Opera, Opera, Opera!

Would you pay $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton on Broadway, live?

I know few Orange County friends who love opera, let alone are willing to see one. This may be because Orange County has few operas. I’ve been looking! The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has some performances, but Costa Mesa is pretty far. Moreover, it only has concert performances (full shows done without staging or costumes in front of an orchestra).

Recently, I discovered my favorite opera, Carmen, broadcasted live for free on the Santa Monica Pier from the LA Opera. The LA Opera is the grandest local opera house, and witnessing something this professional live was moving. Dancers were hired from the depths of Spain for a genuine Spanish vibe, and costumes shimmered and poofed in all their Spanish glory. Tickets are at least $90 for a “cheap” theatre seat, in which performers can barely be seen or heard; free showings are unheard of!

My friends and I zoomed to the pier and fangirled over the huge stage and thick French accents. The music can be found in our playlists; we hummed along the whole time. The opera is risqué, funny, and dazzling. If more people had access to opera in Orange County, I’m sure we could love and appreciate it the way this crowd did on the Santa Monica Pier. It was so enjoyable!

The Live at the Met series is broadcasting full operas live from the Metropolitan Opera House in most Regal movie theatres. This is the best opera house in the country! I’ve never seen a bigger stage, and the cameras show so much detail I can see reflections in the characters’ eyes. Tickets are around $26, with over 10 operas this year! More than the average movie ticket, but very cheap compared to live tickets, often at Hamilton prices ($855+). Only internationally famous and experienced singers have been cast! If you’re an opera fan like me or are ready to behold these regal performances, please come and support the art by attending. Few people know about it, but more should.

This is the same as $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton live on Broadway, in the movie theatre!

The Orange County School of the Arts is also doing L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges in the spring, so look out for that!

Meanwhile, I will be hunting down local operas. I’m determined to find performances in Mission Viejo! Operas can be expensive, but I’m working on finding deals so teens can experience this difficult and powerful art form at an accessible price. I’ll keep you updated!

What local opera productions do you know of? Please comment to let me know!

-Jessica F.

Drake

Rappers nowadays are only singing about money, girls, and gangs. Absolutely no purpose or feelings behind what they sing about in their videos. This makes it hard to believe there are any rap singers out there worth listening to. With such a strong opinion about music these days, I’m very picky when it comes to listening to music. But, I can optimistically that the artist Drake is not like the others.

Aubrey Drake Graham is 30 years old and was born October 24th, 1986 in Ontario, Canada. He started off in the teen drama “Degrassi” and moved onto music around 2009. His hip hop and R&B music is known all around the world for the catchy, upbeat songs. He sings about his hometown Toronto, ” the 6″ along with his family and friends. His most recent album More Life has been played on the radio, spoken about on TV, and even been featured in magazines! Drake is known for his charm, his way with words, and his ability to touch your soul with his music. Predictable, at least 80% of all his fans are girls and more are to come. He is an amazing rapper and a great musical influence. His songs range from let’s get crazy and dance to let’s sip some wine and cry. Drake is the way to go if you’re trying to get down at the club or lay in bed and think about life.

My Reading Playlist

I know some people aren’t able to listen to music while reading, but I like to, and decided to compose a playlist consisting of most of the songs I listen to while I read. I generally avoid listening to anything too loud and/or busy so that I won’t be too distracted. Hope you all enjoy 🙂 

Here are some of the bands I listen to:

Grizfolk: I stumbled across this band on Spotify, and I absolutely love their music! I was sort of surprised when I realized that not very many people have heard of them. Their sound is very unique and clear, which I like. I often just play the band’s playlist on Spotify, but I do have some favorite songs: Bob Marley, Waking Up the Giants, and The Struggle. 

Young the Giant: This band is more popular than Grizfolk, and I also discovered them on Spotify. I really like the band’s style and their lyrics are really meaningful. Some of my favorite songs from them are: Art Exhibit, Waves, and Firelight. 

The Fray: I’ve been listening to The Fray for a while now, I don’t really remember how I found them, but I really liked their songs. Most of them are fairly calming and tranquil, which is great for reading. They use a lot of piano, which makes for graceful music. My favorite songs by them are: Never Say Never, Ungodly Hour, and You Found Me. 

Cage the Elephant: I love this band so much! Their sound is so unique, and I love the riffs they come up with for their songs. Their music is definitely louder than the bands I discussed above, but I still enjoy listening to them while I read. Some of my favorite songs by them are: Cold Cold Cold, Whole Wide World, and Come a Little Closer. 

