WAO Playlist Series
WAO Playlist II curated by Wesfarmers Young Artist Leanne Puttick
This week Wesfarmers Young Artist, Leanne Puttick shared her music playlist with us. Leanne’s playlist features Arias from some of the world’s most beloved operas including Carmen, Madama Butterfly and Macbeth, as well as contemporary pieces from critically acclaimed films Downtown Abbey and Woman in Gold. Read the post below to find out more about each song and let us know which one of Leanne’s picks is your favourite. Stay tuned for a new WAO Playlist every Monday.
Carmen – Georges Bizet (Seguidilla, Act 1)
The West Australian Opera’s 2010 production of Carmen, was my first true exposure to opera. I was 15, it was organized by my music teacher in high school, and as we were studying opera at the time, he thought it would be a great idea for all of us to go and observe properly. Carmen just happened to be one of the opera’s our next exam was on. The entire experience was surreal. We got dressed up as it was an evening performance and we were told for an opera, you dress some-what formal. While we sat and watched the production, each time Carmen (played by Caitlin Hulcup) came on stage I remember thinking “How does she sing like this each night and not get tired or lose her voice?” Our entire class even got a backstage tour of the set the next day. It was my first opera I went to, and holds a really special place in my memories growing up.
Madama Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini (Act 1, Un bel di vedremo)
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madama Butterfly is one of my most favourite opera productions I’ve seen to date. I saw this performed in 2015 with the WAO at His Majesty’s Theatre with Mary Plazas as Cio-Cio San and this is the production that made me fall in love with opera. Everything from the set design to the choreography, to the costumes and the music, stole my heart with this production. The “Un bel di vedremo” in Act 1 and the “Gia il Sole” have moments that just make my heart stop. The orchestration with the vocals are so beautifully balanced in this opera. There is a fantastic recording by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Karajan in 1974, Which you can watch here.
Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” Op. 73 – Ludwig Van Beethoven (Adagio un poco mosso)
It’s currently the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of the most revolutionary composers of all time, how could I leave him off this list? This work certainly isn’t what he is known for today, but it is one of my favourite ‘Themes and Variations’ pieces. This piece along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 was used in one of my favourite films, ‘The King’s Speech’, and I think part of why I resonate so much with this piece was due to the beautiful re-orchestration of this theme used in the film (Bar 7 – 10 specifically) after King George VI had delivered his first war-time speech over the wireless. Great film, add that to your Netflix list.
Symphony No. 8 in C minor – Dmitri Shostakovich (movement 3, Allegro non troppo)
I first watched this performed live by WASO in 2018 under the baton of Karina Canellakis. This performance was the performance that solidified my aspirations to be a conductor.
For the record, I think this is one of the most depressing symphony’s I’ve ever heard, unsurprisingly given it was written during WWII. It’s angry, dramatic, chaotic and causes me a lot of anguish. Apparently the USSR thought that too upon its premiere, giving it the name “Stalingrad Symphony”. Absolutely nothing prepared me for this performance and what I was about to feel, which was funny because in juxtaposition to this piece, this young, graceful female conductor came on stage to conduct this incredibly angry, loud piece. And the whole time, I could not take my eyes off of Canellakis. She drew out such power from WASO, that I felt like I was watching an orchestra twice the size. It was incredible. There was a moment when the double basses had such a commanding presence on stage being led by Andrew Sinclair, and I can’t begin to describe the insignificance I felt, that particular moment of sheer musical aggravation was strangely humbling.
Four Seasons Recomposed – Max Richter (Spring II)
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is one of the first pieces of Baroque music I ever studied, in particular ‘Spring’. To me, Richter has breathed new life into this piece, transforming it into a far more modern piece of what is considered classical music. There’s a scene in Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Season 2 where it’s used perfectly between Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones.
La Boheme – Giacomo Puccini (Act 2, “Aranci, datteri!”)
Thanks to the generosity of Opera Lovers, I was awarded a $1000 scholarship as part of my young artist program. I had wanted to partake in the Los Angeles Film Conducting Intensive during the summer, and this scholarship covered that and I was able to extend my trip to New York. I had never been to the states before January. This was my first Met Opera production I got to see, I hope it wasn’t my last as well. Thank you Opera Lovers, for you generous contribution to my growth in this program.
Macbeth – Guiseppe Verdi (Act 3, No. 14 – Gran Scena della apparizioni)
My first professional conducting experience was the WAO’s 2019 production of Macbeth. I was the banda conductor alongside Brad Cohen. This is one of my most treasured experiences. Also, one of the most daunting experiences, getting up in front of a small group of WASO players and conducting them, even if it was a small moment and no one saw us because we were tucked under the stage. I learnt so much in the lead up to the opening night from running rehearsals to the relationship the conductor developed with the cast. Thank you Maestro Chris van Tuinen for giving me this opportunity.
Downton Abbey: Love and the Hunter – John Lunn
I got so excited when I heard it on ABC Classic fm the other week. I just love the way the horns are featured in this piece with the strings. Something a bit more light-hearted for you! This is from the series, but if you haven’t seen the film yet, the composer makes a cameo appearance, so kind of like how everyone plays “spot Stan Lee” in the Marvel films, you can play “spot John Lunn” in the Downton Abbey film.
Woman in Gold: Language of our Future – Martin Phipps
This piece is from a film ‘Woman in Gold’ which is all about the famous portrait of Adele Blochbauer by Gustav Klimt and the legal battle Maria Altmann went through to reclaim what was stolen from her during WWII. Her legal battle helped hundreds of other Jews reclaim what was stolen from them. Her lawyer just happened to be the grandson of 20th-century composer, Arnold Schoenberg. This film is a wonderful reminder not to estimate the power art can have on the world. Politically, socially, emotionally. Art has influence. And I think it’s important now more than ever that we remember that.
Home Sweet Home – Mötley Crüe
Ok, not classical. But a band that just wanted to do something different and unique and make music. That’s all I want to do right now.
Hrafntinna – Sigur Ros
I got to see these guys live at the Belvoir Ampitheater in 2012. They’ve been around longer than most people think (since 1994) and collaborated with Radiohead in 2003. I find them incredibly interesting for several reasons. The lead singer Jonsi’s use of falsetto vocals and “Hopelandic” vocalisations when he isn’t singing in Icelandic or English, and the fact that people try and singalong to his made-up language for one. Their distinct sound which incorporates classical elements in combination with experimental extended techniques, lots of feedback and loop pedals, translates into various different styles of music including post-rock, ambience and metal. Such experimental techniques to create their unique sound include playing a xylophone made out of ballet shoes, using a cello bow on guitars and singing into their own instrument pick ups. They’re so unique that they don’t seem to fit in a genre… Every genre will eventually fit into them.
They even did their own rendition of “The Rains of Castamere” for Game of Thrones Season 4. Jack Gleeson also threw coins at them. They can just about fit into anywhere.