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Editor's Desk

Yellow Tail Wine's Operatic Offense

(Observations, Adam Wasserman, Listening, Criticism, Commercials) Permanent link

Opera and television occupy decidedly different spheres of my life, and, truth be told, I'll almost always choose the former over the latter. Television usually only fits the bill when I'm looking for a quiet night in, with minimal impact on my grey matter or wallet. And — as someone who really only finds inner peace after a stressful day by watching onions caramelize — I'll often default to just three channels during the course of an evening in front of the tube: the Food Network, the Cooking Channel and the Travel Channel. As a result of occupying what I assume is a rather predictable gustatory demographic, the number of times that I've encountered the below commercial for Yellow Tail wine in the past few months now stands somewhere close to the number of pages currently stuffed into Charlie Sheen's police file.

Fellow opera-goers, I ask you: is this not the lamest, most odious commercial ever aired? If any of you are like me, the appearance of this ad must also prompt your family and friends to burst into laughter at the conspicuous rising of your blood pressure, that pulsing vein in your neck, your violent clenching of the chair arms, followed by obscene gesturing at the television and an apoplectic descent into the nadirs of the English vocabulary. Let me say, unequivocally, that I despise this commercial more than any piece of advertising I've ever encountered. According to the information accompanying the YouTube video, the ad was created by the Burns Group, an agency known as such a conspicuous arbiter of good taste that its other clients include Fruity-Cocoa Pebbles, Beck's Beer and Hebrew National hot dogs.

I suppose what makes this ad so fundamentally insulting to me as an opera-goer is that, in addition to it being obvious that the director knows nothing about the art form he's skewering, it's viscerally repellent. Clearly filmed on a shoestring budget — it was shot on location in the perennially teeming vacation spot that is Rovinj, Croatia — the spilled wine looks like thick strawberry Kool-Aid and the voices are out-of-sync with the actors. Most notably, though, their voices are off pitch and abysmal. They're not just bad parodies of trained operatic voices — they also happen to bad. Could the folks at the Burns Group really not find a pair of young, conservatory trained singers that could, at the very least, do this lame jingle justice?

The tagline for the ad, "Great wine doesn't have to be expensive," seems to suggest that the commercial's creators equate opera — or some terribly conceived signifier for it — with the one label that still seems deserving of derision in an era notable for the relative degree of political correctness in commercial advertising: elitist. The truth of the matter is that opera isn't nearly as snobby or — with the popularity of Live in HD screenings and rush ticket programs — expensive as the commercial's creators seem to think. Nor, for that matter, is Yellow Tail's shiraz anything even approaching "great." (According to the company, Yellow Tail's chardonnay is "best served at backyard temperature," while a recommended food-pairing for its merlot is a chicken sandwich. Bacchus, it seems, has become a fan of KFC.)

Maybe I'm being oversensitive about a mindless portrayal of an art form that I love, or maybe it's just that this ad seems so completely devoid of any of the redeeming characteristics attendant in the other commercials that have drawn opera as inspiration. (Ghirardelli Chocolate and British Airways, which both use Lakmé's flower duet, and Johnsonville Italian Sausages, which ran a commercial with Domingo's "Di quella pira" as its soundtrack a few years back, stick out in my mind as particularly effective.) Either way, it's rare that I see a commercial that strikes me as so repugnant that I'll actually go out of my way to avoid a company's product — let alone write a 700 word screed about it. Yellow Tail has done the deed. I'd rather have a glass full of bits of cork. spacer 


Getting Up to Speed

(Website Information, Adam Wasserman) Permanent link

It’s been approximately two weeks since our new website launched, and I’m happy to report that a number of issues with our new content management system and some general formatting and design glitches have been ironed out. Launching the new site felt — I would imagine — a little like giving birth, but the process of refining and tweaking will be ongoing (kind of like coddling an irritable toddler, I suppose). As the new site amounted to a substantial upgrade, it’s probably going to take a little while before OPERANEWS.COM is firing on all cylinders. We are confident that we’ll get there, and the June issue in particular will undoubtedly be an improvement. Thank you all for your patience!

