Thursday, December 29, 2011

SHH!!! Silent Auction!!! & My "Hollywood" Debut

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season, and the best of luck to you all during the new year.

I had an interesting last few days with my family.  A girl caught her hair on fire while singing on stage at the Christmas church service I went to.  I sang Schubert's Ave Maria after that but abruptly following me was the congregational hymn Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  How's that for church?

Also, this coming Monday, I will share some great news about a new gig I got with film director and Senior Vice President of Talent for MTV, Randy Sosin.  He is casting something for the NFL that will involve me and we will be filming early next week!  I'll let you in on some secret info then, so be sure to check back.  Amazingly, I will be paid as part of the Screen Actors' Guild!

Anyway, this is the final blog entry for 2011 and I wanted to give you a peak at the KCVI Celebrity Auction that will begin next month!  If you don't already know, one of my biggest passions is the Kansas City Vocal Institute.  We provide free or greatly discounted music education to children and families in Kansas City.  Also, it is a free service for all of our teachers to use to acquire students during this tough economic time.  We have 19 teachers and all are either earning or have earned a graduate degree in Music.


I am so very proud of everyone who have given their time and talents to this, and part of keeping the price of lessons at significantly low or free of cost is with the use of our scholarships.  Last year, we had 24 scholarships created and sponsored by some of the world's greatest artists and musicians including: Angelina Jolie, Maya Angelou, David Cook, Melissa Etheridge, Yo-Yo Ma, Randy Newman, Stephen Sondheim, John Williams, and many more.

Last year, I asked our donors if they would provide any autographed items that we could auction and have all the proceeds go to their respective scholarships.  Because of how successful it was, we again asked our donors to do the same.  Many donated items once again toward their scholarships and we created several new scholarships as well.

This year, we will have a private and public auction.  The private auction will be a special silent auction for some items and the public auction will be utilized with ebay.  More information will be made available on New Year's Day at www.kcvocalinstitute.com.

So, here is a list of items for our second annual KCVI Celebrity Auction.  Some of these items may only be available in our silent auction, so if you are interested in any of these, be sure to apply for our silent auction online starting January 1.

List of current donors entering items into this year's auction:

John Williams (5 Oscars, 4 Golden Globes, 21 Grammies) once again has graciously donated the front page of the Star Wars orchestral score!

Eric Whitacre (world-renown composer, Grammy Award nominee) is donating a handwritten, autographed manuscript of one of his pieces to be selected by the highest bidder

Morten Lauridsen (National Medal of Arts recipient) donated an autographed score of "O Magnum Mysterium" and autographed CD of "Sure on this Shining Night" and a "Lux Aeterna" score

Zubin Mehta (former Director of the New York Philharmonic) donated an autographed baton.

Stephen Flaherty (Tony Award winner) donated autographed CDs of "Suessical: the Musical" and "New York Pops"


List of new donors and their items entered into this year's auction:

Joyce DiDonato (world-renown operatic soprano) donated two autographed posters from her production of "La Donna del Lago" at La Scala.  It is signed along with others in the production including Juan Diego Florez, one of the most famous opera singers in the world, as well as, John Osborn, Daniela Barcelona, and Roberto Abbado.

Kronos Quartet (Grammy Award winner) donated an autographed photo and an autographed CD "Rainbow"

The Kansas City Royals (Major League Baseball) donated four premium tickets to any game during the upcoming season.

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City donated 2 redeemable certificates for two seats to any upcoming operas this season or next season in the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Esperanza Spalding (Grammy Award winner) donated an autographed CD of her album "Chamber Music Society"

Chanticleer (Grammy Award winner) donated an autographed CD of their album "A Portrait"

Betty White (7-time Emmy Award winner) donated two different personalized autographed photos 

Donald Trump (business magnate) donated an autographed photo

Martina McBride (4-time CMA "Female Vocalist of the Year") donated an autographed photo

George Porter (Grammy Award nominee) donated an autographed CD of his album "Water"

Neil Armstrong (First Man on the Moon) donated a photo

Stanley Clarke (Grammy Award winner) donated an autographed photo

And there's still more to come! So, be sure to visit www.kcvocalinstitute.com on January 1.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Opera World Mourns Loss of Prolific Composer Kim Jong Il & More Operatic Christmas Gifts

Kim Jong Il (1942-2011)
Allegedly composed six operas and wrote the world's leading guide on operatic art "Kim Jong Il - On the Art of Opera"

Kim Jong Il - toy figurine

Beethoven - statue

Kim Jong Il (Dear Leader) was one of the greatest musicians in history.  He is arguably most famous for besting Tiger Woods as the greatest golfer of all time by hitting 11 holes-in-one on his first golf outing in 1994 on North Korea's only golf course.  Obviously, the game was too easy, and he subsequently retired after his lone golf round of 38 under-par.

Dear Leader was not only the greatest golfer in history, but he was also apparently the greatest defecator as his biography claims that he indeed did not relieve himself.  As is the case in golf, I suppose he gave that up since he was so successful upon his first try.  Dear Leader also can control the weather, invented the Hamburger, roller-bladed often, and wrote over 1,500 books in four years.

Dear Leader will be missed by many.  He often quit tasks that were too easy, or that he excelled in too much. But thankfully, he found hobbies that were more challenging (aka a hobby that he was the worst at). He spent most of his life working on these things that he was not proficient in, including being a Dictator and composing operas.  Despite his slight deficiencies, the opera world lost one of the greatest composers of our time - and certainly the least known opera composer since "The Abduction of Figaro" was discovered, written by the long lost and similarly talented composer P.D.Q. Bach.


Dear Leader's book, On the Art of Opera can be downloaded by clicking here.  Perhaps you are not ready to experience a glimpse of the divine, so I will spare you the pain and supply you with small quotes from his much beloved book, which I actually read.  I warn you not read too much, as His Central Brain's (that's a real title of his) glory will radiate your mind into a glorious yellow-cake weapons-grade uranium mush.
"Opera teaches a lot about people's life and struggle. That is why everyone likes opera."
I knew everyone had to like opera, but I didn't know why until now!
"Only opera art which champions the interests of the revolution and implements Party lines can be loved by the people"
I guess I was wrong; an opera about preserving "traditional marriage", capital punishment, and dissolving arts funding IS a good idea.
"For an opera to be popular, arias and recitatives must be replaced by popular songs and orchestral music"
As one blogger put it..."oh, like Mamma Mia"...that is an awesome opera!
"Dances must only be used in important scenes"
...like Grease
"Art for art's sake is pointless"
...spoken like a true artist!
"Recitatives are difficult to sing and awkward to listen to"
 Maybe he was trying to sing the English translations in the Schirmer opera scores

 "The lyrics are the main element of a song. Songs can be good or bad, depending on their lyrics.  All the texts of songs must be written in rhyming verse"
Two hours of rhymes are never a bad thing!

