, murder, mutilation and even forgiveness, set to music that has been called volcanic.
Few operas have the full-throttle emotional power of "Jenufa (pronounced YENNOO-fa)," which is coming to be regarded as a 20th century classic - in spite of its relative unfamiliarity.
Forst, who first played the role of the stepmother, Kostelnicka, in a 1993 Vancouver, B.C., production, said, "They just get so wrought up. People weep in the audience.
"I loved it. I knew it was superb theater."
She also is an admirer of the music, which avoids the pitfalls of some 20th century work: "Big orchestrations, full playing but full of folk idioms. But it's not atonal. It's very accessible."
Soprano Eilana Lappalainen stars in the title role of a young peasant girl whose unwed prehancy in a remote 1890 Moravian village leaves her torn between two men, with her tormented stepmother deeply and tragically involved.
Lappalainen is a fan of the composer's theatricality.
"He was writing to imitate the human voice," she said. "I would think theater with this composer; it's so interwozen with his words."
Noth women go through immense emotional changes and trials in the story. Jenufa has fallen for a rich but unprincipled factory owner, Steva, played by Steven O'Mara, who gets her pregnant. But Steva's stepbrother, Laca, played by Quade Winter, loves her secretly.
Laca unwittingly mutilates Jenufa's face during a moment of emotional torment, and the situation turns even more twisted when Kostelnicka, a leader of the community, stoops to murdering Jenufa's newly born child to protect the girl's reputation.
"It's a really difficult situation," Lappalainen said. "What's wonderful is all these feelings and emotions come out through the music. I love this role because she evolves."
To Forst, one appeal of the piece is that it still speak's to current concerns, with realistic people coping with real situations.
"I think that there are a lot of situations in the world that deal in prejudice and hypocrisy," she said. "The good guy is not the guy everyone loved at the beginning."


Opera/The characters live

Stage director Johnathon Pape has wisely tacked into the realism of the people, even going so far as visiting Prague in Janacek's homeland.
"He really prepared intensely for this," Forst said. "He has wonderful eyes, wonderful ideas." "I find what he's done for this opera is not gimmicky. He's made these characters live."
She also credits conductor Carol Crawford as buying into the show's theatricality.
"You have to have a conductor who is theatrical, and Carol is," Forst said. "She's a woman conductor who knows her craft."
The production, which has costumes and sets from Dallas Opera, has stark, forbidding sets and a severly raked stage.
The language - the opera is sung in consonant-heavy Czech, with Supertext English titles - is another concern with those unfamilar with "Jenufa."
"The consonants are very liquid," Lappalainen said. "It's not choppy."


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LULU, Lulu

http://opera.stanford.edu, Monday, 08-Dec-2003
"Former San Jose diva Eilana Lappalainen plays operatic femme fatale

LULU
By Alban Berg
Presented by San Francisco Opera
At the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA
Conducted by Stefan Lano
Directed by Lotfi Mansouri
Reviewed by Judy Richter

San Francisco Opera's summer Femmes Fatales Festival presents a fascinating trio of women for whom men have an obsessive, often fatal attraction. Of the three -- Carmen in Bizet's Carmen, Poppea in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea and Lulu in Alban Berg's Lulu -- only Poppea survives. Carmen seemingly could escape death, but instead yields to what she sees as her fate. Lulu, too, seems destined for an unhappy demise, but in Lulu she might not have as much control as her two SFO sisters.
In Berg's libretto, based on two Frank Wedekind plays, Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, the amoral Lulu is a victim of her own nature -- a woman who is solely defined by men, named by them and almost totally dependent upon them for protection. Although she is the object of their adoration, she's incapable of truly loving any of them. In fact, she seems indifferent save for what they can do for her. SFO General Director Lotfi Mansouri's production stresses these aspects of her character, making for an intriguing evening of music-theater.
Soprano Eilana Lappalainen's performance supports this concept of Lulu. Sporting a Jean Harlow-like wig and wearing Bob Mackie's alluring costumes, she embodies the child-woman who's fully aware of her powers but perhaps unaware or unheeding of their destructiveness and probably powerless to be any different than she is. Of all the men who try to possess her, she seems to care for only two: Dr. Schön, her longtime protector; and Schigolch, the old man who serves as a father figure to her and the only man she's willing to help.
There are two genuinely decent people in her life: Alwa, Schön's son, who has loved her since childhood; and Countess Geschwitz, a lesbian who risks her life for Lulu's sake yet receives only shabby treatment in return. Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade is a magnificent Geschwitz. Eschewing any mannish mannerisms, she makes the countess a noble, sympathetic character. Von Stade's legendary voice maintains its luster, its mesmerizing musicality.
Although no one else in the cast has her star power, everyone performs well. Lappalainen handles her vocally and dramatically taxing role with skill. Although her singing may not be as spectacular as that of her SFO predecessor, Ann Panagulias, who created such a sensation in Mansouri's 1989 production, her singing seems more effortless. Hence Lappalainen seems freer to concentrate on dramatic subtleties.
Baritone Tom Fox as Schön, tenor Christopher Lincoln as Alwa and bass Franz Mazura as Schigolch all create strong portraits of their characters, as does baritone David Okerlund as the Acrobat, one of Lulu's less scrupulous admirers. Okerlund also is an imposing Animal Trainer as he introduces the characters and compares them to animals in a circus.
Günther Schneider-Siemssen's set design reinforces the circus atmosphere with its ropes and cages. Costumes by the aforementioned Mackie also make a strong contribution, along with Michael Whitfield's lighting design. Conductor Stefan Lano, in his SFO debut, skillfully guides the orchestra and singers through Berg's complex, 12-note, atonal score, helping the audience to appreciate the work's artistry.
Special mention goes to the filmed interlude between the two scenes of Act 2. Depicting the events that follow Lulu's killing Schön, it is a virtual reality production produced and directed by Linda Schaller and devised by Tim Schaller in association with a team of artists. It, too, enhances the production.