I encourage those who are curious to check back next week, when we’ll have a video interview with Bryn Terfel live on the homepage. You’ll be able to see and hear him talk about his recent performances as Scarpia in the Met’s new production of Tosca, his new recital disc, “Bad Boys,” as well as some upcoming roles that he’ll be taking on. There will also be a Q&A with composer Jake Heggie, whose new opera adaptation of Moby-Dick has its premiere this month at Dallas Opera.

First things first: a few of you have remarked in the comments that we are missing some recent content from the magazine’s archives — specifically, bits and pieces from issues dating from October 2009. We absolutely intend to make both the print and online-exclusive editions of these issues browsable and searchable in the near future. The reason for the absence of this content is slightly technical (ergo slightly boring): we are are waiting for this material to transfer from our old server and be successfully retrofitted into our new templates. Soon enough, you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for from our recent issues. I will be sure to keep you posted via this blog.

Second, included among the aforementioned gaps in our archives are some of the Met broadcast pages that were featured in our April issue, but which cover radio broadcasts during the month of May. We’ve since re-uploaded the remaining broadcasts (Armida, Lulu), and these can be found on the Current Issue’s Table of Contents under “Departments,” which is accessible from the homepage; you’ll also be able to locate a given week’s broadcast in one of the three featured spots under the flash-marquee element on the homepage. The Met’s Armida broadcast of May 1 — also a Live in HD simulcast — is there right now, in the center location.

I’ve also gleaned from the comments that some visitors seem to be having trouble viewing the magazine’s archives, which are, of course, accessible via the “Archives” button in the topmost navigation bar. Those of you encountering difficulties, first please note my above comments about the gaps in our archives. Next, please take note of the discrete “Keyword Search” and “Date Search” tabs at the top of the Archives landing page: these will allow you to find our archival content by whichever method you prefer. The Keyword Search lets you filter results by content type (“Recordings,” “Breaking News” and “Features,” for example), while the date search will allow you to browse old issues by Year, Month and Category (content type). A quick primer: those looking to browse archival issues should first click on the “Date Search” tab, then select a year. Should you want to view all the issues within a given year, select “All Issues” under the category tab; this will allow you to browse the contents of a year’s worth of issues by their covers. If you’d like to get more specific and view a given issue’s “Recordings,” select the year, the month and then “Recordings” under the Category drop-down menu.

Lastly, the “Blogs” portion of the site will continue to develop in upcoming weeks and will feature contributions by some of the other editors at the magazine. We invite your comments, but please note that we have the capacity to remove comments and will do so when necessary.

As always, should you notice anything out of place on the site, please drop an email to explaining your issue and the page where you've encountered it.

Thanks so much to you all, and continue to enjoy the new site.

All best,



(Website Information, News, Adam Wasserman) Permanent link

On behalf of the editors of OPERA NEWS, I'd like to welcome everyone to our new website. It's certainly been a long time coming, and we're thrilled that it's finally here!

We hope that the overall user experience with the website has been substantially improved through our renovations. Your best bet for perusing the site is the gray navigation bar towards the top of the page, which will allow you to access any and all content contained in a given issue — both the print and online edition.

Our performance-reviews landing-page — accessible via the "In Review" tab — now features a streamlined tab-based navigation that easily allows you to toggle between reviews by our critics covering "North America," "International" and "Concerts and Recitals." Likewise, Our "Recordings" section will allow you to look at all the categories ("Opera and Oratorio," "Choral and Song," "Recital," "Historical" and "Video") that comprise our media reviews.

The "Audio" and "Video" sections of the homepage will allow you to preview clips from new CDs and DVDs, hear excerpts from live interviews (don't miss feature editor Brian Kellow's chat with Simon Keenlyside, up there now ) and see some of our archival behind-the-scenes footage. There'll be more to come in these areas of the site, in particular. Everything you see here can also be accessed via the "Watch & Listen" tab in the navigation bar.

There are still a number of elements in the site that we're in the process of tweaking and getting used to ourselves. But should you encounter anything particularly amiss, drop an email to explaining your issue and the page you've encountered it on.


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