"Opera is a musical art but the audience, when enjoying an opera, pays attention primarily to the sets and backdrops."

That's unfortunate...

Other phrases of a genius:
"Songs form the major component of opera"
"Composers must never seek harmony for harmony's sake." 
"There should be a theme song in an opera.  The theme song must be a masterpiece in terms of both words and music.  It must be perfect" 
"The opera singer has to sing while acting and act while singing."
"Some singers who portray such villainous characters as a landlord or policeman should perform exaggerated, superficial actions, instead of singing well."
So, goodbye Dear Leader.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that you certainly deserved nothing of what you gained.  Those of us in the opera world would like to thank you for your overwhelming gift of ridiculous prose and hope you see the same deserving fate of Don Giovanni.

Now on to a happier topic!

OPERATIC CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS
click here to see gifts (1-5)

6. Wagner's Ring Cycle Bracelet - Do you have trouble remembering the plot to Wagner's 15 hour-long opera cycle?  Well, now there's an easy way to follow along at operabracelets.com.  They offer bracelets that tell the plot of the opera through colored beads and charms for over twenty of your favorite operas.  And they come with a description card so you can remember all 94 plot elements (that's right, I counted all the different beads and charms) and follow along like a rosary within Wagner's cylce of Das RheingoldDie Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung.


7.  Look like Wotan or Brünnhilde in this Walküre (Valkyrie) knitted hat in the Met's gift shop.


8. Swarovski crystal opera glasses.  These teeny tiny opera glasses start at $300 and contain 1300 Swarovski crystals.

9. Nothing says "You're a pretentious opera nerd" like the operatic stylings of Michael Bublé.  And, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death". In his new Christmas Album, he places himself on the Mount Rushmore of horrible classical cross-over recordings, certainly not overshadowed by the beloved Susan Boyle, with one of the worst  performed versions of Schubert's Ave Maria.  And with its gloriously horrific diction, this would be a great gift to give to those opera geeks of whom you are annoyed with, want to be mean to, or want a free diction coaching from (as in their rage, they will surely dissect all of this song's atrocities - you'll be sounding like an ancient Roman in no time!).


10.  A bottle of wine. I know I was a little hard on #9, and if you actually give #9 as a gift, PLEASE give a bottle of wine to help with the anxiety.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Operatic Christmas Wishlist

I know I am a little late this week, but I wanted to throw some Christmas gift ideas out there for any opera lovers in your lives.  This week and next week, I will have five unique gifts.

1. Renee Fleming's album "Dark Hope".  Renee is one of the world's greatest opera singers, but last year she produced a pop album, singing remakes of famous pop songs.  Here is the closing track, Hallelujah - which was made famous by Leonard Cohen.

Renee Fleming - Hallelujahfound onChillout

There's not much I can say as far as a critique is concerned, because it isn't performed with intent of great vocal virtuosity, as are most pop songs.  Essentially, if you are entertained, then she did a good job in my opinion.  And, I really like this song.  You may remember, and I certainly do, that this song was sung as the "song of peace" at the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony.  I cannot play the video from the broadcast, but here is a home video from it.


Anyway, Renee certainly doesn't get as vocally involved as what many pop singers would, but the album is somewhat interesting for those who love and know her voice.  HOWEVER, don't be confused that I am hinting that I want this for Christmas.  I am certainly content with Renee's PBS Christmas specials.


2.  Perhaps I'm biased but these T-Shirts based on Kansas City's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts are pretty awesome.


3.  Japan has a new trend! - which is great for us in America because we certainly need more things to laugh about in these gloomy times.  Behold - Pro Voice Pills!  They cost about $2.50 and contain Magnesium and Malic Acid - commonly found in Apple Juice.  On the onset, most singers would say, "oh! that makes sense" since many blindly revere Apples as a kind of wonder fruit for singing.  HOWEVER, this sweet-tart-flavored pill also, evidently, makes your throat slightly numb, thereby calming your throat and nourishing your body to create a great singing voice.  Numbing is a big no-no.  Pain is a good thing, because it tells you when you are going too far.  If you can't tell that, you can easily injure your voice.  Nonetheless, I'm sure - as many people often debate against me when it comes to "old wives' tales" - it's all in their heads.  I tend to rely on science when it comes to debating, and I am fairly certain that if anyone has any benefit from this, it must either be from a placebo effect or because they enjoy losing arguments.  This would be a great gift for those in your family who are musically challenged - however, they will likely try to sing if you give it to them...on second thought, be sure you have a glass of wine first so you can bear the torture.




5.  I'm not trying to be pretentious (I just am) but I really want a "no coughing sign" to hold up during performances.  It would be ideal if it would light up so I can just hold it up while an aria is sung, so the old guy hacking in the back that doesn't want to be at the opera anyway would kindly leave so I could at least hear one whole phrase!  


------


Last weekend I was privileged  to perform at the Kansas City Southern Railroad's winter ball at the beautiful Union Station in Kansas City.  Here are some pictures from the event.  The place is gigantic, like a capitol building, and echos about as intensely.  I performed some Christmas carols with two other singers, and sang a solo Ave Maria - sadly, the Schubert version...Bach/Gounod is my favorite, but I couldn't find the right key as I was looking for it at the last minute.

The place and event were gorgeous, as you would expect with brass choir, string quintet, opera singers, a red carpet with a bouncer.  The appetizers were set out along an enormous ice train sculpture (as seen below).  They had giant shrimp, crab claws, and oysters.  Oh, and for a plate, a giant seashell...how cool is that?  I only was able to have the appetizers, but it appeared as if they had bottomless wine!  I was jealous.



Monday, December 12, 2011

Finals holdup...

My finals schedule will postpone this week's blog entry until tomorrow...sorry for the wait!

Monday, December 5, 2011

New York Auditions

I love New York.  It seams like everything works the way that I work. Painfully fast, crowded with busyness, professional but panicked, and yes - without much sleep.  In many ways I am perfectly comfortable with the Big Apple, however it certainly has no limit to stress.