Metroactive, San Jose, June 4-10, 1998
"Former San Jose diva Eilana Lappalainen plays operatic femme fatale
By Michael J. Vaughn
THE ONE SINGER most likely to graduate from Opera San José's first decade to become an international star had to be soprano Eilana Lappalainen. Blessed with striking good looks, natural stage presence, a huge voice and a name better sung than spoken (ay-LAW-nah LOP-puh-LIE-nen, 3/4 time, allegro), the Finnish girl from Toronto was headed places from the beginning.
Lappalainen returns to the Bay Area this month as an officially proclaimed femme fatale, playing Alban Berg's Lulu in San Francisco Opera's Femmes Fatales Festival. The performance also marks her debut in the hallowed confines of the War Memorial Opera House, which was still being renovated when she appeared with San Francisco Opera in 1996, singing Rosalinda in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus at the Civic Auditorium.
"The Femmes Fatale thing is rather interesting," says Lappalainen, seated at the southernmost of a hundred tables in the War Memorial's cavernous buffet room. "I have Bob Mackie designing my costumes! I went down to the shop the other day for a fitting, and I came out as Jean Harlow."
When asked about her own femme fatale-ity, the former Miss Santa Clara County breaks into her running theme: It's all about the work. "People see something from a distance--and a lot of people never traveled anywhere in the world--so yes, being an international opera singer is a little exotic," she says. "I'm not going to change their perception for them. But I've never tried to be anything other than what I am. I focus on my work. If I didn't sing Lulu, then Bob Mackie wouldn't be making my dresses."
The story goes that sometime in the late '70s, mezzo-soprano Irene Dalis, recently retired from the Metropolitan Opera, was invited to a colleague's house to hear a pretty 16-year-old blonde from San Jose's Leland High School. The girl sang an aria from Saint-Saëns' Samson et Delila. Dalis immediately called voice teacher (and future Opera San José music director) David Rohrbaugh and said, "I want you to hear someone." So when did Dalis know that Lappalainen was going to be a star?
"Almost from day one," Dalis replies. "She had so many qualities that you can't teach. She's a singing actress; she has that innate ability to make direct contact with the audience. What she had besides was total commitment. She could make music out of anything, and she's the type that is never satisfied with herself."
Dalis' San Jose State University Opera Workshop evolved into Opera San José in 1984, and four years later, Lappalainen became, with baritone Douglas Nagel, one of Opera San José's first resident artists. During the next four seasons, the soprano sang a remarkable 16 roles, and became San Jose's second diva.
San Jose's first diva is careful not to take too much credit, however, for her student's subsequent success. "We sent her out into the world with a lot of tools," says Dalis. "She is, however, the kind of performer who was going to make it with us or without us. I've told her over and over, 'Eilana, you're going to be our claim to fame.' "
WHEN HER RESIDENCY ended in 1992, Lappalainen headed for Mexico City, where she played Cio-Cio-San in Puccini's Madama Butterfly and camped out in Maria Callas' old dressing room. The years since have included performances in the U.S., Canada, Finland, Poland and Germany, where she currently resides outside Berlin and performs with the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau.
For a hard-working, challenge-driven soprano, nothing could be finer than Lulu. Berg's opera is written with Arnold Schoenberg's infamous 12-tone row, which throws out standard scales, allows equal weight to all 12 tones within an octave--and gives singers migraines. The opera also demands that the prima donna remain onstage for most of its nearly four-hour length.
"I'll never sing anything more difficult than this," says Lappalainen, pulling a prerehearsal diet soda out of her bag and offering me half. Then she chuckles. "She sings duets with everyone, because they're all her lovers. And even when I have a break, it's not a break--it's a costume change. There are 10 to 11 costume changes."
The light at the end of Lappalainen's tunnel is Lulu herself, whom she calls the most developed character she's ever performed. "They often make femmes fatales into bad women, but really they're just women who gain attraction. Lulu was an orphan, rescued from the streets at age 13, and she survived through the help of men. She didn't know what right and wrong were. These men around me love me, but they don't love me--they see an image. It's interesting, too, that each of her lovers calls her by a different name, but only she called herself Lulu. So who really cared about Lulu?""


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LA TRAVIATA, Violetta

Neue Zeit, Berlin
"With consummate intensity and fragile tenderness Eilana Lappalainen marks the drive for life and freedom of Violetta in Dessau's production of 'La Traviata'."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Lappalainen's voice is an elegant instrument of great musical and emotional flexibility, effortlessly tracing Verdi's highly decorative vocal lines, turning within a single phrase from bliss to desperation, from contemplation to artifice. Her performance of Violetta's 'Sempre libera' is an opera in itself."

San Jose Mercury News
"Eilana Lappalainen repeated her Violetta of June 1985 in OSJ's inaugural season, this time getting the over-singing and producing round, lovely pianissimi in the finale. Her coloratura is clear and her high C is tingling."

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MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Cio Cio San

The Spectator, Ontario
"EILANA'S BEAUTIFUL VOICE CAPTURES MADAMA BEST"
"EILANA LAPPALAINEN sings a Madama Butterfly that breaks your heart. Lappalainen was superb. Her voice was thrilling, she acted with total conviction and she looked marvellous. Her aria Un bel di stopped the show, of course, but there were many other less-heralded moments such as her high, pure pianissimo form way offstage that made the hair stand up on end."

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ARABELLA, Arabella

Wolfsburger Allgemeine
"In the title role was teh brilliant soprano Eilana Lappalainen with a wonderfully beautiful voice, immaculate technique and great strength of expression. She dominated the demanding role to perfection, with increasing intensity through to the final scene."

Wolfsburger Nachtrichten
"Eilana Lappalainen, an American (of Finnish descent) sang the title role, at one time sung with splendor by Lisa della Casa and Elisabeth Schwarzkpf, with pleasing nuance with this important atmospheric vical work. In a beautiful cultivated mezza-voce, her young dramatic voice rang forth in the duet 'Und du sollst mein Gebieter sein."

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PAGLIACCI, Nedda

Tiempo Libre, Mexico City
"In I Pagliacci, soprano Eilana Lappalainen's singing filled the auditorium with her stupendous Nedda in which her voice was potent and very beautiful."

