Jupiter Transits Aquarius, Part II: When You Wish Upon An Aquarian Star

Jupiter Transits AquariusPart IIWhen You Wish Upon An Aquarian Star by:Brad Kronen The planets Jupiter and Saturn have been growing ever brighter in the Autumn skies as both heavenly bodies prepare for their orbital paths to exactly cross during the Great Conjunction, a once per generational event which will be taking place this upcoming December […]

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Death & The Maidens – Sylvia Plath, Assia Wevill, and Ted Hughes

Their highly charged romance has been described as “the Romeo and Juliet of the 20th century” and their conjoined artistry has been likened to “a poetic powerhouse rivaled only by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning”. Despite all the literary and poetic accolades heaped upon the two, the relationship between the greatest poets of their Age, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, is made hollow by the nature of the couple’s highly tragic Fate.

To be expected, the marriage between these Fixed sign intellectuals appears to have always been fueled by both the Leo’s and Scorpio’s inherently intense passions but even with that said, your Author must emphasize the following astrological relationship rule:

A marriage between two Fixed Signs is never “easy” by virtue of the varying degree of “challenge” that is constantly present.

And a marriage between two Fixed Signs who are each important in their own individualized right that has no sense of compromise between the two, is undoubtedly doomed.

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Valentine Words of Warning – Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette: How NOT to behave within a Partnered Relationship or Reign of Rulership

The union between the King and Queen of France, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette sets a memorable standard on how NOT to behave within a partnership be it via a marriage or a monarchy. For not only did the relationship between the 18th century rulers not survive due to both parties repeating negative behavior cycles inherent within their Virgo Scorpio union, their cyclical blunders were the cause behind neither of the two royals surviving at all.

The King and Queen’s failure to trust each other along with their inability to communicate openly and honestly between themselves are the key factors which make their royal partnership one of the most tragic (and gruesome) examples of its kind in all of Western History.

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Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz: A Bond Forged in Artistry and Romance

Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe were each artistic geniuses in their own right and from a personal perspective, geniuses are never easy to deal with and tend to be difficult at best, especially when two of them reside under the same roof together.

The Scorpio and the Capricorn were inherently aware of each other’s genius temperaments and their marriage wouldn’t have lasted past a year if a sense of relaxed trust wasn’t instilled in their matrimonial bond from the start.

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Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton: A Love Writ in Water

Towards the end of his not so long lived life, Richard Burton was asked by a friend what the epitaph on his grave should read. Without pausing, the actor quoted the English Romantic poet John Keats saying, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”

Apt words said by a person whose birth occurred while the Sun was placed in the element of Water in the sign of Scorpio. A phrase which could just as easily been applied if the epitaph included both himself and the love of his life, fellow Water sign, Elizabeth Taylor.

There’s an old astrological adage that at first glance sounds almost dimwitted for its obviousness, but its meaning holds far more of a profound significance: “Water Reflects.” Should a person born beneath the element of Water experience inner doubt or question their self-worth, quite often they’ll “reflect” the strongest aspects of their surroundings. This mirroring effect of the Water sign could take the form of imitating another in closest vicinity with the strongest ego or by the Watery person “reflecting” the traits of their overall environment should they stand out substantially more than any one person’s personality.

The love affair between actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was notoriously well known in part because at its tempestuous core were two Water signs desperately trying to find their own sense of self within each other’s famous reflection.

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Ike & Tina Turner: The Duo that did Things “Nice and Rough”

Tina Turner.

Despite the two words listed above being associated with a famed celebrity whom much of the world adores and admires, they speak of a fabricated creation.

The surname of “Turner” represents a branding of Scorpionic control since it refers to the last name of its domineering creator. The significance of the first name is important only for its phonetic similarity to a female superhero from the world of comic books, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Before the musical duo that was “Ike and Tina” is examined any further, some realistic truths must first be relayed. Much like how society’s perception of his natal sign has become more and more myopic in the present day, with only the most cartoon-like aspects of the unevolved Scorpio personality being noticed, Ike Turner is viewed by many in the 21st century strictly through a distorted lens of the most evil, villainous kind. Case in point, the character of Ike Turner from the film, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” ranked #4 in Vibe Magazine’s “Best Movie Bad Guys”.

Unbeknownst but factually true none the less, there is a lot more behind the man whose name will most likely go down in Rock History primarily as “that drugged up crazy dude who beat up Tina”.