Audition season is upon me, and I prepare to peak at just the right time.  This year, I went out on a limb and flew in on the day of my first audition.  I have never done that before (and have been warned against doing that) but I just couldn't devote too much time away from Kansas City.  On the morning that I flew out, I was greeted by one of my good tenor friends from KC, Ben Gulley, in the waiting area at the airport.  Amazingly, we were taking the same flight to New York.  Ben is one of the best tenors I have ever met, and certainly a great person altogether.  He talked about his upcoming events and plans with Hollywood agents and opera companies from all over the world, etc. etc.  I sounds amazing and it couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

After I arrived in New York, I took a shuttle from LaGuardia to Grand Central Station and ate lunch there.  Then it was off to Nola studios - opera audition Mecca.  Nola is on the 11th floor of a building off of Broadway by David Letterman's studio, kind of close to Julliard and the Met.  It was packed, muggy, and stinky.  It is only a small hallway with seven or so studios connected to it.  Each of the studios have a different company holding auditions with 5-10 minute slots.  So all the upcoming singers sit patiently, cold-sweating outside the doors.   For me, all of my auditions were here or in Shelter studios, which is the next floor up.  Luckily, I had my auditions all back-to-back: New Jersey, Pine Mountain, and Saratoga.  Opera North auditions were the following day.

Once the auditions began, it was kind of a blur.  I didn't have to think about much, other than selected arias, and in the meantime, I was able to talk to all of my opera friends from around the country who were in town. Everything went fine...normal, except for New Jersey.  In the New Jersey auditions, they wanted me to sing Il mio tesoro as my second selection, and it was a little dull.  One of my better qualities is my resonance, or the sparkly clean tenor ring, but that was lost for some reason in that aria in particular.  Besides that, I always begin with Questa o quella from Rigoletto, not because I like it, but because it is short and powerful - I only have a few minutes to show off you know.  Then the company selects any other excerpts that they want me to hear.  Normally, this means an English aria, and for me that means Here I Stand from The Rake's Progress.

I will be anxious to hear from those companies in the coming weeks and I'll let you know what the results are. In general, this year there are many more companies out there than in the past, which is a great sign that the economy is improving.  However, companies are inviting many more singers...this means more competition.

Outside of auditions, I was able to attend the Met's production of Handel's opera Rodelinda.  The sets were great, and it starred one of my most favorite singers, Renee Fleming.  Unfortunately, I had to miss the end in order to catch my train out of Manhattan to get to my hotel.  But, the show was amazing.  Handel operas are packed with arias, one right after the other.  I thought it would make for a very boring time, but it turned out to be an amazing musical experience.  There were two starring countertenors (men who sing in their falsetto, their girly voice).  They lacked the beauty of Renee, who was brilliant and gorgeous, but the countertenors stole the show for me.  As the least technically advanced singers in the production, I was shocked and uncontrollably excited by their musicality.  It was stupendous!!  The audience was on the edge of their seats for many of their arias packed with tension and controlled tones, relaxing only for a moment.  Handel was amazing, and so was this cast.

Also, another favorite part of New York for me is the food.  Here were my two favorite meals:

Lamb Burger with Greek Salad and Humus Dressing along with TWO Chocolate Shakes at The Brooklyn Diner

Steak Sandwich (real unsliced steak) and Maple Bacon Bourbon Donut at Zaro's
Then, before I had to leave for my evening flight back to Kansas City, I had several hours to spare.  So, I went downtown.  Here is a video that I put together about my afternoon.  It's in HD if you click "full screen" and turn up the speakers!


The flight back was a crazy event in itself.  I was left on the runway on Frontier Airlines flight 1803 from 6:55 PM to 10:08 PM without food, bathroom, and electronic device use (which I violated).  It was horrific for the claustrophobic, and completely annoying for those who don't like to smell other people's feet.  In short, I am still trying to receive a refund for my flight.  The reason for the delay was that the pilot they selected wouldn't make his next scheduled flight, so we returned and waited for another pilot.  It was entirely the fault of Frontier Airlines and their mismanagement of their work schedules.  Nonetheless, we arrived in Kansas City early the next morning.

Next week, I will have a lot of information about the next KCVI Celebrity Auction, now featuring another autographed John Williams Star Wars score!  Also for my concert schedule please visit www.bryanpinkall.com  I miss so many of my friends and family; maybe (as a Christmas present) I will see you at one of my concerts in the near future!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hajj

It's my annual hajj to New York for auditions.  This year, I was invited to audition for New Jersey Opera, Pine Mountain Opera, Saratoga Opera, and Opera North.  In the past, I blanketed many applications to all corners of the Nation, but this year I was very specific about the programs that I would be auditioning for.  I already have a gig in June, and my schedule would have to work around that.

But before I get to my trip, earlier today I went over to Joyce DiDonato's place here in Kansas City to pick up several items that she is donating to be auctioned for a scholarship through my charity KCVI (Kansas City Vocal Institute). The items are posters from her recent production of La donna del lago by Rossini at La Scala signed by her and other cast members including Juan Diego Florez!  How exciting!!  For those who think I am just saying gibberish, in plainspeak:  One of the world's greatest and most famous sopranos donated an autographed poster of a show that she starred in at arguably the greatest opera house on earth along with one of the world's greatest and most famous tenors.  She has been very excited to be part of this, and I am so thankful that she has been able to help.  She's amazing!

Now on to this week. I am very excited for this little trip...here is my top 10 list of things to do:

1. Drink Water from my Coffee Maker - Nothing is better than using the coffee maker to make really hot water.  For some reason, hot water is like an instant warm-up for me.  New York is a hard place to audition because it is incredibly difficult to find places to warm-up.  I am pretty much limited to humming for several hours while I'm on public transportation or just walking down 7th avenue.  But nothing gets my chords going like hot water!

2. Get a Metrocard - In the past, I stayed in New Jersey, took the train into Manhattan, and walked everywhere on my own.  Well, the last time I was there, if you remember, I sprained both of my ankles - likely exacerbated by all this walking .  This time I will use public transportation!

3. Show Up Early - I am very anxious about schedules, so I tend to show up early for important things.  "Important" generally means football games, meals, and any music related event.

4.  Find Captain, the 25-year old Opera-singing Parrot that went missing in New York two days ago.


5.  Eat Somewhere New - One of my favorite things about New York is the food.  Last time, at a Cuban restaurant, I got Oxtail Soup, Moro Rice w/ Beans, and Fried Sweet Plantains...my mouth is watering just remembering it...


