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  1. Hey everybody, Antoni here. Yes, I know I was supposed to make a review of Verdi's Don Carlo starring Jamie Barton as Eboli last night. However, professional commitments specifically to the rehearsal process of Shakespeare's The Tempest prevented me from doing so and I had to be there in this rehearsal for the whole four hours. So, to compensate for this, I figure it would be nice to review an audiobook I have been enjoying so much, Charlotte Church's first autobiography, Voice of Angel: My Life (So Far), which was written and narrated by Church herself and was released on April 11, 2001.

    Ah, Charlotte Church. Where do I begin with her? As I stated in my album review of her holiday album, Dream a Dream, I was introduced to her singing through one of my aunties from my mom's side when I was a wee nine-year-old. I did not know anything about Miss Church until I heard her sing in the Disney Channel and I heard a bit of her singing in Dream a Dream in a music class. Her voice had this infectious effect on me as a child and with every album of hers that I bought I heard an overall difference from how she sounded like in her first album, Voice of Angel, to her final album as a classical singer, Prelude: The Best of Charlotte Church. Her voice, while growing fuller at the time, still kept that youth, as she was still in her early teens at the time. Charlotte Church was a lot of people to me: the big sister I wish I could have had, one of my role models for classical singing, and the co-star I wish I could have had if I would have been a child actor myself. In fact, my biggest performing arts fantasy when I was a kid was to act alongside Charlotte Church and Alexa Vega in either a TV show or a movie.

    Before I even heard about this particular audiobook, I basically stumbled upon this online and thought the book itself looked rather fascinating. I did not start listening to it until I was twenty-two years old and spending the New Year in Vancouver. As I listened to Charlotte Church's charming and down-to-earth Welsh-accented voice, a burst of nostalgia, awe, and general positive energy was overflowing. What makes Miss Church so infectious as a person is that she is a down-to-earth, outspoken, brilliant and an overall fine and genuine person, who does not take crap from anyone. She cares a great deal for her family and friends, which has always made her cool in my eyes. For those of you not in the know, Charlotte's aunt, Caroline Cooper, is a cabaret singer. She and Caroline appeared in 1997 on the British TV show, The Big, Big Talent Show hosted by Jonathan Ross, where Caroline was the main performer. Yet, when Charlotte was introduced, she stated the host that unlike her aunt who is a cabaret and modern music specialist, Charlotte stated that she was into opera. That was when eleven-year-old Charlotte Church sang one lane of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu from Requiem and both the audience and the host were in awe. Webber's Pie Jesu has ever since become Charlotte's signature song.

    Usually, the danger of some autobiographical works is that the person involved would come off as self-indulgent, pretentious, self-righteous, and too much of an overblown windbag for his/her own good. It would also be a horrible case if a young person wrote an autobiography as he/she has not experienced that much in life. That type of trap does not occur here. In fact, the way Charlotte talks about her childhood, social life, professional life, academic life, hobbies, first gigs, experience on recording Voice of Angel, Charlotte Church, and Dream a Dream, views on the celebrities, managers, crew members, and musicians she has met and worked with, path as a singer, falling out with her former manager Jonathan Shalit complete with lawsuits galore, and life in Cardiff, Wales sounds earnest, confident, and wholesome. She was like any other teenager at the time when she told her story and did not act and sound like a spoiled child star. Everything Charlotte says fascinates me because aside from her accomplishments as a performer from performing to Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, and Pope John Paul II to singing in places like Jerusalem, London, the Vatican, Toronto, and New York, she describes everything so vividly with such wholesome grace it is infectious. Coming from someone who has yet to go to Wales and maybe make an Erasmus program in Cardiff, Charlotte makes me want to go there. From the way she describes her place of birth to the many wonderful places she mentioned to everyday life in general there to even the famed Eisteddfod, Wales and especially Cardiff has always been one of my biggest destinations I want to make in the future.

    In terms of the technical structures of this audiobook, I have to say it was well-done. It is well-arranged with a clear beginning, middle, and end in each chapter and Charlotte's choice of words is unpretentious and it all comes from her. Unpretentious is the perfect word to use for this audiobook as Charlotte does not come off as someone with a huge ego, but rather someone who is grounded in reality thanks to having a firm relationship with her family. There are also some musical interludes used from time to time, but it is mostly Charlotte Church doing all the talking while taking some pauses where it is needed.