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Brad Kronen’s Welcome to the Zodiac Series – Scorpio

Renowned astrologer Brad Kronen presents the archived recordings from his “Welcome to the Zodiac“(WTZ) series, a group of 12 introductory lectures originally broadcasted on blogtalkradio.com, each dedicated to one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  In each show, Brad explains everything you’d ever want or needed to know about those particular residents of that […]

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Halloween & The Season of Scorpio – A Time for the Sheared Soul to Shine

There may be a lot of light-hearted fun associated with Halloween and its gag costumes along with its activities centered around the kiddies but just like the Scorpios we know and love, this autumn holiday is at its very essence INTENSE and HARDCORE by virtue of it dealing with:

– Nighttime (The Sun MUST set first before the revelries begin)

– Ransom (How else would you categorize a command like “Trick or Treat!”)

– Terror or Fright (“The one with the scariest costume wins the Halloween Grand Prize!”)

– The Recognition of Death Itself (said another way, the Horror Film in all its gratuitous glory)

– The Recognition of Those who have Died (The predominant imagery associated most with this holiday are gravestones, skeletons, and ghosts)

– The Recognition of Forces unseen by Mortals (Witches and Witchcraft, Demons and Demonic Possession, and lest we not forget the Donald Trump of all that is diabolical, the Devil himself)

– The Recognition of Our Own Mortality (The Jack-o-Lantern)

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Hedy Lamarr – Beauty is the Beast

She was voted “the most beautiful woman in the world”. A title she loathed and could never fully shake off.

With her raven flowing hair, perpetually pouted lips, alabaster China Doll skin, and exceptionally large, electrically transluscent blue eyes, no one’s beauty could compare to that of the exotic actress born beneath the sign which rules over both Sexuality and Desire, Scorpio.

Scorpios enjoy having an aura of mystery hovering around them and the most beautiful woman in the world was no exception to this Scorpionic rule since it has only recently become widely known the most desired woman from Hollywood’s Golden Age also possessed one of the most inventive minds of her generation as well.

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Josef & Magda Goebbels: Scorpios Bound in Power, Purity, and Propaganda, Part I

In no uncertain terms, Josef Goebbels was a PR and marketing genius who used propaganda to brainwash an entire nation into accepting his mindset of evil through both conscious and subconscious means. Standing barely over 5 feet tall and disabled by a clubbed foot that isolated him from birth, the dark haired, dour faced man deluded his people into thinking that not only were they a master race of humans that were superior above all others, but that he and his family were the perfect prototypes by which to model themselves by.

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The Fall of David Petraeus – The Phoenix Charred by the Flames of Desire

November 9th.

A fatefully significant date in the life of security chief supreme, David Petraeus. Not only is November 9th when the 4 Star General submitted his resignation as Director of the CIA to the President of the United States in 2012, it also marks the birth of the person who brought about the military leader’s fall into disgrace, since the 9th of November is the date of birth of Mr. Petraeus’ mistress, Paula Broadwell.

Astrologically, being born during the second week of November makes Paula Broadwell a Scorpio, and she isn’t the only one.

With his date of birth being two days prior to Ms. Broadwell’s, November 7th to be exact, the military commander laden with such high hopes was himself also born beneath the sign represented by both the Scorpion and the Phoenix of mythological legend.

Like Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus was born a Scorpio as well.

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Of Cherubs & Chipmunks: Remembering Mirella Freni

Of Cherubs & Chipmunks
Remembering Mirella Freni

by
Brad Kronen

The Mimi of our Time has left this world.

It is hardly next to never that I deem certain performers to be the greatest interpreter of particular roles, but the Italian soprano Mirella Freni was the Mimi of our Time. She was the greatest interpreter of the female lead role “Mimi” in Giacomo Puccini’s tragic opera, “La Boheme”.

Quite frankly, the woman had no rivals or even comparisons singing that role.  Freni WAS Mimi. Period.  End of story.


I saw Mirella Freni sing on a live stage four times in all – 3 times in New York at the Metropolitan Opera, once in Vienna, Austria at the Vienna Staatsoper.


I met her once.  This article relays the time I met the singer whom they dubbed “the last prima donna”.

The Cherub Who Filled The Met

It’s been said no matter how big a voice a singer may have, they won’t know if they will fill the Metropolitan Opera House until they are on stage there.