6.  Buy Something Nice for My Wife - I don't get permission to go to New York without a price.  I'm thinking of something boutique but unique.  Like this beautiful cigarette necklace...


Or this amazing pair of designer shoes...


They kind of match this bathroom hat...


7.  Visit Ground Zero - They have recently finished the National 9/11 Memorial and I want to visit and see what all they have done with the site.  Believe it or not, I have to apply for passes to get into the memorial, but I have been accepted and I am looking forward to it.


8.  Visit the Met - Handel's opera Rodelinda plays tomorrow night, and students can get great ticket discounts.  The greatest part is that one of my favorite singers of all time, Renee Fleming, is the title role!  The following video is of her singing "I'll be Home for Christmas".



9. Star in Another Movie - Last year, my wife and I were extras in the now released motion picture "Tower Heist".  Hopefully, I can accidentally be a starring extra or crowd member in a movie more oscar worthy this year.

10.  Visit My Favorite Store - The Poptart Store!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Busyness Business

Hopefully everyone had a great time looking at my Basilio pictures.  And for your entertainment (and my embarrassment) here is yet another one from my facebook page.


I had several muses for the role, including a friendly drag queen and Jack Sparrow.


Hopefully, I will now be able to retire this character.  Where are all the heroic tenor roles?  I once had to play the role of a Rhinestone Cowboy in a Pasatieri opera.  I suppose I just give off some weird vibes in my opera auditions.

Anyway, I am very thankful to have a week free to celebrate Thanksgiving, watch football, and relax.  I haven't talked very much about my upcoming schedule, but it is packed with all kinds of awesome things.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO SEE MY FULL SCHEDULE

Once again, I have several auditions in New York next week.  I am trying to get them all during the same period so I don't have to make too many trips out there.  My schedule is packed as it is.  Anyway, for this trip, the companies that I received invitations from are New Jersey Opera, Saratoga Opera, Pine Mountain Opera, and (tentatively) Opera North.

Following that, I will be the tenor soloist in Messiah at Calvary Bible College on December 2 in Kansas City. I am so lucky to be just the kind of tenor that Messiah was meant for.  I have a feeling that I will have a lifetime of Christmas and Easter Messiah productions.  Luckily, I really enjoying singing the tenor arias, unlike many tenors.  The Baroque period was very unkind to tenors...the castrati ruined everything!

Also at the beginning of December, I will be singing with the Conservatory Choirs in their Christmas festival concert at Visitation Catholic Church on December 3rd.  We will use this unique space to sing some antiphonal pieces.


On the evening of the 10th of December, I have been asked to sing at the holiday party for a major American railroad company at Union Station in Kansas City.  I will sing some classical holiday selections in what will be an incredible venue for music, as the cavernous marble-laden lobby will certainly echo music like an enormous cathedral would.


The following day, December 11, I will be singing a Lessons and Carols concert with the Spire Symphonic Chorus at the Community of Christ Peace Temple, which is one of the most amazing music venues that I know of.  The concert will feature one of my good friends and certainly one of the world's greatest organists, Jan Kraybill.


On December 13, I am very excited for a special audition for the Kansas City Symphony that I was generously offered.  I don't have much to say about it right now other than it requires my Cyrillic Alphabet reading skills.

The following weekend, I will be singing with the Kansas City Symphony and the Kansas City Symphony Chorus in their Christmas Festival.  It will certainly be a blast and DON'T MISS IT IF YOU LIVE IN THE AREA!  There are many performances, and it will get you in the Christmas spirit.  Of course, this concert will be in Helzberg Hall at the beautiful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.


Additionally, I will be a soloist for a couple of concerts with the Village Symphony and Chorus on December 18 in their "Tidings of Joy" Christmas festival.  As you can see, if you need to get some extra Christmas spirit in you, just hang out with me!!  Unfortunately, I can get a little grouchy, scroogey, and grinchy with my life being a near endless stream of Christmas music.  (It can become annoying in a way...similar to how I can't ever figure out the words to Wooly Bully, and then it gets stuck in my head because I like the tune, which means I have to whistle it, all the while I still can't figure out the words, and frustration ensues.)  Christmas music so easily gets stuck in my head, partly because it is enjoyable or perhaps it is just simple and catchy, and becomes annoying over a long period of time if that is all that I can think about!  Nevertheless, I hope to see you in the audience, as these concerts will be a lot of fun!

I will soon have a lot more to say about my schedule for next year.  I am performing a recital in January dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Soviet genocide of the Volga Germans 70 years ago, featuring a new song cycle based on Volga German folk tunes written by composer John Mueter especially for this occasion.  I am so thankful for the work that he produced, and the enthusiasm that he had for writing this. And the day before the recital, I will be a soloist in a Bach cantata back at the beautiful Visitation church. 

In February, I will be singing with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus at the Kauffman Center in their production of Mahler's Second and I will be singing with the Conservatory Choirs later that month in a production of Carmina Burana also at the Kauffman Center.  

In March, I will be Don Jose in La tragedie de Carmen at the Conservatory, and then competing at the regional NATSAA competition in Chicago.  

In April, I will be singing with the Conservatory Symphony and Choir in a production of Chen Yi's Chinese Myths at the Kauffman Center and I will be a soloist for a production of the Pulitzer Prize winning composition The Little Match Girl Passion at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City.


And finally, I will be singing in a world premiere of a new Libby Moyer comic opera in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for Capitol Opera at the Whitacre Center in June.


Next week, I will have information about the celebrities participating in this year's KCVI Celebrity Auction! I'm so excited to tell you all about it, but I'll hold you in suspense until then.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Basilio - Self Portraits with Cell Phone

Le Nozze di Figaro
(The Marriage of Figaro)
Comedy by W.A. Mozart

Conservatory of Music and Dance
University of Missouri - Kansas City
White Recital Hall
Thursday, November 17 - Sunday, November 20
CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

(I'm Basilio by the way - I am a music teacher who loves to snoop in on other people's business, mess with their lives for my own entertainment, and am struggling to weasel my way into the upper class...oh, and I'm a total fop - how ridiculous can it get?)