El Nacional, Mexico City
"Similarly, soprano Eilana Lappalainen as Nedda, possessed excellent diction and acting abilities, we had seen her earlier in the difficult role of Madama Butterfly where she was victorious. These two sopranos (Sharon Graham) possessed the best voices in the production."

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LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Lucia

San Jose Metro
"Opera San José's Lucia di Lammermoor breathes abundant life into this time-honored repertoire...bolstered with acting and ensemble work of an especially high order. Nowhere is this excellence more evident than in Eilana Lappalainen's portrayal of Lucia, a consummate grafting of character nuance and sterling vocalism. From her entrance as a starry-eyed ingenue, secretly engaged to the dashing Edgardo, to her disintegration into a delirious newlywed, Lappalainen's transformation maintains absolute emotional integrity."

San Fransisco Examiner
"Lappalainen's timbre is bright and appealing, and she evinces no trouble in soaring through the stratospheric demands of the Mad Scene."

San Jose Mercury News
"The sparks flew and crackled Saturday night in one of Opera San José's most intensely theatrical productions...lyric soprano Eilana Lappalainen negotiated all the high notes and coloratura effectively and showed promise of growing into that challenging Mad Scene, too. This role plumbs her versatality, plunging the listener into that gaunt tradegy right from her spellbinding, many-faceted Regnava nell silenzio."

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LA BOHEME, Mimi

San Fransisco Chronicle
"Eilana Lappalainen, as Mimi, provided a powerful, clear soprano, steady of pitch and incisively produced...for the emotionally crucial third act she was able to provide a musical portrait of the heroine that was both gentle and assertive...her final demise was enormously affecting."

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CARMEN, Micaela

The Virginian Pilot
"The most memorable singer was soprano Eilana Lappalainen, who gave the country girl Micaela a large, warm voice with ample vibrato and true intonation."

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LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Countess Almaviva

San Jose Mercury News
"As usual, Eilana Lappalainen was teh best thing on stage. Herbeautiful voice and her classic stage presence make her the star no matter what role she fills. Lappalainen is the jewel in Opera San José's crown."

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TOSCA, Tosca

Opera News
"The gripping opening-night performance in the city's intimate Montgomery Theater, drew the audiance into the unfolding tragedy. The first of two alternating casts featured Eilana Lappalainen, a darting flame of a Tosca, with a soaring dramatic soprano in search of a larger hall."

San Fransisco Chronicle
"Tosca had a great success at Saturday's opening...Eilana Lappalainen had the fire and notes for the role, and she certainly is the prettiest Tosca to come down the pike in a long time."

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LES PECHEURS DE PERLES, Leïla

San Francisco Examiner
"Soprano Eilana Lappalainen brought a sumptuous, well-schooled voice to the character of Leïla, the priestess at the apex of the triangle. Her rich tone, smooth legato and agile coloratura conspired to make some enchanting singing, and she distinguished herself among her colleagues by shaping phrases, molding arias and pacing her role with conviction. Lappalainen's Comme autre-fois dans la nuit sombre was, besides the evening's high point, singing that would have graced any stage."

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THE MERRY WIDOW, Valencienne

San Jose Mercury News
"Soprano Eilana Lappalainen made a ravishing, scene-stealing Valencienne who could sing and move with equal facility in the sexy, leggy can-can dance -- surely a first."

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The Spectator - NOW Life/Entertainment
Tuesday, September 28, 1993

A talk with Eilana
Soprano Eilana Lappalainen's musical career has taken her around the world and currently has her hanging her hat here with Opera Hamilton. During a break from her lead role in Lucia di Lammermoor, she chats with music writer Hugh Fraser.

A dream on the edge
Opera singer tells of pressure-packed life

by Hugh Fraser - The Spectator
THERE IS a phrase that soprano Eilana Lappalainen keeps close to her heart.
It helps in tmies of stress. Like a mantra of sorts.
She learned it one day when life had become too much. She phoned the only person who'd understand, another opera singer.
After tutting sympathetically through the tale of woe, the friend said, "Just think, Eilana: You are living your dream."
They both had a good laugh, but the words "You are living your dream" helped then and they continue to help.
"This is a pressure lifestyle," says Lappalainen with a smile. You live on the edge all the time. Just singing Lucia is living on the edge."
And singing Lucia she is. It's the title role of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.
It's Opera Hamilton's latest production that opened at Hamilton Place on the weekend and continues Thursday and Saturday.
Lappalainen's operatic dream began as a young girl visiting her grandmother in Peterborough for Christmas.
Her elder sister was slated to play a piano piece in church and Eilana insisted she wanted to sing O Holy Night.
Jaws sagged at the sound and it was obvious to all that here was a voice worth developing. But it wasn't until she was 16 and in high school in California, where the Lappalainen family had moved from Toronto, that opera took over from musical comedy.
"My high school piano and violin teachers tried to expand my horizons by giving me books of opera arias and I remember one that I learned on the piano."
"It was My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice", Lappalainen recalls. "They gave me a recording of it and the first time I heard it, I cried."
She played it for her mother and said: "This is what I'm going to do. We both cried, then."
The teachers introduced her to Irene Dalis, a retired opera singer and founder of North America's only repertory opera house, the San Jose Opera.
"Before she even heard me sing, she talked to me for two hours. She asked about everything: religion, music, education, personal relationships, marriage, children. She asked if I could be alone, as this is a very lonely profession."
"You study, yuo work on your voice, the acting, the details and all of a sudden one day you are traveling aroun, you're on stage, everything has changed and you have no home. You are a opera singer and you think: 'How did I get here'?"
Still a teenager when she joined the San Jose Opera, Lappalainen is now in her late 20's, remarkably young to be doing the roles she so excells in. Roles to which she brings an enormous intensity.
"I am learning life through singing these roles," she says. "And I am intense, on and off stage. On stage the intensity is perfect. Off stage it may be a curse."
"I remember being asked in an interview how does one get to feel comfortable on stage? And I was almost embarrassed, because on stage is where I feel at home."