The Metropolitan Opera House is a truly massive place and is the largest building of its kind in the world.  With its 6 levels of seating space (see image below) the Met can seat over 3,800 people at any given performance.

Although well reputed for its excellent acoustics, many singers are unsure their voices will fill the classical music venue like no other until they are physically present on stage.  Some singers find their voices without thw assistance of a microphone fall short and are unable to sail above the orchestra’s competing wall of sound, failing to reach the furthest most row of seats. Other voices, bloom above and over everyone’s head where their sound can clearly and easily be heard all the way to the opera house’s last and highest row of its Dress Circle seats,

…like Mirella Freni’s voice.

The Met’s top row of seats or the ”Dress Circle” with another 5 floors of seating rows directly below it to the opera house’s main auditorium of seats located at the ground level. (Wikipedia.org)

Mirella Freni’s voice was a prime example of one of those “other” vocal instruments that bloomed over everyone’s heads and could cut right through to the furthest back, highest possible seats in the opera house.

The woman was nothing short of tiny, standing in at 5 feet 2 inches at the very most, but her voice was absolutely huge.



The Very Definition of “Italianate” Singing

As an opera singer, I was trained in the “Italianate” technique of singing.  This technique demands that all consonant production be done only with the very front of the tongue without any use of the jaw. For the most part the tongue must always be in the same relaxed position when producing a vowel with the back  of the tongue being arched up and resting against the furthest most row of back teeth in the upper jaw. The front of the tongue arches downward and rests along the gumline of the bottom jaw, as if hammered into it.  If the tongue should ever need  to leave its nestling place at the lower jaw’s gumline, it must do so stealthily fast, saying whatever consonant needs to be pronounced but returning back to the lower gumline immediately afterwards every time.  This results in a connected sense of line and purity of vowel intonation.  Additionally, one does not hear the voice “shift gears” when going from low to high register or vice versa.  There is a constant sense of a vocal line that is seamless as well as uninterrupted.

Mirella Freni was like a textbook manual for this “Italianate” technique of singing.    Every note she sang had a rounded fullness that was never pushed or forced whether in the high or low registers or whether triple forte or in the softest of pianissimos.

But none of this was known to me when I first became exposed to opera in the late 1980’s.  Much to my regret I held off on seeing Ms. Freni perform while she was still singing her world famous interpretations of the role of Mimi in “La Boheme”, “How much vocal power can a person have who has the adorable face and button nose of a cherub?” I foolishly thought to myself back then.

I soon enough was shown the grave error of my ways when I first heard Mirella Freni sing live in her own element of Puccini in March of 1990.

It wasn’t “La Boheme” but it was a role she was just as well reputedly known for, Manon Lescaut in the Puccini opera by the same name.

It is the story of a young girl whose love of fine things forces her to experience her greatest fear – dying with nothing to her name after being homeless and exposed to the elements.


Mirella Freni singing the title character’s Death Scene from Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut”

What I remember most about Freni’s performance that night was how crisp her acting was due to being so vocally comfortable singing within her repertoire. 

One could see the character’s materialism sink further and further into obsessive greed because it was made so undeniably clear from the singer’s masterful acting skills.  I was surprised that I still felt sympathy for the title character by the time she was shipped off with a gaggle of prostitutes from France to the New World of Louisiana, Freni’s acting was that believable.

From that point on I knew I had to take full advantage whenever the opportunity arose to hear the great Mirella Freni sing in person.

In 1991, I heard Ms. Freni along with the world’s most prominent opera stars at that time perform at the Met’s Opera Gala concert.  I earlier spoke of the Met’s furthest away, highest up seats because I had first hand experience – my seat for the Opera Gala was in the last row at the very top of the Met’s Dress Circle.

Mirella Freni sang the aria “Io son l’umile ancella” from Cilea’s opera, “Adriana Lecouvreur”.  I can attest from direct experience of being in those nosebleed causing seats of the upper stratosphere that I clearly heard every note Ms. Freni lovingly sang that special night.

Below is a video from the Met honoring Mirella Freni’s career and it shows clips from her Opera Gala performance:

A video from the Metropolitan Opera celebrating the life of Mirella Freni, including clips from her moving performance at the Met’s Opera Gala which Brad attended in the highest nosebleed seats possible.