 





Monday, November 14, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 4)

Week 1 - Ego
Week 2 - Self-Promotion
Week 3 - The Audition

The Life of an Artist
"Passion = Lots of Rejection, Little Pay, Long Hours, and Happiness"



Perhaps you have a similar profession, but the life of an artist is not easy.  Essentially, artists are trained to express themselves in abstract ways - and in my case, singing.  And it is not only the expression, but the way it is expressed that is most meaningful.  For some arts, perfection is idolized, for others it is ingenuity.  All of the arts have their own rules, but in the end, it comes down to an idea and how it is conveyed.



For most people, they go to local stores to find wall decor - "art" - because it "looks pretty".  It may look gorgeous, I'm not arguing that, but if you are not observing it in a way that is expressing something, then it really isn't art - it's a craft.  All this means is that it is created for a specific purpose - e.g. plugging up a blank spot or hole that you punched in the wall.

Now, not all artists think this way, some just sing because they're great at it.  But, the business of it all is centered around these crazy ideas of expression and perfection.  Perfection is a tough thing to accomplish!  But all of this is highly enjoyable for most artists, because it is a work that even on the worst days we still enjoy doing.  Many have a misconception that an artist's days are filled with having fun and goofing off, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  They are long hours of micromanagers perfecting something for the sake of "art".  We know not everyone will view what we do artistically (they may go to the opera because their wife made them) but I have worked in construction, in education, in churches, in Boy Scouts, in all kinds of fields, and the hardest working and most devoted workers that I know are all musicians.  And, they love it!  The hardest part is dealing with the rest of life.

In general, we pay money to have companies reject us many times over, have to deal with family/friends asking us about the eventual rejections, get crappy pay for highly competitive gigs, are constantly critiqued in every possible way by reviews and by other musicians, work the strangest schedules (my rehearsal schedule today is 2pm-11pm), work weekends, have gigs on all the major holidays, hours of practice in solitude, AND THEN pay the bills, car loans, eat, sleep, write your blog entry, etc.  It can be very unforgiving.

For those interested in living "the life", just know what it takes.  It takes sacrifice - you probably won't see your friends for long periods of time, and they will probably stop calling you and asking you to do things assuming that you are too busy.  It takes guts - you are of course letting the world judge you constantly.  It takes pride - because you may be the only one who understands how hard it was to get that bad-paying gig in the Middle-of-Nowhere, America.  It takes devotion, and it certainly helps when you have a great support structure (e.g. family, friends).

I have heard several times about the difficulties of being a singer and being married.  Of course, mostly divorced people gave the lectures, but in general, it is difficult.  The obvious difficulties are work, eat, sleep, talk, and travel schedules, but besides that, it's a piece of cake!  I know everyone has unique difficulties with their own lives and marriages, but I have to give a ton of credit to my wife, for letting me do what I do.  She has to put up with a LOT of troubles, and she certainly doesn't get enough credit or attention from anyone for her devotion.  It can be annoying when people are only interested in your husband's weird profession and don't ask her what she has to go through, or just how her life is going, and yet she still is very supportive and devoted!  What a gal!

So, it's a tough life, but certainly not impossible, and it is very very rewarding.  You get to do what you love to do, and you make people happy along the way.  It truly is very rewarding.

---------

Yesterday, I was the tenor soloist for a production of Messiah by the East Hill Singers.  This was one of the most amazing groups that I have ever performed with.  The singers were a mix of local singers and prisoners from the federal penitentiary in Lansing.  They genuinely love to sing (Handel no less), make amazing music for hundreds of people, and then get to meet with their families and friends for a moment after the concert.  They are genuine people with big souls, giving their service and lives to something bigger than themselves.  What an amazing experience!


Finally, I have many schedule additions.  Please check my website for more information - www.bryanpinkall.com.  I will have a lot more about future stuff next week!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 3)

Week 1 - Ego
Week 2 - Self-Promotion

Week 3
The Audition
"Nerves and Uncontrollable Shaking, Fainting, Peeing, and Vomiting"

Imagine that you are preparing for your daughter's wedding.  Amazingly, everything is going just as planned.  The extended family is already running around drunk with table runners draped on their heads, while the groom's aunts are rearranging all the flower arrangements that you have so carefully put together, and following them is your four-year-old niece who is pulling out the petals from all the roses leaving scores of bright green stumps on the sides of the church pew aisles.  I know it's not all good, but be honest, you just KNEW this was going to happen.  So, it's no surprise that it did.

The ceremony goes as planned - in this case, we're assuming you thought they would both say "I do" - and now it is on to the dance.  Upon your arrival to the luxurious Knights of Columbus agriculture showroom at the County Fairgrounds, fixed with the appropriate number of kegs and the best polka band in state, you notice that the cake hasn't arrived.  The problem is that your cake decorator is taking too long to deliver as she is having complicated issues at another wedding party in the parish center downtown.  You must go there, pick the cake up, and take it back to your daughter's wedding party.

You arrive downtown and the decorator gives you the pristine cake, one that will soon be smashed into the face of your daughter and new son-in-law.  You mindlessly hold it, and then...you freak out.  This was a dangerous and scary job, to carry the wedding cake.

What are you thinking?...
You don't have the skill to do this?...
What if you drop it?...
Your palms sweat...what if you trip?....

You will certainly ruin the wedding if you ruin the cake, a wedding that couldn't be ruined by the ring bearing puppy "Boozer" taking a tinkle on two pew ends and Aunt Edna's walker on the way to being dragged to the altar by your flower decapitating niece.

But, you calm yourself down, what's the worst that could happen?...



That's right.  The worst can happen!

Here's the problem with auditioning.  I know you are nervous.  I've auditioned a hundred times and still get nervous, but it all comes down to your mental preparation.  If you think all of those negative thoughts, you are only feeding The Beast.  You are only going to make it harder for yourself to do well.  Instead you should be thinking only that you are going to do your very best.

Before you go into the audition, make sure you have your music.  Go ahead, check and make sure 10 times, until your OCD calms down.  Make sure that you look professional - not frumpy, not too sexy - just look your best.  And by the time you go to the Door Moderator to check-in, you should have already sung and warmed-up.  Now, here's where it gets easier and harder.  The hard part is that you have to wait, and the easy part is that you don't have to do anything else, other than wait.  This is the worst part of performing - hands down!  Some keep their mind occupied; I try to fall asleep.  My mind is usually going a million miles an hour, so I try to relax as much as possible.  Now obviously, I don't go to sleep, I just try to get my breathing and heartbeat slower.