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Arts & Entertainment

Soprano makes her Ottawa debut
by Jean Southworth

Eilana Lappalainen says she likes the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor because it's a "vocal vehicle" which also has the drama of a mad scene. The young lyric soprano will be doing the part for the second time when she makes her Ottawa debut in Opera Lyra's presentation of the Donizetti work at the National Centre Step. 8, 10 and 12.
Born in Toronto of Finnish parents, Eilana has spent the greater part of her life in San Jose, Calif., but she still regards herself as a Canadian. She made her Canadian debut last May with Opera Hamilton, singing the title role in Madame Butterfly. Tenor Louis Langelier, who played Pinkerton in that production, is appearing opposite her again as Edgardo. The two singers were surprised to discover that they will have a further collaboration in a Virginia Opera production of Turandot later this fall.
In an interview at the NAC, Eilana explained that she owes much to former opera star Irene Dalis.
"I was doing musical theatre and wondered why I felt so out of place. Then my high school teacher sais there was this famous retired opera singer living in San Jose," she recalled. At the age of 16 she made the acquaintance of the celebrated mezzo-soprano, who became her "mentor."
While taking a bachelor of music degree at San Jose State University, Eilana began to commute to New York for voice lessons and after graduationg began a four-year resident artist program with Opera San Jose. Since completing that assignment last May. she has signed a contract with the Landestheater Dessau in Germany, where she will be specializing in the Verdi repertoire.
She sang the Lucia role two years ago with Opera San Jose at the suggestion of famed basso Georgio Tozzi.
"It's really healthy for me to do Lucia," she said, explaining that she enjoys the challenge of singing a variety of roles.
"I love Puccini, but it's not a smart choice to just to the Puccini roles. It's good to keep the real singing roles in one's schedule every year."
Opera Lyra's Jeannette Aster is staging Lucia di Lammermoor, which is a co-production with Opera Hamilton. Daniel Lipton, that company's artistic director, will conduct the NAC Orchestra.


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Helsingin Sanomat
October 21, 1992

Teacher and students on the same stage
The celebration of the great influence


Matti Lehtinen was the very artist, for whom it was wirth while to organize a large celebration concert at the Finlandia House. Many things speak for the right choice of the object of the celebration. Both as a singer and as teacher he has had a strong influence on the musical life of our country.
All soloists of the concert were school friends, colleagues, or students. The young American soprano Eilana Lappalainen participated just occasionally.
Eilana Lappalainen is on her way to become a new favorite of the Finnish public. She is a real all-around talent, a woman on her place for almost any role.
Bravely did Eilana Lappalainen throw herself also in the finale of the Fidelio opera of Ludwig van Beethoven in the closing number of the concert. Her voice does not have the strength of the dramatical soprano, but with her excellent technique and her brilliant vigorous voice she is capable of holding her own stand in the middle of the heroic roar.
Among the most intensive acts of the whole concert was the great love duet of Giuseppe Verdi's Othello opera, where Ms. Lappalainen sang together with Raimo Sirkä. What a couple for Othello and Desdemona!
And so on. The review of other soloists follows.


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Ottawa-Hull
September

Two feuding families, an arranged marriage, twop thwarted young lovers... does all of this sound slightly familar? Walter Scott's tale. The Bride of Lammermoor, has been called a 19th-century Romeo and Juliet, but with its undertones of murder and madness on the Scottish moors, it has an eerier atmosphere. The book became one of the most popular pieces of fiction of its time, prompting Gäerano Donizetti to turn into a gripping opera. Lucia di Lammermoor.
Donizetti's creation tells the tale of two families, the Ravenwoods and the Ashtons, who have been fighting for years. Unbeknownst to Enrico Ashton, his sister Lucia is in love with his enemy, Edgardo. Master of Ravenwoods, Enrico arranges a marriage for his sister to the rich, influential Sir Arturo Buxlaw, and deceitfully tricks Lucia into complying with his wishes while Edgardo is away in France. Overcome with despair, Lucia falls into a state of madness on her wedding night and murders her new husband.
Opera Pyra Ottawa's co-production of this classic piece, in conjunction with Opera Hamilton, opens the company's 1993 season. The all-Canadian cast includes Toronto-born soprano Eilana Lappalainen as the unlucky Lucia; tenor Christopher Coyea as the even more unlucky Arturo; tenor Louis Langelier as Lucia's beloved, Edgardo; baritone Peter Barcza as her brother; Enrico, as well as Paul Moore and bass-baritone Gary Relyea.


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Opera Canada
Spring 1995

Nearly 20 years after his podium debut in Norfolk with a memorable La Traviata, General director Peter Marck chose the same work to open the Virginia Opera's 20th anniversary season, reviving its sumptuous 1989 Eduardo Sicangco Second Empire staging. In the title role, soprano Eilana Lappalainen made an even stronger impression than she did in her 1992 debut as Micaëla and her Liù last season. She was more than ably partnered by the youthful Alfredo of Michael Galanter, whose exceptionally beautiful tone and secure lyric tenor range auger a bright future. Disappointing in an otherwise strong cast were baritone Douglas Nagel, a ramrod-stiff and vocally underwhelming Germont père, and mezzo Caryn Lerner, whose Flora was more vulgar slut than salon courtesan. Maestro Mark conducted briskly while Bliss Herbert overdirected his principles.