Mirella Freni made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimi in 1965.  Alan Rich of the New York Herald Tribune had this to say about that performance:

Mirella Freni making her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme”, September of 1965

“Miss Freni is — well, ‘irresistible’ — will do for a start. Beautiful to look at, and actress of simple naturalness and overwhelming intelligence, she used voice and gesture to create a Mimì of ravishing femininity and grace. The voice itself is pure and fresh, operating without seam from bottom to top, marvelously colored at every point by what seems to be an instinctive response to the urging of the text….The last act eclipsed in musicianship anything, all that had gone on before. Miss Freni spun out a small silvery thread of tone at the end until you felt, rather than heard, the intensity of it all … The audience all but tore the house down and may be at it still.”


Ms. Freni never had a thorough command over the English language where often she would speak ½ a sentence in English and resort to the latter half in Italian or would use rudimentary, generalized terms whenever she wanted to describe something.  Its been said this was not the case with her Russian skills which can be directly attributed to her 2nd husband, the Bulgarian basso profundo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, whom Mirella married in 1978.

T

Mirella Freni and her husband, the Bulgarian basso profundo Nicolai Ghiaurov performing together in the Tchaikovsky opera,”Eugene Onegin” in 1986.

This would also account for the final time I heard Ms. Freni sing at the Vienna Staatsoper in the spring of 1992. At that point in her singing career, Mirella had decided to take on some of Verdi’s heavier dramatic parts such as Desdemona in “Otello” and no doubt because of Nicolai Ghiaurov’s influence she bravely undertook the works of a particular non-Italian composer, the Russian Maestro Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikowsky.

While visiting Vienna, I knew I had to at least try to catch anything being performed at the Vienna Staatsopera. Not expecting to even land a ticket, I not only nabbed a last minute cancellation of a box seat that same evening to see Tchaikowsky’s opera “Pique Dame”, in English “The Queen of Spades” but much to my pleased surprise the female lead role of Lisa was being sung by none other than Mirella Freni.

Being unfamiliar with both the opera as well as the language it was written in, I was led to believe Ms. Freni’s performance was beyond admirable, going by the warm applause and cheers she received from the audience while taking her bow that night, with many of those attending being Russian diplomats I was later told.

Meeting Mirella

Either because of her moving performance at the Met Opera Gala or whether she had already been contracted to do so, the Metropolitan Opera launched a production of Francesco Cilea’s opera, “Adriana Lecouvreur” with Mirella Freni singing the title role in the spring of 1992.

After seeing her stellar performance I was determined to meet the show’s headline performer upon her exiting from the theater at the Met’s stage door.

The overall experience sums up Ms. Freni’s unassuming, non-diva like personality quite nicely.

First it must be mentioned how admired and well-liked Mirella Freni was among her operatic colleagues. She was noted for her professionalism and easy-going nature and wherever she went was accompanied with her warm “cute as a button” scrunch-nosed signature smile.

…except on the night Brad met her.

It was mid-March, 1992 and for those who are from New York it just as easily could have been the dead of winter, it was THAT cold outside. The house was in mid-applause of the company curtain calls when I made the decision to meet La Freni and could still hear clapping as I made my way out of the theater to head to the stage door located another 3 floors below ground level. Expecting to be the first to arrive, my hopes were immediately thwarted upon seeing who had already beat me to the punch – Lois.

I had dealt with Lois two years prior to that evening when I met one of my vocal idols, the great Shirley Verrett which I had written about in my tribute to her ljfe and career. Just as on that Valentine’s night in 1990, the cold was equally bitter and biting, except this time around, Lois had on her person at least two additional paper bags filled to capacity with paraphernalia for Mirella Freni to sign. I was thoroughly vexed.

Lois never displayed any camaraderie towards her fellow deranged opera fans. The only reaction made by the extremely tall 70 something Jewish woman with a winter coat made of thick individualized segments that made her look like the Michelin Man on a mission to kill was to move her head in my general direction as I made my way next to her to wait for Ms. Freni in my order-of-importance position of 2nd place. And going by the sheer number of stuffed paper bags surrounding her, Mirella Freni must have been one of Lois’ all time favorite singers.

15 minutes went by. Then 30. When it was nearing 45 minutes of wait time, a large limousine pulled up. The back door opened and the first thing I could ascertain was the grey fur of an ushanka atop a very tall, very miffed man. Going by the Abe Lincoln moustache-less beard, it could only be one person – Ms. Freni’s husband, fellow world famous opera singer Nicolai Ghiaurov. Going by the look on his intimidating Bulgarian face, Mr. Ghiaurov looked more than annoyed to not find his wife waiting for him, so he continued to stand upright against the limousine with its engine running as he, too , waited for Ms. Freni as well.

Another 20 minutes would pass. It appeared that Lois and I were the only opera fans disturbed enough to have been waiting the entire time since no one else stood behind me.

When Mirella Freni finally emerged from the stage door, she was a vision of loveliness, dressed in a sumptuous floor length mink coat and diamond earrings. Naturally, she noticed her waiting limo accompanied by her utterly-sick-of-waiting husband to which I heard her say “Caro” the Italian version of “Honey” as she held her hand up asking him to wait just as bit more while she tended to her fans. As with Ms. Verrett, Mirella Freni addressed the pit bull of opera fans by name, saying in her broken English “Ah Lo-ees, Buona Serra!” to which Lois responded in her gravel-like New York accent, “It’s an ‘onna (honor) to see you again, Ms. Freni. An absolute ‘onna.” while presenting her first shopping bag of things to sign followed by offering up a rather fine felt tip pen.

It must have been at item #10 or 11 that I was ripped from a very cold and very bored stupor to hear something I never thought possible – the voice of the sweet cherub-like Mirella Freni had suddenly taken an exasperated tone as I heard her exclaim “I-a NO SIGN!“, followed by her storming off, getting into the limousine with her husband behind her, and all parties driving away!

Lois and I had no time to even react because the limousine then proceeded to do a U-turn around the stage entrance with Ms. Freni before us once more.

Before concluding this piece, an extra aspect to the “Italianate” technique of singing must be mentioned. When singing the closing line of a piece that ends on an extended high note, it’s recommended that the singer should maintain the brightness of tone and not go flat by exposing one’s two front teeth.

The star soprano handed Lois back her expensive signing pen saying, “Perdoname (I’m sorry) Lo-ees. I-a no sign becuz I look like…ehm….how do you say? Oh yes. I look like Cheep-moonk (chipmunk).”

Vanity or an extra-diplomatic way of avoiding writer’s cramp and getting out of the freezing cold? You decide.

Mirella Freni then turned to me, took a longer-than-usual time signing my program, wished us both a Good Night, and left in her limo for good.

It wasn’t until I got home to see what the opera legend had actually written – “THANK YOU, MIRELLA”.

Once again, Mirella Freni had displayed to me, personally, her unassuming stellar sense of self.


MIRELLA FRENI
1935 – 2020


**Brad Kronen is the author of over 30 books on both Astrology and History, which includes his astrological dating guides tailor made for every sign of the Zodiac entitled “Love in the Stars”. In honor of Ms. Freni, below is an image of the Pisces edition, her Sun Sign, which is available for purchase on amazon.com. Click on the image below to see a complete listing of all Brad’s published work:

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Bogie & Bacall: Astrologically Honoring the Last of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Hollywood fame. Tinsel Town glitz.

With the foundation behind the Mecca of the movie business being based in such non-realistic energies as hear say, rumor, and empty promises, the majority of Hollywood’s best known couples tend to have the shortest of shelf lives with most not being in any way memorable together as a romantic team.

Intriguingly, the couple from Hollywood’s “Golden Age” that’s still respected and admired in the present day just as much as when they were at the height of their romantic prime were both born beneath the most non-Tinsel Town like astrological element of Earth. Known for its ethic of hard work, grounded practicality and non-diva like behavior, both the great “film noir” actress Lauren Bacall was born beneath the middle of the Earth signs, Virgo, and the love of her life, one of the most popular actors of all time, Humphrey Bogart was born beneath the last of the Earth signs, Capricorn.

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Kathleen Battle: A Virtuostic Legacy Denied by the Mortal Sin of Hubris

It’s truly an immense shame to discuss an artist as astounding as Kathleen Battle and hardly anyone has even heard of her in the present day. Sadly, her vocal legacy will soon enough be forgotten due to her acts of hubris causing one of classical music best singers to fall from grace while at the height of her artistic prime some 30 years ago.

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Knoxville: Summer of 1915 – Seasonal Inspiration During A Time of Plague

What makes Barber’s music and Agee’s words stand apart from most artistic works considered to be “American cultural treasures” is that both artistic greats were born under Mutable signs and their conjoined efforts resulted in a Mutable masterpiece of music that has established itself as an everlasting fixture within the canon of American composition.

 

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