My name is called, the door is opening, my hands are sweating, my heart is pounding, but I make a slow and professional walk to the crook of the piano.  I wait until they are ready, slowly and with projection announce my songs, and off we go!

The simpler you can make the process the easier it will be, but you must know yourself.  You must know what your nervous habits are and sometimes it takes other people to point them out to you.  For some, it may be that their hand juts out to the side on high notes, or that they cease making facial reactions and look like Ben Stein.  Going down the list, another common one is that women will fiddle with the bottom of their skirt and inadvertently start pulling the skirt up! There's no need to give them a show!  I know others who get so nervous that they have to vomit in the bathroom before they go on.



What is being nervous?  To clarify (this goes without even saying) that nerves are horribly hard to control when they are already out of control.

Honestly, the best way to overcome this is to (1) be prepared, (2) keep your mind in the moment, and (3) get experience.  If you struggle with nerves, you should be practicing how you handle nervous situations by putting yourself in nervous situations.  Ask people if they will watch you perform to see what nervous twitches you have.  You may be doing things that you never knew about!  And when it comes to your performance, be confident in how you look, walk, breathe, and sing.  And at the very least, fake yourself out, and pretend to be confident.  The more you perform, the more comfortable you will become at performing.

Next time:
(the last post in this series)

Week 4
The Life of an Artist
"Passion = Lots of Rejection, Little Pay, Long Hours, and Happiness"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 2)

To see last week's lesson - click here

Week 2
Self-Promotion
"Reflections on Awful Superheroes"

Imagine that you are in the fictional world of Gotham and Kryptonite, and you are the person in charge of finding another superhero for the Justice League of America.  The Justice League of America has been featured in many comics since the 1960s and it is the superteam of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and (believe it or not) the Martian Manhunter. So, let's assume that Martian Manhunter was kicked out and they had to find a new superhero. These contestants walk into the audition screening, show their super powers, and walk out.  Which one would you choose?

Matter Eater Lad
Matter Eater Lad - That's right, he can eat through anything. Don't mind digging, he'll eat a hole through the mountain.  You won't drown, because he'll eat the whole ocean! The obvious question is how he gets rid of the bad guys.  Is he a cannibal?

Cypher
Cypher - Obviously, this guy's superhero talent is that he can decipher anything like codes or languages.  As one blogger stated "he's pretty much a translator".  He doesn't have any fighting capabilities though, just a mind like Data from Star Trek.

Dogwelder
Dogwelder - As odd as it sounds, this guy welds dead stray dogs to villains' faces.  Believe it or not, that's about it.  He must be a little crazy, and certainly this would not qualify as a superpower.  But it would certainly be effective crime fighting.  As one person describes it, "You try to rob a bank and you end up with a Lhasa Apso welded to your face, yapping for eternity. *shudder* "

Skateman

And finally, Skateman - This is pretty lame!  In short, he's an ex-Vietnam War vet and roller derby star that goes mad after a Mexican gang kills his friend in a roller derby crash by loosening his roller skate wheel.  He goes around in a ridiculous costume only to get beaten up by the gang...didn't see that coming!  His only apparent superpowers are bad luck and a quick-curing drink, an herbal shake, that his girlfriend made called (pause five seconds to keep from laughing) Skater-aid.

 Now, which one of these would you choose to be in the same group of Superman, Batman, and the like?  Probably none.  And why?  Well, they aren't superhero-like.  They don't advertise themselves well - who wants a dogwelder? a skateman?

Opera is a lot like the "BAM!, KAPOW!" world of superhero comic strips. To be an opera singer, you must obviously audition for roles. The very first thing that any opera singer must do to have a successful audition, is to be granted an audition in the first place.

This usually requires you to submit several things:

1. A Headshot (this is a picture of yourself from the neck up - of course the sexier...I mean, more professional you look, the better this will play to your advantage.)

It is understood, that because this is a visual art, there is some strength in being a good-looking person.  Also, it should look like yourself; they will remember you by this photo.  If you look like James Bond in the picture, but Mr. Magoo in real life, they will certainly have doubts about you.

2. A Resume (keep in mind that this is opera - Companies want to know what performance experience that you have.)

This could be divided up in several ways.  I devote the first section to opera roles, and include the role, opera, company/school, and year - the most recent at the top.  The next section is other performance experience, including concerts featuring me as a soloist.  The third section, I include my teacher and past teachers, coaches (there's a difference between coaches and teachers; we'll talk about it another time), and any masterclasses that I have been the soloist for, obviously including the masterclass teacher. Then, I list my education: degree, school, and year graduated. Finally, I list my recent and major awards.  Another good thing to add is a small picture of yourself in the upper corner of the resume.  This helps the reader immediately put your information to a face.

Now, if this whole resume thing is overwhelming because you don't have much experience, it is ok.  There are many programs out there that want to hear new singers.  Many new singers first go to a pay-to-sing program and are able to fill up a resume with the names of many teachers and coaches, and perhaps several roles to add to their resume.  Companies want to know that you are a singer; nothing else is as important as that.  So, the more performing that you do, the more attractive you are to people out there.

3. Several Recordings (you MUST be able to sing your butt off, and sing these arias as perfectly as you can)  This is primarily what companies will be interested in when you apply.  Make sure you are as perfect as you can be, and find a good accompanist to record with you.  This can be expensive for some, paying hundreds of dollars in accompanist fees, but if the recording is great and lands you some good gigs, then it is worth it.  With that said, I personally try to find friends or professors to accompany me for free first, before I go out to find someone that I have to pay an arm and a leg to.  If you don't have the means already, you can buy simple recording equipment at Best Buy.  Don't think you have to spend thousands of dollars on this...it can be done for cheap, and still result in a great recording.

4.  References (you'll acquire these over time - but many times you will have to submit one or several names and contact email) It is often debated how useful these are, but sure enough, it is always a good thing to make connections in this small industry.

5. Pay an Application Fee (unfortunately, many companies require this typically between $35-$50 each)  These companies have to be able to pay people to listen to all the live auditions, and fly them to New York, and put them up in a New York hotel.  It's a small price to pay, especially if it is for a great opportunity.  It is important to budget this, especially if you are planning on applying to many places.

This submission process is very important, in that it is your way to self-promote your talent.  You have to give them your best:  an awesome recording, a professional (sexy but not too sexy) picture, and a resume with great things and accomplishments on it.  If you don't have these yet, take the time to get a good promotional package together first.