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Opera Canada
Winter 1993 - Volume XXXIV / Number 4 Edition 137

For its September staging of Lucia di Lammermoor at the National Arts Centre Opera. Opera Lyra continued its extraordinary pattern of consistent, palpable progress in each successive production. Indeed, the results are miraculous if one compares the company's current work with the well-intended but almost sub-amateur efforts of its early seasons less then a decade ago. This presentation of Donizetti's masterpiece could grace any stage in the world, and Opera Lyra can take additional pride in the fact that nearly all major participants were Canadian.
The singing was of a consistently high calibre, including the fine chorus directed by Laurence Ewashko. For the first time, the National Arts Centre Orchestra supported Opera Lyra, directed by Daniel Lipton, artistic director of Opera Hamilton, which co-produced this Lucia.
As Lucia, Eilana Lappalainen gave a compelling performance in vocal and acting terms. In her 20s, she has already the poise and presence of a true star. No less accomplished was Louis Langelier's powerful, moving Edgardo, his singing showing not even hint of the indisposition announced prior to the September 14 performance. Among the supporting roles, Peter Barcza's Enrico, Christopher Coyea's Arturo and Gary Relyea's Raimondo were outstanding.
The stage direction by Opera Lyra's artistic director, Jeanette Aster, was subtle and clear throughout. Aster deserves further commendation for exceptional taste and perception in choosing the conventional but magnificent set by John Michael Deegan and Sarah G. Conly, borrowed from Atlanta Opera. The Delacroix tableau that concluded the celebrated Mad Scene, focusing on a collapsed, Pre-Raphaelite Lucia, was an image long to be remembered.


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The Hamilton Spectator
A night of great opera

Lappalainen superb as Lucia di Lammermoor

LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR is the sort of opera that's the butt of all those jokes.
The kind that ain't over till the fat lady sings.
Bel canto is the name given to it, which simply means beautiful singing in Italian, and it is the beautiful singing of the luscious tunes Donizetti, Bellini and their Ilk, wrote for their divas and great tenors, that matters.
Never mind that the vast sopranos and barely-waddling tenots appeared ludicrous as lissome young Juliets and Romeos, the song and the voice was all.
Verismo, which means realistic, is the other kind of opera that rebelled against bel canto and sought to tell real stories about real people in real, believable musical dramas.
The twain were never meant to meet.
But just singing, however beautiful, isn't good enough for those creatures of the theatre, Daniel Lipton and Jeanette Aster.
Lipton, Opera Hamilton's artistic director and Aster artistic director of Ottawa's Opera Lyra, but together a joint production of Lucia di Lammermoor that played in Ottawa for three performances earlier this month and opened in Hamilton Place Saturday night. It is reported, Thursday and Saturday.
That the pair succeeded in making beautiful singing realistic theatre is triumphantly evident in this brillient production.
All the much-lampooned conventions are transformed sensibilities, Lipton's vividly sympathetic conducting and a cast that is both beautifully balanced vocally and dramatically beguilnig, into theatre of the most convincing kind.
Eilana Lappalainen; as Lucia, produced perhaps the most completely captivating performance I have ever witnessed on the opera stage.
Her voice settled down from a momentary-too-wide vibrato and some insecurities in the lower range at the start to a rare perfection. The mad scene was utterly chilling in its transcendent beauty. One was frozen, with the chorus, which she scattered like quail before her, into immobile horror.
Louis Langelier, Lucia's true love, was stunning in the power and depth of his final agonies, while bass Gary Relyea, whom I have admired so often in oratorio, was just magnificent as the clergyman.
Peter Barcza was vocally and dramatically powerful and his every phrase deeply musical.
Christopher Coyea, who I have long looked forward to hearing on the opera stage, Paul Moore and Allyson Mchardy were excellent, too.
But as good as the singers were individually, it was an ensemble that they shone. Each one had a shiningly clear focus to the voice, even bass Relyea, that allowed Donizetti's wonderful parings and colors to glow in the music.
Lipton had the Hamilton Philharmonic playing with passionate recisions in the pit. He drew, as he always does, music from his instrumental soloists every bit as ravishing as he drew from his mad scene soloes jarred. That and the ocassional threadbare blend of the chorus.
Three other things jarred, two of them to do with surreal physics. One was the clouds racing by in the mad scene as the lapers barely wavered or sputtered. The second was a ruined gothic arch that would have collapsed by any laws of physics known to man if made of stone; it set all the engineers' teeth on edge. The last was a far-too-modern carbine for Mary Stewart's time being wielded by the castle guard.
The rest was sublime.


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Citizen
September 9, 1993
I loved Lucia
Opera Lyra turns melodramatic piece into great show

by Richard Todd

Why Lucia?
It seemed like such an odd choice for an opera company still trying to get established in a place like Ottawa.
Gaerano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor is an opera buff's delight, full of great tunes and lots of opportunities for vocal display. Never mind that there's little depth to the music, or that the libretto is riddled with the kind of cliches and melodramatic excesses that opera-haters love to lampoon.
It's a very popular work in the major opera houses of the world, where people who are too high-brow to take in professional wrestling come to cheer and boo.
But Ottawa? Are there enough opera buffs of that sort to fill the house for Lucia?
Apparently not. The number of empty seats was not huge, but it still must have been a disappointment for the producers.
And it's a shame for anyone who might have occupied one of those empty because, this opera's weaknesses not withstanding, the production is superb. Director Jeanette Aster has but together an exceptionally convincing version of this problematic chestnut.
She doesn't try to do the impossible by insisting on a realistic rendition of the story. Much of the acting follows the timeless conventions of grand pose and dramatic gesture. But there us a remarkable consistency and integrity to the way the story unfolds on stage.
Soprano Eilana Lappalainen who played the title role, was the strongest member of the cast that had few important weaknesses. Her singing was controlled and supple and her acting entirely apt. It all came together most spectacularly, of course, in the "Mad Scene," but her performance was rarely less than wonderful all evening.
Edgardo, Lucia's beloved, was played by tenor Louis Langelier. Although his voice started to falter in the final scene, he did well by most of what he had to sing. His acting was not overly subtle, but that's the kind of opera this is.
Baritone Peter Barcza's acting was cut of much the same cloth. He played Lucia's brother, Enrico, with enough depth that one felt sorry for the character as he endured the torment of his conscience for betraying his sister.
In the lesster roles, Gary Relyea was especially effective as the chaplain. The only disappointment was the comparatively weak voice of Christopher Coyea, who portrayed Artura, the heroine's bridegroom.
On of the keenest pleasures in this production was the stark and eminently effective set design by John Michael Deegan and Sarah G. Conly, and it was well matched by Denis Guéerette's lighting design. Neither was obusive in any way, but bothelements were there doing exactly what they were supposed to with great elan.
The NAC Orchestra was conducted by Hamilton Opera's Daniel Lipton. If there were a few rough edges in the playing, they were more then outweighed by the deftness with which Lipton convered for a few awkward entries and other lapses from the stage.
More ijportantm, he really had the measure of the music. He didn't try to find depth in it where there was none, but neither did he ever allow it to sound as hilariously inappropriate as it often can.
There are a few things more rewarding in the criticism business then going to a production of something you've hated for 30 years and coming away delighted. Opera Lyra is becoming a force to be reckoned with.


