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The Doctor and The Diva by Adrienne McDonnell

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Greetings from Adrienne McDonnell, author of the debut novel, THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA (Viking, 2010). Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting you at the Master Class with Tomoko Okada. That night as I pushed open the gate and wandered down a garden path to the Berkeley Piano Club, I had no idea what a fascinating evening it would prove to be. The wood-panelled performance space felt cozy and inviting as Olivia Stapp sat down casually at the front of the stage, welcoming the audience and telling us with warmth and candor about her own experiences performing Mozart repertoire. I could have listened to her talk all night.

The six singers from Open Opera were wonderful, too — all strongly talented. I marveled at Tomoko Okada’s precision and gentle exuberance as she worked with each vocalist. At first she’d play and listen to a given aria, and when the vocalist reached the end, Tomoko would nod and lean forward, almost rising off the bench in eagerness, ready to exact more from each performer. She’d lift her hands from the keyboard and raise her palms upward toward the singer, urging: “Let’s try it this way, shall we?” As the phrases grew purer, more lit by emotion (the sounds surely closer to what Mozart may have heard in his mind), Tomoko nodded even more rapidly, clasping her palms together in approval. A singer’s progress made her breathless, nearly giddy. Finally she’d turn to the audience and say (of Papageno’s suicide aria, for example), “That’s better, isn’t it? Now you feel sorry for him.”

That evening I felt as if I’d stepped inside scenes from my novel. THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA was inspired by my son’s great-great grandmother (an opera singer) and hundreds of pages of family letters. In 1903, this ancestor left her prominent husband and young son in Boston and sailed to Italy, risking everything to develop her operatic career.

Last summer when the hardcover edition was first published, Viking sent me on a national book tour. One of my favorite events was a lovely garden party in New Canaan, Connecticut where I read scenes from the novel, and a pianist and a mezzo soprano performed arias that my fictional diva sang.

More events, readings, and appearances will be scheduled this fall when the paperback version is released on October 25, 2011. I love the notion of infusing live music into such literary celebrations, and am very open to your ideas about how this might be accomplished. I live near Berkeley (in Kensington), and if you happen to read THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA and feel any interest in participating in a Bay Area event — a literary/musical salon to trumpet the paperback release — please let me know.

Here’s the gist of a few reviews for THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA:

“Some novels just naturally enslave you, and this is one of them…. serious and gripping… [a] brilliant debut novel…” — The Washington Post

“This amazing debut novel … is, quite simply, one of the best novels I’ve read all year.” — an Editor’s Choice selection, Historical Novels Review

“…sumptuous… [an] explosive tale… Read the book now, then place bets on when the movie version will come out.” — Redbook

Here’s a link to the full Washington Post review of THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA:

Here’s the link to my author website where you’ll find a short video, along with a list of arias my heroine sings:


I’m quite impressed with Open Opera, and would love to hear back from any of you. Please forward this e-mail to the other singers who participated in the Master Class (Aimee Puentes, Eileen Meredith, Angela Moser, Torlef Borsting, and Ryan Bradford) — as well to the charismatic and remarkable Tomoko Okada — along with my thanks and congratulations.

Cheers and thanks to all,



Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

AUGUST 7,8, 14, & 15 at 3PM
BERKELEY, CA, August 2, 2010 –

Rehearsals for Open Opera’s free outdoor productions of W.A. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” are in full swing as the cast and crew prepare for four performances in Berkeley’s John Hinkel Park on August 7, 8, 14, and 15, all at 3:00 p.m.

John Hinkel Park is in northeast Berkeley at 41 Somerset Avenue. Over 2000 people enjoyed two free performances of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” in the 700-seat historic amphitheater there last July. Handicapped access is available.  Come early to get the best seats, bring a blanket and a chair for your comfort.  Wine, soda and sandwiches will be sold.

The cast of professional singers in “Don Giovanni” includes Igor Vieira as Don Giovanni, Jo Vincent Parks (Leporello), Elizabeth Baker (Zerlina), Angela Moser (Donna Anna), Aimee Puentes (Donna Elvira), and Carlos Aguilar (Il Commendatore). Open Opera’s Artistic Director, Olivia Stapp, provides stage direction, assisted by Music Director Jonathan Khuner, who leads the orchestra. Laura Ellis is the choreographer and Open Opera’s Ellen St. Thomas is the production manager.
Don Giovanni: Igor Vieira
Leporello: Jo Vincent Parks
Donna Anna: Angela Moser
Don Ottavio: Mike Desnoyers
Donna Elvira: Aimee Puentes
Zerlina: Elizabeth Baker
Masetto: Ryan Bradford
Il Commendatore: Carlos Aguilar
Stage Director: Olivia Stapp
Music Director: Jonathan Khuner
Assistant Music Director: Bruce Olstad
Chorus: Rick Bogart, Zachary Howard, Nicholas Losorelli, Brie Martin, Michelle Persoff, Elenka Proulx, Cameron Sorensen, Cristin Williams






