Yoko Ojima Opera Aria Album "Opera al fresco" in New York This CD album is a selection of arias and duets from the Italian operas of Verdi and Puccini. All arias and duets in this album are from the live recordings of open-air (al fresco) opera performances of the New York Grand Opera (NYGO) in Central Park, New York City. These operas al fresco provided rich cultural pleasures to many New Yorkers in summer season. You would recognize, sometimes, noises of airplane, police car, rolls of thunder in the distance, etc. The sounds of distant thunder add "special effects" to the particular opera scenes. I hope you enjoy these extra sounds and feel the atmosphere of "opera al fresco" as if you were there. It was extremely fortunate for me to get acquainted with Maestro Vincent La Selva when I was studying opera at Julliard. Vincent is a faculty at the Julliard School and the Music Director and Conductor of NYGO. He liked my voice and gave me many opportunities to perform title roles in operas with NYGO, NYGO's "opera-logues" for opera fans, and support for my several recitals at the Weil Recital Hall of the Carnegie Hall. He clearly showed me what professional musician should be, and I learned his insightful and passionate interpretations of Verdi, Puccini and other composers. Another person who had critical influence on my career is late Maestro Dick Marzollo, who encouraged me by saying "Coraggio" whenever I was about to lose my confidence. Dick used to work with Gigli, "Tenor of the Century", and Toscanini at the Metropolitan Opera. When I was taking vocal coaching with Dick, he was nearly 80 years old, but when he started playing the piano he had more energy and passion than me. When I listened to his play at the very first lesson, I immediately felt "This is the music I was searching for. This is it!" The time I had with Vincent and Dick is indispensable treasure in my life. I have so many fond memories for all of my opera performances. I still vividly remember details. The most fulfilling experience I never forget was the warm and enthusiastic applause and numerous "Brava!" coming from far back to the stage like huge waves, when I finished singing "Un bel di, vedremo" from Madama Butterfly in my New York debut. It was really a wonderful experience, which made a solid foundation for my endeavor in Italian operas. I cannot put in words how much I was encouraged by New York audiences. When I sang Amalia in Verdi's I Masnadieri, which was the first performance in 128 years in New York City after the premier performance in 1860's. It was broadcasted by WOXR FM and The New York Times wrote a very nice review. However, NY Newsday's review said that I looked like Imelda Marcos, the notorious former First Lady of the Philippines. That was my first experience of both bright and dark sides of the mass media. My favorite role is Mimi in La Boheme. Because Mimi dies surrounded by people who love her in the last scene, so much loves are in the air in spite of the sad story. In this opera, I was able to hear sobbing sounds in the audience when I closed my eyes in a bed on the stage in every performance. It was very fulfilling as opera singer. I have to mention that every time after my "Rigoletto" performance, my husband always said "Why does Gilda have to die for such a playboy Duke? It's a terrible story!" Nevertheless, he loves this powerful music very much. "La Traviata" is a notable "Prima-Donna Opera" so that every soprano singer wants to sing the title role. I was not an exception and I enjoyed singing Violetta. It is indeed a master piece of Verdi. In addition to the performances with NYGO, I had a chance to sing the title role in Japan, which went very well. However, I had a difficulty in the rehearsals because of the critical difference in the production process between the Japanese system and the NY style. Since the majority of the Verdi and Puccini operas is tragedy, I inevitably became an expert (!?) in dying (by tuberculosis, stabbed to death or committing suicide) on the stage. The only opera in which I did not die on the stage was Verdi's Un Giorno di Regno wherein I sang the role of Marchesa di Poggio. Marchesa is a very healthy and strong woman; that's why she didn't die at the end of the opera. This opera is one of the only two comedies among the 27 operas Verdi composed. In my personal life, it would not have been possible for me to pursue my career as a soprano singer without the unconditional love and support of my husband, Iwao Ojima, who is a world-renowened chemist with deep appreciation and understanding of music and arts. I would like to dedicate this CD album to him for the celebration of his 60th birthday with deepest gratitude and love. Yoko Ojima.