Podcasts from opera pros

Opera theater

“Aria Code” is an increasingly popular podcast. But what else do opera professionals listen to? Here are some recommendations. (Their comments, via email, have been edited and condensed.)

Merrin Lazyan, co-creator and main producer of “Aria Code”:

I enjoyed the podcasts produced by Glyndebourne Opera and LA Opera, as well as the San Francisco Opera’s new one called “North Stage Door”. The Met’s other podcast, “In Focus,” is an excellent source of information on the history and background of various operas.

Another music podcast that I enjoy, which features a bit of opera but isn’t opera specific, is the BBC’s “Soul Music”. It’s a bit like “Aria Code” in that each episode features multiple people talking about the same song and capturing its emotional resonance. But when I go out for a run, there’s no Maria Callas or Marian Anderson, just Madonna and Michael Jackson.

Nicky Spence, tenor who will sing the role of Laca in “Jenufa” from Tuesday at the Royal Opera House in London:

Opera singers are often plagued by earworms from the music we’re learning or playing, so I often find solace in the world of spoken word podcasts. I’m a huge fan of Jess Gillam’s “This Classical Life” podcast, where she casually chats about classical music in a very accessible way with another young musician. They don’t try to make classical music trendy, but they are very cool with good content. It is the perfect gateway to the genre.

Another lovely and informative podcast is “AA Opera! Led by two young women – Ash and Avi – who manage to interview the most famous names in opera, but make it seem like you’re just sitting at their kitchen table, which happily debunks the concept of the grandiose opera.

My guilty hearing delight is “Screaming Divas” with opera royalty Sondra Radvanovsky and Keri Alkema. They face off against my favorite artists in interview, including Jamie Barton, Ben Heppner and Kate Lindsey, as they pick everything from popular culture, left-wing sex toys and of course, opera!

Cori Ellison, opera playwright and member of the Juilliard School’s vocal arts faculty and has appeared on “Aria Code” and other podcasts:

“Aria Code” is absolutely top notch, oddly and beautifully organized, with high production values. “He Sang She Sang” is a slightly older but also great opera podcast from radio station WQXR [co-hosted and produced by Ms. Lazyan]. The Michigan Opera Theater “OperaHERE” podcasts and the English National Opera podcasts are also very interesting; Opera North of Leeds, England; “The In-Tune AZ of Opera” by the BBC; Los Angeles Opera House; Seattle Opera; Minnesota Opera House; and Glyndebourne in Sussex County, England.

Gillian Brierley, Deputy Managing Director of Marketing and Communications at the Met:

“Switched on Pop”, produced by Vulture, is an excellent musical podcast that analyzes pop songs, interweaving musicological bits and pieces in a very accessible way. They had a superb four-part mini-series with the New York Philharmonic titled “The 5th” on Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 to celebrate the composer’s 250th birthday.

Amy Burton, New York-based soprano who has sung at the Met and the White House and teaches at Juilliard and the Mannes School of Music:

Opera can be intimidating for people who don’t speak foreign languages, or who are put off by the grandeur and scale of it all – the gigantic forces, the long evenings, the audacity of the emotions expressed. “Aria Code” could really help people find their way into the art form. And for those who already love opera, it can provide a deeper understanding.

However, my tendency after a day of teaching opera singers is to listen to podcasts on topics other than music. Listening to poets, comedians, filmmakers and other artists, I feel like it recharges my batteries in a creative way, both as a singer and as a teacher. I wish I could recommend other music podcasts, but in my spare time I focus more on the language – “The Writer’s Voice”, “The Plot Thickens”, “The Moth”, “Coffee Break French” – and ” Conan O’Brien Need a Friend ”because I need to laugh.


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