Imagine Dragons: This is, and has been one of my favorite bands since I first began listening to their music. I love all the different percussion they use in their songs, and I love how different all of their tracks are (I also love their album art!). My favorite songs by them are: Dream, Who We Are, and Battle Cry. 

Queen: Queen is my favorite band of all time! I love their sound, their lyrics, but mostly, I just think Freddie Mercury has an amazing voice. I’ve always thought that their name: Queen, was so fitting. Their music, to me, sounds regal, If that makes any sense. Additionally, their sound is so distinctive, which is largely what makes a band successful. I honestly love all of their songs, but here are some of my favorites: Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now, and of course, Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Les Trois Accords: This is a French rock band from Quebec, whose music I find very unique and fun to listen to. I can’t understand all of the words to their songs, but I think that’s fine for while I read. My favorite songs from them are: Le bureau du médicine, Bamboula, and Vraiment Beau.

Here are some other songs that I like to listen to while I read:

  • Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down
  • Superman (It’s Not Easy) by Five for Fighting
  • Work Song by Hozier
  • Always by Panic! at the Disco
  • Be Yourself by Audioslave
  • Wonderwall by Oasis
  • Valerie by Amy Winehouse
  • I Miss You by Blink-182
  • Santeria by Sublime
  • These Days by The Black Keys
  • Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
  • Jumper by Third Eye Blind
  • Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce
  • Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day
  • 21 Guns by Green Day

-Elina T.

You can find these albums and more with Hoopla, a streaming music service available for free with your library card. 

A Tribute to Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington was an extraordinary and talented musician, most prominently known for his role as lead vocalist for Linkin Park. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and he developed an interest in music at a very young age. His childhood was troubling: his parents got a divorce when he was eleven, he began abusing drugs, and he was picked on at school. He drew solace in writing songs and poetry and was able, with difficulty and after denouncing drugs, to pull through and achieve his true dream of becoming a professional musician.

As stated earlier, Chester Bennington was a member of the band Linkin Park, a popular rock band. He worked in tandem with Mike Shinoda to write the lyrics for the band’s debut album: Hybrid Theory, which was an enormous success. The band continued producing albums, some of the most popular of which are Minutes to Midnight, and Meteora, and have sold over 70 million albums worldwide. Chester also co-founded the band Dead by Sunrise and was recruited to Stone Temple Pilots when the former singer of the band, Scott Weiland, left.

My favorite song by Linkin Park and Chester Bennington is called “Castle of Glass”, from the album Living Things. It sounds very different from a lot of their other music, which is often composed generously of rap and other electronic elements. Although the song was given mixed reviews by critics, I absolutely love it. I admire the use of imagery and metaphors, especially with the title. Glass is fragile, but castles are supposed to be strong and fortifying. The line: “‘Cause I’m only a crack in this castle of glass” is repeated throughout the song, which I think is a very strong metaphor. To me, the castle (of glass) represents a person, and the crack represents hurt or an injury that the person has sustained. Though the injury or hurt may seem insignificant, a crack on a castle made of glass would greatly affect and even threaten the whole structure. If pushed upon even just a little, the crack would grow exponentially. The fact that he says “…I’m just a crack…” makes me feel as if he (or the person) feels insignificant, when in fact, he could be the cause of the entire structure’s demise.

Though I only discussed one song in detail, I do appreciate the band and Chester Bennington very much. The lyrics that Chester has written are unique, introspective, and compelling, and I think that he was definitely one of my favorite singers/songwriters. I love the music that he produced; the sound and feel to it was always very distinctive. He was a very strong, gifted, and inspirational person. Chester Bennington will be sorely missed by many. May he rest in peace.

-Elina T.

5 Books To Read This Summer

Are you reading for the Summer Read program this summer, and are tired of reading your mandatory summer English book? Try checking one of these books out! Hopefully they won’t remind you of the pains of school all that much…

  1. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Image result for catching jordanJordan, the daughter of the famous QB Don Woods, and spent her whole life waiting to be the first girl to play QB at a college level. With the twists and turns of senior year, and as she’s torn apart between Henry and Ty, does she really want to throw away her dream of playing at Alabama?

 

  1. The Kanin Chronicles by Amanda HockingImage result for kanin chronicles

If you have read any other books by Amanda Hocking, especially her Trylle books, you’ll definitely enjoy this. Bryn Aven must protect the Troll community, before it all falls apart. Sure, she’ll eventually be charged with murder and treason, but it will all be better when it’s all over, right?