    Overall, I recommend this audiobook wholeheartedly especially if you have grown up with Charlotte Church. She presents herself so gracefully and naturally and if you can spare two hours and forty-two minutes of your time to listen to this audiobook, then you will not be disappointed. With that said, I give this audiobook a well-deserved 5 out of 5 lilting Welsh melodies. Fans of Charlotte Church will certainly get a kick out of listening to this and even if you are not a fan of Charlotte Church, you will definitely enjoy listening to every experience she has as not only a singer but also as a young person growing up through it all while keeping the people she holds dearly close to her. You can listen to this audiobook for free on YouTube, which is where I listened to it in its entirety and never regretted doing so.



    Well, that's all for now. Be sure to tune in next time where I take a look at Charlotte Church's second autobiographical audiobook, Keep Smiling. Until then, have a great day, everybody.
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  2. With a grand cast headed by El Gran Señor Javier Camarena's Duke of Mantua, how well does it all hold up?
  3. The amazing Anita Rachvelishvili astonishes the audience as an astounding Azucena!
  4. Happy Father's Day everybody! Antoni here, and I got something special to all the dads out there.

    If there are some things I love so much in my childhood, which hold up so well to this day, then they have to be fairy tales, mythology, and comics. As a child, these were my major sources of imagination, wonder, and creativity. Nowadays, as a grown-up, I still love these to this day because there are some elements which can thrill, frighten, excite, make one laugh, make one cry, make one empathize, and emit a whole gamut of emotions. It is also no wonder why I hold these in such high regard because a lot of the television shows I watch whether it's anime or western animation or live-action, there are some elements of fairy tales and myths on these installments and I jump with glee when I spot the references. On top of that, I consider them to be an art because of the imagination that can spark anyone's mind, plus take one into worlds unknown and be filled with anticipation and excitement.

    Enter Beanstalked created by Sierra Ray, known in Deviantart as PockyBloo, beginning in 2015. She not only wrote the story but she also illustrated the characters and the settings. I stumbled upon this webcomic on Deviantart last year as summer break was about to start. I was completely intrigued by the characters, the designs, and even their personalities. From that moment on, I became more curious about this webcomic. Just a few days ago I began reading it and I instantly fell in love with this!

    The story basically revolves around Jack Asesino, who of course is based on Jack and the Beanstalk. It starts off with the usual fare of Jack taking the cow to be sold off, only to encounter a mysterious woman, who is the Enchantress of the Moon, who tells him of his fate as a fairy tale warrior, who bears special powers and weapons known as Märchen, the German word for of course, fairy tale. This prophecy befuddles Jack and that's all I'm going to tell from here because you might as well read further what happens next. I find the entire story to be very intriguing with the right amount of adventurous tension and thrills, marvelous fantasy elements, and some comedy to balance things out. Keep in mind that there is some profanity being used here and there, especially coming from one of the characters who I will talk about a bit later. So, don't be fooled by its family friendly like appearance as there is also a fair amount of bloodshed present, but only in reasonable doses. However, for those who can tolerate a few swear words and some violence, then this is for you. Additionally, the story does contain elements of the chosen one trope, a ragtag team of fairy tale characters interacting with each other, power-ups typical in a lot of shounen anime like Bleach, Dragon Ball Z, InuYasha, Naruto, and One Piece, and elements of magical girl transformations like in Sailor Moon or Madoka Magica, complete with the characters bearing special weapons and powers in combat. However, what makes this webcomic stand out is its heart is in the right place and it's a character-driven story where one does feel for characters like Jack and many others, plus one would want them to develop. Overall, despite some familiar elements found many installments, the writing is solid, charming, breathtaking, and leaves one with a lot of anticipation for what comes next.

    The art style is very appealing to look at. Clearly, it is inspired by manga and anime from the facial expressions, to the exaggerations, and to the overall look and feel of this webcomic. It's well-detailed, colorful, and gorgeous. The noticeable area where the art truly stands out is when the characters summon up their chosen Märchen, providing the readers with a visual and stylistic orgasm, so to say, as there is a certain brilliance, which leaves them in complete awe.