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The Ottawa Sun
Friday, September 10, 1993
Opera Lyra scores hit with Lucia
by Lorraine Salt - Ottawa Sun

Passion. Intrigue. Murder. Swordplay. Madness. Music.
Opera Lyra Ottawa's production of Lucia di Lammermoor has it all ... and more.
Based on the romantic novel by Sir Walkter Scott, Donizetti's opera tells the classic tragedy of star-crossed lovers on the Scottish moors.
Act I begins with Enrico, Lucia's brother, telling of his lost fortunes, and that he is counting on Lucia's profitable marriage to Arluro to restore the family name.
But he's angered by Lucia's love for his enemy Edguardo. As Enrico, Canadian baritone Peter Barcza, displays a strong, sure voice. But even more noteworthy is his acting ability.
His every movement shows emotion.
Lucia, played by Toronto-born soprano Eilana Lappalainen, is one surprise after another.
Her voice is a pleasure, lacking only occasionally in strength.
She succeeds again and again at some of opera's most florid and difficult passages.
Her duet with Edguardo in Act I shows beautiful tone and vocal agility, as well as in the climatic Mad Scene of Act III.
As well, her dramatic ability matches Barcza's equally. Their scenes together are wonderful to watch.
Also notable are performances by bass-baritone Gary Relyea as Raimondo and tenor Louis Langelier as Edguardo, and the Opera Lyra Ottawa Chorus.
The sets are impressive - all misty moors and Scotish ruins.
The stage is reduced to torchlight as Lucia breathes her last in Act III, a strikingly eerie effect.
Opera Lyra Ottawa is riding a wave of success. Lyra springs production of La Traviata sold out each performance.
Their Lucia is a success as well.


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The Buffalo News
Tuesday, September 28, 1993
'Lucia' in Hamilton is a soaring triumph
by Herman Trotter

HAMILTON, Ont. - Let's not mince words. Opera Hamilton's "Lucia di Lammermoor," a shared production that has already had three performances in Ottawa, is a smashing success.
Donizetti wrote in the "bel canto" style, in which florid vocal lines of extreme difficult and aetrial wizardry were of paramount importance. There was a time when audiences required nothing more than the vocal pyrotechnics, but today these operas seem tather vapid unless the details of staging, acting, and orchestral playing are also attended to meticulously.
In this production they most certainly are, so let's give the first bows to conductor Daniel Lipton and stage director Jeanette Aster for a level of artistry and good taste that made a virtuoso showpiece seem more like a fully integrated ensemble piece.
And let's not forget the sets from Atlanta Opera, which got great mileage out of a radiant blue backdrop; stately, arching stone columns; tapestries; velvet draperies, and ramatic placement of a few high-backed chairs and condelabra. Curtain calls, too, for lighting designer Denis Guerette and costumer Suzanne Mess.
Soprano Eilana Lappalainen in the title role was all one might hope, and more. Her voice was clear, pure and soaring, not screeching, and she conquered an initial tendency toward excess vibrato to become progressively more centered and focused.
Dramatically she was unlike most imperious, regal Lucias, but projected a naivete, innocense and vulnerability which were both believable and loveable, and made the psychological torture her brother Enrico inflicted on her seem all the more heinous. Her soft and fetching appearance amplified our sympathy during the famous "mad scene," during which she sensitively protrayed her vacilating hallucinations from thoughts of her betrayed lover Edgardo to premonitions of death. She avoided the standard histrionics, drawing us into her plight with a sort of confidentiality. The demented joy she expressed when the flute imitated her own vocal roulades was chilling.
Tenor Louis Langelier was strong throughout, escalating to a virtual heldentenor quality in the graveyard finale, generating a mini-mad scene of his own. Director Aster concluded the opera with a masterstroke, confronting Edgardo with a hallucinatory specter of the dead Lucia, then having her collapse at the precise moment the tormented Edgardo stabs himself.
Baritone Peter arcza was a reliable and supercilious Enrico, especially affecting in the duet with Lucia following her reading of the forged letter. Bass-baritone Gary Relyea was outstanding as Raimondo, managing a degree of focus which eludes most low voices and matches well with the other voices.
The famous Act 2 Sextet was stunning, with each of the singers illuminated by an overhead spotlight on first entrance and the ensemble maintaining a superb balance without bellowing. That's an uncommon virtue.
Continually reflecting the cohesive unity of this production were subtle vocal and visual parallels, with the actors and stage props standing out against the beautiful blue backdrop in the same arresting, stark manner with which conductor Lipton contrasted the balance between the excellent instrumental solos and the orchestral background.
You have only two more chances to see and hear one of the best regional operatic productions in recent years, this Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.


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The Spectator
Monday, April 3, 1995
La Boheme's vamp robbed of sexuality
by Hugh Fraser - The Spectator

La Boheme is just about the most perfect opera ever written.
So perfect that, everyone agrees, it is almost impossible to ruin it. Unless one tried very, very hard.
A good start would be to dress Musetta as man a la George Sand of the same romantic period 1830s-'40s place (Paris), which happens with Opera Hamilton's current production of Puccini's masterpiece at Hamilton Place (Thursday, April 6 and Saturday, April 8).
Now Musetta is the golden-hearted, down-to-earth, in-your-face, good 'ol working girl of the opera. Content if not courtesan, of the rich and esential, not, we are left in no doubt about brettists Girseppe Giacosa and Illica and even the music of Puccini for her cutting-edge philosophy intellectual depth, but for her far earthly charms.
And she doesn't do it because of an overwhelming pity for the rich and essential, but for col, hard cash.
True, she loves the painter Marcello and she teaches singing to supplement his meager pay as a painter, but to portray her as akin to George Sand, a poet, writer and semi-influence on an era of artistic revolution is to rob Musetta of the one thing she does have in abundance, which is sexual, a power she has no junction whatever about using to delt whenever she feels like it.
And yet this is what stage director Mezzio Melano did with this production.
Being the film Impromptu, which portrayed the affair between Sand and composer Frederick Chopin, gave Melano this idea. I fear it had all the intellectual rigor of speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich seeing Boys Town and deciding all fatherless children go to orphanages.
But Musetta was not the only one shorn of power. Rudolfo, sung by Keith Buhl in both his Canadian debut and his debut as Rudolfo, simply didn't have the vocal weight to match the rest of the superb cast. Since hs is the lead this unbalanced the drama, time and agani as he stretched into the falsetto to project his voice with the others and simply couldn't take his proper part in the opera's most dramatic moments.
Every other facet of the production was really excellent.
Eilana Lappalainen was luminous both vocally and dramatically as a Mimi who was both fragile and indomitable. Every accent, every inflection expressed flawlessly the depths of a character who can become maudlin and sentimental if not held in rigorous check.
Sally Diblee, while hampered with dumpy, singularly graceless male clothing was vocally magnificent, even with closed eyes one could still read the irresistible temptress.
John Fanning's Marcello was absolutely stunning.
Since his first appearance at Opera Hamilton as Valentine, Fanning has simply exploded into authority as an operatic performer.Manifestly and mercifully, showed using diverse blunt instrumental was impossible to make "Chopinesque" to match Musetta's Sadiness.
Alexander Savtchenko made excellent Colline who shone brightly long before his Coat Aria highly and David Watson made a fine, Schuanard, while Maurice Brown had better luck with the doddering lord Benoit than the doddering Adoro.
Artistic director Daniel Lipton's vision of the score was nothing short of a revelation. It was impossible for him not to cover much of what assayed and others who were holding back to balance ensembles, but in the main he guided, supported, and set fourth a performance that was shining exquisite and rogorous in its authenticity and allegiance to Puccini himself.
In that he was wonderfully ported by the chorusc which had the finest outing since Macbeth and melano's stage direction, which, from the one aberration, was uniquely brilliant in the crowded second that was a model of clarity. The introduction is beautifully dressed and sets from the New Orleans Opera Association are gorgeous.


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West Coast Mimi
Eilana Lappalainen brings bright expression and fresh voice to La Boheme


Eilana Lappalainen is a young fresh voiced American-Finnish soprano whose visit to Finland is one bright result of the gloomy Kullervo Opera of Aulis Sallinen. Walton Grönroos, President of the Finnish National Opera, found Eilana Lappalainen last spring in Los Angelas, where she had been attracted by the performances of the Kullervo Opera.
In spite of her young age, Eilana Lappalainen has already sung a great number of important lyric and lyric-dramatic leading roles. As Mimi, in Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme, she proved to be a well trained and reliable opera singer. Exact pitch, beautiful round phrasing, and flexible but precise rhythm are characteristics of her soprano tone.
There is still certain hardness in the forte of Eilana Lappalainen's soprano, which is dynamic and rich in nuances, but during the performance it stated to soften and warm up. Her voice carries and extends without compulsion.
Her style of singing and her natural ease make Eilana Lappalainen a charming Mimi. Finnish features can be recognized in her face, but her brisk, bright look and her open, cheerful mind are the fascinating characteristics of the optimistic people of the U.S. west coast.
Above all, Eilana Lappalainen's Mimi is a kind and sensitive girl, but the character also frivolous zest for life, which increases its credibility.
Next year, Eilana Lappalainen will be singing at the Landestheater Dessau, located in the former East Germany. The distance from there to Finland is shorther then from California!


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Entertainment
Hamilton's 'Butterfly' of many colors

by Herman Trotter

HAMILTON, Ont. - Operatic audiences tend to weigh the quality of singing more heavily then other artistic considerations such as staging, acting and set design in assesing their overall pleasure with an operatic production.
Opera Hamilton's "Madama Butterfly" provides, especially in Eilana Lappalainen's Butterfly, enough quality singing to satisfy most hard-line vocal aficionados.
But to my ears there was another star in the Great Hall of Hamilton Place on Saturday evening, the sensitive musicality of the entire performance which Maestro Lipton drew from both singers and orchestra. It unfolked as an unbroken, entirely logical lyric line connecting the bustling of marriage broker Goro and U.S. Navy Lt. Pinkerton in the opening scene with the tragically loyal and hopeful Butterfly's desperate suicide in the final scene.
The playing of the orchestra, particularly in the delicately controlled middle and lower dynamic ranges, had a wonderful sensuality, poignancy and radiant sheen that made thuis "Butterfly" a continual aural delight.
The set from Virgina Opera has a lot of miles on it, but is so well-conceived and well-executed in its simplicity and accuracy of Japanese detail that its effectiveness is undimished. Costuming by Suzanne Mess had a comfortable authenticity without ever unduly attracting attention to itself.
Lappalainen's voice encapsulates both the delicasy and the steadfastness of Butterfly, yet is soaring lyricism and drama of the scenario equally well. Her sound is clear and pre, with a shimmering leading edge that imparts color and warmth without lapsing into excess vibrato or wobble. She created a quite distinctive vision of Butterfly, highly convincing in her naive faith in Pinkerton's fidelity, yet also introducing a unorthodox and beguiling impish quality to the role.
Butterfly's servant Suzuki is sung by Odelle Beaupre, whose mezzo has enough extra body and texture to contrast well with Lappalainen. Their duet in Act 2 while awaiting Pinkerton's return was one of the evening's most exquisite moments.
The always stellar baritone Cornelis Opthof sings the role of the American consul Sharpless with a finely focused voice of excellent carrying power. But there is also a modesty of vocal heft and aggressiveness that compliments the sympathy for Butterfly and embarassment over Pinkerton's that his acting radiates quite convincingly.