  1. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Image result for audrey waitDo you ever hear that catchy song on the radio and wish you were that girl the guy is singing about? Well, what for what most girls wish for, it turns out be a nightmare for Audrey after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Audrey has to deal with the paparazzi, changing her cell number because it keeps getting leaked to the press, and getting escorted by the police on a date with her new boyfriend. Maybe it’s a good lesson that she should never date a musician…

4. The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle 

Image result for The Infinite Moment of UsIf you loved her l8r, g8r series, you’ll love this book! This is an incredible story between Wren, the good girl who obeys her parents, and Charlie, a foster kid. And when these two people meet, everything begins to change. Not for younger audiences.

 

  1. The Unremembered series by Jessica Brody

Image result for the unremembered series

A sixteen year old girl wakes up in the middle of a plane crash, with no memories of her life.  She has purple eyes, and so people began to call her Violet. When a mysterious boy claims he has the answers, will she trust him? Or will she remember nothing for the rest of her life?

The first book is a little bit tedious, but then it starts to get complicated with time travel and other things later on. This is the kind of serious that at the second to last chapter, you want to throw the book across the room, but then at the last page, you wish the author had made another three books.

 

-Rebecca V., 8th grade

The Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Winner of the 2015 National Book Award Longlist, for Young People’s Literature, M.T. Anderson has created a story worth telling.  It is the unfortunate, yet true, biography of Dmitri Shostakovich.  

Growing up in a harsh life as a result of Communist Russian leaders, Shostakovich soon discovered his interest for music.  While his life in the world of the arts was beginning, however, so was the air of terror from Adolf Hitler.  Anderson takes the reader through the cold winters of Leningrad, the warm home of Shostakovich, and of course, the sweet melodies of Dmitri Shostakovich.

I really enjoyed Anderson’s writing style throughout the course of this book.  He told the story of Shostakovich truthfully and full-heartedly.  Anderson must also be a musician himself, as his insight and musical knowledge is vast. I picked up this book, as it was marked new in the Young Adult section, and I was intrigued.  The most interesting topics in nonfiction to me are WWII and music.  I had heard of Shostakovich before reading the biography, but never realized the story behind his masterpiece, Symphony No. 7.  

Anderson brought the reader back in time, into the early 1900s.  Shostakovich, born in 1906, grew up among a family of three children in St. Petersburg, Russia.  As he transitioned from a young scholar enrolled in a music school into a renowned composer, Shostakovich started a family of his own.  However, around him, the people of Leningrad were starving, caused by an unfortunate siege by the Germans.  Their food supply had been bombed.  Their leader had fled.  Citizens were trying to escape the city as fast as possible.  But not Shostakovich.  His pride and honor for the beloved city kept him there, even through the starvation.  Many high-ranking officials tried their hardest to relieve the Shostakovich’s, by bringing them to Moscow.  But, Dmitri insisted on staying in Leningrad to finish his symphony.

 
Later revealed at its debut in Leningrad, Shostakovich had written his masterpiece for the city of his home, the city of the dead.  For young musicians who may want to learn more about some of the greatest composers of the last few centuries, please check this out.  While the book is lengthy, I would recommend it, as it is a 10/10.

Maya S.

The Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Bob Dylan Receives Nobel Prize for Literature

bob_dylan

Bob Dylan is an American songwriter and singer who has sold over a hundred million records with influences from civil rights to philosophy. Now, he has once again been recognized for his five decades of work. In December 2016, the Nobel Committee awarded him with a Nobel Prize for Literature, making him one of the most controversial Nobel Laureates. The public was divided over whether a songwriter was eligible for a literary award.

The committee explained that Bob Dylan was selected for “creat[ing] new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” but many critics and novelists denounced the supposed cheapening of the Nobel Prize. Dylan further agitated the public by maintaining silence for two weeks after the announcement while the committee grew increasingly agitated. Finally, he accepted the prize but stated that he was unable to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. Instead, he sent a speech that was read aloud by Azita Raji, an American ambassador.

In it, Dylan expressed his humble thanks and the honor to be among the literary greats. He addresses the debate of lyrics and literature by comparing his situation to that of William Shakespeare. What was going through Shakespeare’s mind while writing Hamlet? Perhaps: “ ‘Are there enough good seats for my patrons?’ ‘Where am I going to get a human skull?’” Bob Dylan states, “The farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question ‘Is this literature?’… Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’”

Professor and Nobel Committee member Horace Engdahl asked in his speech, “What matter the rank of a work when its beauty is of the highest rank?” …That is the straight answer to the question of how Bob Dylan belongs in literature: as the beauty of his songs is of the highest rank.” Engdahl continued on, proclaiming Bob Dylan “a singer worthy of a place beside the Greeks’ ἀοιδόι, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the Blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards.”

Bob Dylan is truly a step forward for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his works will have a lasting influence on music culture.

The works of Bob Dylan are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They are also available for download through our new Hoopla service