    The characters are wonderfully likable. Jack believes himself to be a normal farm boy until he meets Moon, who tells him of his prophecy as a fairy tale. He is at first incredulous at this until that fateful moment where he is at the beanstalk does his destiny come true. He can be a slacker and a bit goofy in his actions, but his heart is always in the right place and is very loyal and caring to the people who matter most to him. Pinokuni, based on Pinocchio, is the first ally Jack meets during his trek to the beanstalk. He is crass, unafraid to speak his mind, swears a lot with the use of the F-bomb and even calling Jack Jackass, and is the total opposite to Jack's all around good guy nature. Despite his rude attitude, he does have a soft side to him and the banter between him and Jack is a lot of fun to witness because of how they bounce off of each other. Much of Moon's character is shrouded in mystery but is nonetheless quite fascinating. There are also other characters who are equally as likable like Beast, the tall, dark, muscular prince with a heart of gold and is based on the Beast from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, the cool big sis badass strategist, Raiponce, the book-smart brain who is curious about the world around her, Ashe, the tough pyromancer, Nalja, the blind half werewolf girl who possesses great strength, and even Goldi, the Seven Little Kids, Gero, Henny Penny, Hazel, and Kettle.

    Overall, I highly recommend this webcomic to anyone who is a literature and mythology fan or even anyone who is avid about comics. It has lovable characters, great writing, and a lovely art style that I am willing to give this 5 magical weapons out of 5. This is a definite gateway drug for me when it comes to great webcomics and Dads, you owe it to yourselves to introduce this one to your kids. Keep in mind that this comic is updated every two weeks, so a little bit of patience will be required to fully enjoy it. However, what you get here is absolutely breathtaking.

    Well, that's all for now, and I hope to see you all next weekend for my review of Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov starring Ain Anger and Verdi's Don Carlo starring Liudmyla Monastryrska as Elisabetta and Jamie Barton as Eboli at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Until then, good night everybody and I hope you had an amazing Father's Day.
    http://beanstalked.smackjeeves.com/
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  5. Hey, everybody, I regret to inform that I could not make it to the Staatsoper im Schillertheater to watch Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust and later give a proper vlog-style review, this was also the same case of why I could not make it to my dear Narine Yeghiyan's Lieder Recital and give a review of that too, as I had a new project under my belt.

    How I got into this project was by complete chance thanks to my very great filmmaker/actress friend, Carolina Rath. As soon as I got the memo that I was going to read for Caliban for Shakespeare's The Tempest, known in German as Der Sturm, I was quite ecstatic. I knew from the back of my mind this was going to be not only a great challenge for me as it's always been for someone who's first language is not even German, but it was also a great opportunity for me to open new gates and eventually make this particular role have a handsome place on my resumé and/or curriculum vitae in order to apply for universities, more acting jobs and the like, since another academic plan for Uni is to not only have English as my major but also Theater Studies, if ever Spanish as my second subject does not fare well or vice versa.

    Our director, Frank Tilmann Otto, is a sympathetic and really cool person. I am glad to work with him so far, as long as I keep diligent, hard-working, and disciplined. In addition to that, the overall camaraderie has been positive and I hope it is kept that way.

    In terms with how I am faring in school, let's just say that how I'm doing now is a slight improvement from the first half of the E-Phase and as always, I have been passing all of my subjects and still continue to do so. Once I reach the Q-Phase, as in the last two years of doing my Abitur or pre-university schooling, then I will have to give a lot more effort.

    It may seem like I'm doing a bit too much, but I'm open to anything. Though when all is said and done, I'm a lot more excited for my summer break and I'm anticipating what is to come on my journeys.

    I wish you all a good night and I hope you all had a pleasant Pentecostal week.
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  6. Hold on to your hats, folks, this is going to be a stormy yet mysterious ride.
  7. The sparks fly with two grand bel canto divas as the rivaling queens, Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta I.
  8. I'm absolutely blessed to have been a part of this Nicksmissal podcast involving a couple of dismissed Ren and Stimpy spin-off shows, with my great friend, Patricia Miranda. So, Patty, thank you so much for having me on board for this. Fun fact, this was also recorded on a school night, about 11:45 PM in German time of all things. Regardless of that, I had a lot of fun and I would love to participate in a lot more. :)
  9. A gothic-looking production backed up by a solid star cast. Let's see how well these elements hold up.
  10. Herr Jenis and Frau Monastryska strike again, but how did Ievgen Orlov, Attilio Glaser, and Judit Kutasi fare?
  11. Two superb singers, one down-to-earth actor, and a fine pianist. How great can this get?
  12. 'Twas a pleasant afternoon of Mahler Lieder sung by the indescribably heavenly, Frau Katharina Kammerloher!
  13. Puccini's monumental opera based on Chinese folklore gets the modern treatment.
  14. Herr René Pape leads a fine cast as one of his all-time famous roles, Il Re Filippo II!
  15. La Grande Madame Vesselina Kasarova and Monsieur Jean Christophe Spinosi have struck again!