Superman is awesome.  Batman is cool.  Aquaman is lame (talks to fish? seriously!?). The Powerpuff Girls are...well...you get it.  It's all about how you advertise yourself.  This even applies to the audition itself.  You have to look the part, and look professional, and attractive (but not too attractive), and of course display your awesome super talent of operatic singing.

Next time

The Audition
"Nerves and Uncontrollable Shaking, Fainting, Peeing, and Vomiting"


Monday, October 24, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101

I know that I am only 26, and am just beginning to see success in Auditioning.  Hopefully, this will be of some help to those of you out there who are just starting.  Of course this will be a series of posts - and like every great professor, I will assign some reading, and teach by assigning even more reading!

Welcome to Auditions 101!

(bell rings)

The class of fearful opera singers, leisurely talking, is interrupted by my grand entrance into the classroom.  Taking long broad strides, chest and nose properly raised to its correct smugness level, making sure as to never face away (upstage) of my pupils, I inhale with great intensity, as though I could change the future of the earth upon the uttering of my next words. "Good morning class," speaking with rude contempt towards consonants - angrily forcing them out, raining a shower of spit across the desks in the front row.  "Please open your text books to page (with great pause and theatrical anticipation) one", I proclaim.  The class, awkwardly looking slightly above me, pauses, and then obeys, once the supertitles on the power-point screen catch up.  These were opera singers after all.  And finally having the gravitas of Mephistopheles, I summon the lights to dim towards a deep blood-red, saturating the room.  "Attention class, your assignment today is to (smoke billowing, drums and bugles blasting in the distance, lightning and thunder clash, only to suddenly diminish to silence....the lights flickering back to blue-white...and in a mundane, Ben Stein-like voice I continue) read through chapter one."  The students, in total shock and confusion, slowly open their books.

(This is great, as a tenor, I never get to play the bad guy)

A Concise Survival Guide to Opera Auditions - First Edition
Chapter 1: The Most Dangerous Game

One of the most loved short stories in American History is Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game - a story about a man invited to go on a safari hunting expedition, but having lost his way, ends up finding refuge at a small inhabited island, where a wealthy aristocrat set up a private hunting colony. Unfortunately, he would find out, that he wasn't going to be hunting, but was to be hunted!  That's right, The Most Dangerous Game, are people! (in the end, the hunted killed the hunter!)

Fortunate or unfortunate as it may be, you are a person.  Once you get over that concept, you will be on your way to a great career in opera!

That's right, to be successful, you must embrace everything that it is to be a person - failure, stupidity, nerves, allergies...the whole package.  Also, you must acknowledge that you always are competing against other people in normal life - competing for attention, looks, praise, love, etc.  Whether you like it or not, that is how humans work.  You might as well embrace it.

But, how does opera fit in to this?  Well, to be successful in opera, you must be your best self to be able to successfully compete against other people for gigs at an audition.

Assuming you have had some great schooling, and can correctly sing, without any major technical issues, and that you naturally have a large enough voice to be competitive in the professional opera world, you should begin to consider auditioning for some opera companies.

One great resource is, yaptracker.com.  You should apply, pay the annual fee, and start reading through the several thousand auditions that are posted on their site.  If you are just beginning, you should seriously consider some pay-to-sings.  Obviously, you must pay to be a part of those programs, but eventually you will work your way up to apprentice programs and eventually to the professional world of mainstage productions. Read my previous blog post on Young Artist Programs if you would like more information on how the process works.

But, that is for another time.  For now, you must consider what it takes to live this opera lifestyle.  Opera is rough and tough.  No one is perfect, but you are always, always, always measured against perfection.  This is why it is good to remember who you are...a person.  It's ok to lose.  It's ok to fail.  It's ok not to be perfect.  On the other hand, you are "the most dangerous game."  And you, despite your deficiencies, can still win people's attention, love, and praise, and win an audition for the biggest roles out there.

So first thing is first:  you must have a good ego!  Some egos are more dominating than others...like Miss Piggy.  But, for all who love the Muppets, who is the real hero?...that's right, Kermit!


See, you don't have to have a nasty, humanity-crushing ego that tramples over everyone's mother and dog.  No, you just have to keep one that will help you shrug off all those negative things, and keep you in a fighting spirit.  You can only do your best...nothing more.  Sorry, but you will not be the greatest singer of all time.  However, you can still dream of the big time at the Met or La Scala, because thousands of singers who aren't the greatest of all time have sang there.

So if you are just beginning (still assuming that you have a pristine voice), get out there and apply to places.  Apply to everything!  Don't think it takes luck to make it big; you have to put yourself in the position to be lucky.  You will learn the most simply from experience.  And, like anyone who has cheated in a drawing before knows, if you apply a bunch of times, the chances are better that you will win one of those times.

With that said, and I can't say it enough, this is all assuming that you are an educated and hard working singer.  You first must know technique, music fundamentals, and several languages (in other words, go to school!).  Then you must learn opera rep.  Then you must practice it until you can sing it as perfectly as you possibly can.  And then you should you go out and show the world what you've got.

Keep in mind, there are thousands of other singers out there with big egos that are trying to be the most perfect and dangerous singer that they can be.  What are you going to do to compete with them?

(next time)

Chapter 2:
Self-Promotion - Reflections on Awful Superheroes

Skateman

Monday, October 17, 2011

Top 10 Strangest Musical Deaths

Last Tuesday, I almost died!  I was sitting in the Roman Bath at the Conservatory here in Kansas City, working on my Schenkerian analysis of a Beethoven sonata (Pathetique Sonata - appropriately!) and a gigantic fluorescent light bulb crashed to the ground and exploded with a fine dust of cancerous filament and gas just four feet in front of me.  My reaction, for some reason, was to cover my ears...way to go Evolution - it looks like I'm on the genetic losing side of reactionary survival instincts.  Thereby shocked into contemplating my own death, I decided to make a list of the 10 strangest musical deaths - all are not musicians, but all have a direct impact in music history.  I know there are many to chose from, but I have searched long and hard for these!

HERE IS YOUR FIRST AND LAST WARNING - GRAPHIC DETAILS AHEAD!!!

#10.  Mike Edwards (cellist) famous for his career with the Electric Light Orchestra, was driving down a country road on the afternoon of September 3, 2010 when he would unknowingly encounter his murderer.  Though he never knew it was coming, this phantom assassin crushed him and the cab of his car, killing him instantly and causing a traffic jam in rural England.  So, what was this lethal enigma? A half-ton hay bale!