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Leading singers lift 'Turandot'
Women's vocal and stage abilities are the highlights of the Arizona Opera Company's show.

by Daniel Buckley

A rain of sparkling glitter floated down on a beaming, transformed Princess Turandot and her love, Calaf, as they descended the imperial staircase at the close of Arizona Opera's "Turandot" last night.
Blessed with a stable of vocal talent that ranged from first rate to merely quite good, AOC's production of Giacomo Puccini's final masterpiece left a full house of 2,200 people in the Tucson Convention Music Hall moved, uplifted and glowing.
Appropriately, the crowd awarded its biggest applause to the production's Liu (Eilana Lappalainen), with Turandot herself (Leslie Morgan) a close second.
Lappalainen's portrayal of the slave girl whose love of Calaf makes her committ suicide to save his life was superb on every level. She manifestly projected Liu's changing emotional state through a series of detailed yet unexaggerated bits of stage business. Even before she's uttered a word of her love for the handsome prince, for example, her mixture of shock, hurt and vulnerability at Calaf's announcement that he intends to try to win Turandot told the whole story.
Vocally, Lappalainen proved every bit as solid a performer. Strong, agile, full-bodied and lustrous in tone across her entire range, this talented soprano aced every phrase musically and dramatically. She was thrilling.
The same can be said of Leslie Morgan's Turandot. Morgan's textured performance powerfully and emotionally delivered on the princess' transfigurations. From the icy, inhuman figure who has her authors beheaded to the vulnerable woman fearfully asking riddles of Calaf, and finally the radiant being lvoe has redeemed, Morgan made the unbelievable plausible.
Her vocal work was as regal as her dramatic presence. With apparent ease, she sailed over the orchestral wash, launching her high notes into the raftera and enriching her lines with purity of tone that made her stand out in the pack.
AOC's Calaf (Robin Reed) was satisfying, if not up to the level of the leading ladies. Though his stage presence and dramatic instincts were noteworthy and his tone good, Reed lacked both power and whole-range perfection. The bottom of his range was particularly shaky. And while his spotlighted aria, "Nessun dorma, was rendered with an individual flavor, the performance failed to raise goose bumps (as it should).
Louis Nabors's Timur (Calaf's blind father) as vocally top notch.
Sets, costumes, effects and especially lighting came together in a manner fitting this epic tale of Ancient China. Likewise the large choir of somewhat uneven vocal quality seemed appropriate, projecting the character of a non-homogeneous mob.
The production's major flaw was the orchestral playing which all too often suffered from spotty pitch and a lack of coordination. Both the music and the efforts on stage deserved better.


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Arizona Opera's 'Turandot' in form with singers as its strongest suit
by James Reel

Arizona Opera is back in proper form with its earrent production of Giacomo Puccini's "Turandot."
Not top form, mind you. The staging is utilitarian, the chorus and orchestra weren't always coordinated on opening night Thursday, and the orchestral contribution isn't all it could be.
But the principal singers are quite fine, and the production boasts an almost sumptuous look, thanks mainly to the costumes, with some help from colorful if low-budget scenery.
All this comes as welcome relief after last month's disastrous "Siegfried," of which the best that can be said is that the scenery did not fall down. Last autumn's "Die Fledermaus" was no winner, either, with middling singing and dumb stage direction.
'Turandot' is far more successful, most of all in the vocal department.
Soprano Leslie Morgan takes the title role, the beautiful but cruel Chinese princess who has her suiters executed if they cannot solve a set of riddles.
The challenging role often reduces performers to loud, hard singing. Except for a few inevitable compromises, Morgan avoided this Thursday night. More often then not her voice rang out with the overtones to gleam like a precious metal.
As Calaf, the wandering prince determined to solve Turandot's riddles and win her hand, Robin Reed deplyed a resounding if unsubtle dramatic tenor voice.
Eilana Lappalainen assumed the secondary but key role of Liu, the slave girl who gives her life to protect Calaf's. The soprano had the proper physical fragility for her part, which made her vocal strength and projection all the more surprising.
Bass Louis Nabors had little to do as Calaf's father, but he crafted a moving little grief scene following Liu's death. Unfortunately, that death was the climax of a risibly limp torture sequence consisting of mild arm twisting.
The comic ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong weren't quite evenly matched in the first act, but their Act 2 trio was better balanced and quite beguiling. Dependable throughout was the Ping of Ben Sorensen, the wonderful Tucson baritone who has distinguished himself until now.


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Opera News
January 30, 1993 Vol. 57. No. 10

Lappalainen's admirable timbre and skilled vocalism, combined with her natural grace and country charm made her a sympathetic Micaela.


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Virginia Local Press
Sunday, Oct. 25, 1992

Another female beauty was Eilana Lappalainen, whose sweet, birdlike sound as Micaela gave poignancy to this young girl secretly in love with Don Jose.


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The Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger Star
Sunday, Oct. 25, 1992

The most memorable singer was soprano Eilana Lappalainen, who gave the country girl Micaela a large, warm voice with ample vibrato and true intonation.


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The Spectator - NOW Life/Entertainment
Monday, September 27, 1993

Eilana Lappalainen, as Lucia, produced perhaps the most completely captivating performance I have ever witnessed on the opera stage.


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San Fransisco Chonicle
Monday, February 12, 1990

At her best, Eilana Lappalainen boasts a vibrant soprano, firm and controlled without a hint of stridency. As the twice-beloved Leila, she was often heard at her best, particularly in her second-act aria and the ensuing love duet, which was probably the high point of the evening.


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Everybody's News
July 30, 1993 - August 12, 1993

Play within a play - a comedic performance turns deadly in Paguacci as Antonio Barasorda, Ping Yu, and Eilana Lappalainen stunned audiances in the summer's best opera.


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San Fransisco Examiner
Wednesday, February 14, 1990

Lappalainen's "Commo nutrefois dana la nuit sombre" was, besides the evening's high point, singing that would have graced any stage.


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Eilana Lappalainen - The Elegance of Opera