Live Oak Park, Berkeley, June 27 Concert Program

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Live Oak Park, Berkeley
June 27, 2010

Jo Vincent Parks: Prologue Aria, I Pagliacci, by Leoncavallo

Eileen Meredith: “Chi’l bel sogno di Doretta”/La Rodine by Puccini

Katya Roemer: “Io son l’umile ancella”/Adriana Lecouvreur by Cilea

Angela Moser and Ellen St. Thomas: ”Sull’aria”/The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart  

Theresa Cardinale: “Mon Couer”, Samson and Delilah, Saint Saëns

Gustavo Garcia Hernandez: “Recondita armonia”, Tosca, Puccini

Katya Roemer/Theresa Cardinale: “Barcarolle”/Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach

Megan Cullen: “Song to the Moon” Rusalka, Dvorák

David Chavez/Eileen Meredith: “O soave fanciulla”/La Bohème by Puccini

Elizabeth Baker: “Una voce poco fa”/Il Barbiere by Rossini

David Chavez: “Nessun Dorma”, Tosca, Puccini


Angela Moser: “Dich teure halle”/Tannhäuser by Wagner  

Theresa Cardinal and Katya Roemer: “Non ti scordar mai di me” Written by Ernesto De- Curtis; Domenica Furno

Richard Fey: “Non piu’ andrai”, Figaro, by Mozart

Angela Arnold: “My Man’s Gone Now”, Porgy and Bess by Gershwin

Katya/Theresa/Richard: “Soave sia il vento”/Così fan tutte by Mozart  

Angela Moser and Heather McFadden: “Vien Mallika”…, Lakme, Delibes

Heather McFadden: “Voi lo sapete”, Cavallaria Rusticana, Mascagni

Angela Moser: “O zittre nicht”/The Magic Flute by Mozart

Megan Cullen: “Vissi d’arte”, Tosca, Puccini
Open Opera brings free, professional opera to Bay Area parks and use public space to build community through the arts.

We are a non-profit company that relies solely on donations and contributions. If you would like to join Open Opera’s supporters, please visit us today at the volunteer table and we will happily and gratefully accept your donation.
You may also visit us at www.openopera.net and click on the donation tab.
Thank you!

Word on Webster: Crab Cove a Smash Hit

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Angela Moser sings The Queen of the Night!
Word on Webster

The first in a series of free open air Concerts at the Cove last Friday was a smash hit with more than 1,500 people coming to Crab Cove to hear Open Opera present favorites by Puccini, Mozart and others. The concerts are held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. the second Friday of May, June, July and August. The next concert on June 11 features “Foreverland,” a 14-piece Michael Jackson tribute band.

West Alameda Events


Thursday, May 13th, 2010



Alameda, CA, May 5, 2010 –

Open Opera will present world-famous opera favorites at the 2010 season’s first free Concert at Crab Cove on Friday, May 14 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM in West Alameda.

The first Concert at Crab Cove marks Open Opera’s second Alameda performance. Singers from throughout northern California will sing opera favorites by Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, and others. On June 20, 2009, Open Opera offered its Alameda premiere at Franklin Park, where 300 people including mothers with infants, retired couples on bikes, picnicking families, and kids sitting in trees listened to famous opera arias. Last July about 3000 people enjoyed two free performances of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” Berkeley’s sunny John Hinkel Park.

Open Opera will offer more outdoor concerts this summer, plus four performances of W. A. Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” at John Hinkel Park on August 7, 8, 13, and 14.

Artistic Director Olivia Stapp co-founded Open Opera “to bring free, professional opera to Bay Area parks and use public space to build community through the arts…We wanted to return opera to its informal origins. At a beautiful venue like Crab Cove a music lover can listen, play with the kids, or picnic during a concert.” After a long and successful international opera career as a soprano, Stapp is offering Master classes for talented northern California professional singers as well as places to sing in the great outdoors. Executive Director Ellen St. Thomas, a co-founder of the nonprofit group, says Open Opera “makes opera accessible and enjoyable for a wider audience, without cost or formality…We couldn’t wait to come back to Alameda after the wonderful welcome we received at Franklin Park last summer.”

“We’re bringing opera to the public for free in a time of economic uncertainty, and using public outdoor spaces to build community through the arts,” adds mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Baker, Open Opera’s third co-founder and its Creative Director. Baker performed the role of Cherubino in last summer’s Figaro. “It was great to see the kids sitting in the trees and enjoying the music at Franklin Park.”

The Crab Cove Visitor Center is at 1252 McKay Avenue, just off Central Avenue and Webster Street. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase, and BikeAlameda will provide free Valet Bike Parking at these free concerts produced by the West Alameda Business Association (WABA). Carpooling, walking, or bicycling are recommended: car parking is limited in the neighborhood.

Open Opera is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and by private donations. For more information on Open Opera, future performances, master classes, or to volunteer or support opera in public spaces, visit www.openopera.net or contact Executive Director Ellen St. Thomas (ellen@openopera.net; 510-547-2471).