#9.  Gustav Kobbe (musicologist) famous for The Complete Opera Book, had a favorite hobby of sailing.  On July 27, 1918, he was sailing in a small boat in the Great South Bay by Long Island, NY and was hit by a landing seaplane.  He was killed instantly.  Keep in mind that the odds of dying in this manner are incredibly slim by today's standards, and imagine how much more rare that would be in 1918.  The seaplane was only invented in 1905.  He was amazingly unlucky!


#8.  Taylor Mitchell (singer) famous as being an award-winning solo Canadian folk singer, went hiking on October 27, 2009 in a Canadian National Park in Nova Scotia, where she would be attacked by two coyotes.  Two hikers arrived at the scene and called emergency officials.  She was flown by helicopter to the nearest hospital, but died overnight.  She is only the second person ever recorded as being killed by coyotes (the only other fatality being a 3 year-old from Oregon in 1981).


#7.  Jean-Baptiste Lully (composer) was arguably the most important, influential, and famous composer of the 17th century.  He was the court composer for the infamous French enlightened despot, King Louis XIV.  On January 8, 1687, Lully was conducting a Te Deum (a Catholic hymn usually written to celebrate an event) celebrating the King's recovery from an illness (I guess "Get Well" balloons aren't enough for some people!).  While conducting, Lully stabbed himself in the toe with his baton - in those days, batons were giant staffs like a drum major in a band uses.  He subsequently acquired gangrene because he refused to have his toe amputated and he died on March 22nd, thereby ending one of the greatest careers in music history.


Second Viennese School Composers: Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern - The Second Viennese school was known for inventing Serialism, a style of composition that involves using a mathematical system to essentially write the music for a given piece.  These three are arguably the most influential composers of modern music.  Their reputation is not that great among most audiences who have had to cringe at a horrid cacophony of random screeches and blips, but they were actually very talented and intelligent.  Their music was shocking to most musicians of their time, and their deaths were equally bizarre. 

#6 Arnold Schoenberg, the inventor of Serialism, significantly suffered from triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13).  He purposefully misspelled and changed the name to his most famous opera Moses und Aaron to Moses und Aron because the former has 13 letters, and there are many, many other examples of his paranoia.  Having been born on September 13, he was paranoid throughout his life that he would die in a year that was a multiple of 13.  And so on his 76th birthday, he was very anxious when his astrologer wrote him an note saying that this would be a "critical year (7 + 6 = 13)".  Schoenberg was very upset because he had only considered multiples of 13 and not other associations with the number 13.  Appropriately, Schoenberg died on Friday, July 13, of that year (1951) knowing full well his apparent and ironic fate.

#5 Anton Webern, was sitting on his porch after curfew on September 15, 1945 near the end of World War II, when American soldiers approached his house.  They were there to arrest Webern's son for selling items on the black market.  One American entered and arrested his son without incident, while Webern, shocked and anxious, lit a cigar at the same moment that his arrested son with the American exited the house.  This startled the American, who instinctively, after seeing the glow of the match, mistook it for a flash from a pistol.  The scared American, without thought, fired in the direction of the light and killed Webern at the age of 61.

#4 Alban Berg, unfortunately living in squalor and poverty, was stung by a bee in Vienna, Austria in 1935.  This developed a large carbuncle on his back.  Because of their living conditions, he refused to go to a hospital and instead had his wife perform an operation to clear the dead skin using a pair of scissors.  Berg contracted blood poisoning and died on Christmas Eve at the age of 50.


#3 Grigori Rasputin (Russian Orthodox Monk) arguably caused the eventual fall of the Russian Tzars that lead to the Bolshevik Revolution in the early 20th century.  Rasputin has been the figure for many songs and operas over the last 100 years.  His death was astoundingly complicated and gruesome - perfect fodder for opera composers.  He was a political evil among many Russians - he often spoke negatively against the Tzarist regime.  So, he was first stabbed by an ex-prostitute for the negative remarks, slicing his belly open allowing the intestines to fall out.  She ran away yelling "I have killed the antichrist!".  He, amazingly, survived this attack.  Shortly after his recovery, he was lured by several Princes to a cellar where he ate bread laced with cyanide and drank wine also laced with cyanide.  He consumed five times the lethal dose, before he vomited it all up because of excessive heart burn, and survived the attempted murder.  Minutes later, the Prince, after seeing his survival, shot him in the back.  Rasputin fell forward and the Prince and his friends left.  One returned shortly after to retrieve a coat he left and found Rasputin there, wounded but alive.  Rasputin got up and attempted to strangle him, but the rest of the group, hearing the struggle, returned only to shoot Rasputin three more times.  He fell to ground, shockingly still alive, Rasputin would then be clubbed, beaten into submission, bound in cloth, and thrown into a river (still alive).  His body was recovered and upon an autopsy it was determined that he in fact died (amazingly) by drowning.


#2 Tennesse Williams (librettist) famous for many plays, subsequently turned into operas, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Streetcar Named Desire, had a significant drug and alcohol problem.  Because of this, several bodily functions failed to work correctly for him.  On February 25, 1983, Williams put eye drops in his eye, as he did often, and in typical fashion, unscrewed the cap, and placed it between his teeth, tilted his head back to place the drops in his eyes, and accidentally inhaled the cap, choking to death at the age of 71.  His intoxication at the time kept his gag reflex from working correctly.


#1 Gyorgy Dozsa (leader of a Hungarian peasants' revolt) is the protagonist of several operas, the most famous being by Erkel, led tens of thousands of peasants in battle against the King of Hungary.  He was not successful, and had a completely ridiculously-awful death on July 20, 1514 - one that makes for a good opera evidently.  Because he was mocked for wanting to dethrone the King, thereby making himself the ruler of Hungary, his captors had him sit on an iron throne, heated by fire until it was glowing, after (obviously) making him hold a red-hot iron scepter and after placing a red-hot iron crown on his head.  But, that wasn't enough entertainment for his captors, as he sat, literally cooking away, one of the soldiers stabbed him with an iron pick, charring his skin and the wound.  Then they brought nine of his compatriots in front of him, which they had starved for a week, and told them to eat the flesh off of the wound.  The first, Dozsa's brother, did not, and was decapitated in front of the dying Dozsa.  The others, afraid of their fate, and starving, ate off of Dozsa, who eventually died from the torture.  I can't believe people have made this story into an opera - sickos! 


I make lists all the time, but here are two favorites: