Forget what you knew about La bohéme, and for that matter, discard all your preconceptions about opera. Without a doubt Boston Lyric Opera’s staging of Puccini’s evergreen masterpiece entered the annals of memorable shows which have occupied the legendary Colonial Theater over its 123 years.    [continued]

BSO’s opening night blissed out the mass of music-goers with a new and convenient start time of 7:30 Thursday evening at Symphony Hall. American pianist Awadagin Pratt made his BSO debut in fellow American composer Jessie Montgomery’s Rounds written for him, and he angled Bach according to his own muse.    [continued]

Seeing and hearing any classical show in the magical and inspiring Emerson Colonial Theater interests us tremendously. Witnessing Puccini’s La bohéme from the venerable Boston Lyric Opera adds another dollop. For this production, director Yuval Sharon runs Act IV first and adds a “Wanderer”/interlocutor to explain the proceedings.

Boston Lyric Opera presents the favorite opera of starving artists and thwarted lovers September 23rd through October 2nd at the Colonial Theater…except the lovers don’t end up thwarted. Love triumphs over death in this show. Purchase tickets HERE.

This feature will first discuss the venue. Our interesting interview with Lauren Michelle, the show’s Mimi, follows several paragraphs down.

The oldest Boston theater to survive intact and one of Boston architect C.H. Blackall’s (he did many important theaters in Boston as well as Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline) most gracious creations, the Colonial Theater opened on December 20, 1900, and through, war and pestilence remained a beloved venue for important premieres and tryouts of plays and musicals. It narrowly escaped conversion to a food court six years ago. Flo Ziegfeld launched his Follies there, and notable players, playwrights and composers at the house include Irving Berlin, Sigmund Romberg, Richard Rogers, and Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Ether Merman, the Gershwins, Katherine Cornell Lunt and Fontaine, Katherine Cornell Tyrone Power, Paul Robeson, Laurence Olivier, Doyly Carte Company with the great John Reed. I remember that 1973 Pinafore well, as the last musical I heard anywhere without amplification. Imagine Merman projecting to the back rows in Annie Get Your Gun…singers needed great pipes until amplification changed belting to crooning. [continued…]

We had something of an epiphany while listening to the performance Sunday by the Merz Trio (Lee Dionne, piano; Bridgid Coleridge, violin; Julia Yang, cello) on the Ashmont Hill Chamber…    [continued]

Revered pianist Victor Rosenbaum gave himself an 80th birthday party cum farewell to New England Conservatory in Jordan Hall last Saturday; votaries completely packed the floor. Belying his age, Rosenbaum skipped on stage to thunderous acclaim before embarking on Brahms’s op. 118, no. 1.    [continued]

The BSO subscription season begins this Thursday night with a lively and celebratory program HERE which finds the orchestra toasting itself through a namesake overture by John Williams, finding its place within the Planets, and showcasing the debut of pianist Awadagin Pratt in Bach’s Concerto in A Major and in Rounds, for piano and string orchestra, a new work written for him by the young Jessie Montgomery [the orchestra included her Starburst in a 2020 “American Promise”-themed program HERE]. A review on these pages noted how the 55-year-old Pratt  delivered “old-master richness” and compared him to Horowitz and Richter.

Pratt became the first African American to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition. That achievement launched an active performing career (including appearances with numerous American orchestras and for the Clinton White House and Obama White House), as a recording artist, and as a professor of piano at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Recent projects include the multimedia presentation “Awadagin Pratt: Black in America” which chronicles his life, including unpleasant encounters with law enforcement as a young man. He talked with us at length and rewardingly.

FLE: So where did the name Awadagin come from?

AW: My father was from Sierra Leone.

As of late, you’ve been talking a little about your roots, but more about your personal experiences of racism. Apparently you were arrested while running late to class at Peabody…while Black. [continued…]

Odyssey Opera’s “Troika,” comprising Rachmaninoff’s complete operatic oeuvre, brings his three rarely heard one-act operas together for the first time according to conductor and Artistic Director Gil Rose. At Jordan Hall, Odyssey will conjoin Aleko, Miserly Knight, and Francesca Da Rimini in a three and one half-hour extravaganza. Audition them in Neeme Järvi’s excellent recordings HERE.

The stories by Alexander Pushkin and Dante tell of an exiled Russian nobleman consumed by jealousy, an aging Baron who dies calling not for his son but for his gold, and a young couple consigned to the Second Circle of the Inferno after an illicit kiss. Presented in concert in Russian, with English Supertitles in a collective US premiere on September 25, 2022 at 3:00 PM NEC’s Jordan Hall. Tickets HERE

FLE: All three operas can be auditioned in multiple YouTube streams. Miserly Knight got done at Bard this summer, and Aleko is hardly unknown. Commonwealth Lyric Theater, specialists in Russian/Ukrainian repertoire, did it in Boston about ten years back. [reviewed HERE]

Gil Rose: Even though it was a student work, Aleko has had something of a continuous concert life on stage. It gets done, often paired with various things.

And how did you come up with the idea of this triple bill? You say, they haven’t ever been fit together, though in 1906 at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Rachmaninoff conducted a double-bill of Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini. You probably are correct in claiming a first for this 3.5-hour triple header. [continued…]

As chaos coalesced in the decoratively polychromatic Emerson Paramount last night, slam, bang, pow, wow, kaboom went  Cerise Lim Jacob’s Cosmic Cowboy in a Bayreuth meets Hayden Planetarium mashup of myth, madness and quotidian.    [continued]

The 2022 Boston Bach International Organ Competition concluded Sunday evening memorably with the Winners’ Concert at First Lutheran Church of Boston. The week-long competition brought 17 accomplished young organists from 14 countries and 4 continents as well as 7 judges from 5 countries.    [continued]

Maverick Concerts ended its 107th season of “Music in the Woods” on Sunday with a solo recital by the prodigiously gifted Uzbek–Israeli pianist Roman Rabinovich offering “The Mystical World of César Franck: The Complete Music for Piano”    [continued]

Pianist, composer, conductor, teacher, past Longy president Victor Rosenbaum celebrates his 80th birthday and retirement from his first and last job with a free Jordan Hall recital on September 17th at 8:00 PM offering a retrospective of music he loves: Brahms: Intermezzi Opus 118, Nos. 1 and 2, Victor Rosenbaum: Elegy-Impromptu, Beethoven: Sonata in E Major, op. 109, Schubert: Sonata in A Major, D. 959, as well as the world premier of composer-pianist Lewis Warren’s second Ballade. Rosenbaum’s elegant valedictory essay follows this short interview.

Are you satisfied with how your career has unfolded?

I made a conscious decision (spoken to myself and others in so many words) many years ago never to be bitter about what I might not achieve in fame or recognition. How tiresome are those regrets of many musicians who think the world failed to give them the accolades they deserved. By contrast, I feel very lucky that I have been able to play the music I love most, often with some incredible (and world famous) collaborators (like Leonard Rose, Robert Mann, Roman Totenberg, and many wonderful NEC colleagues). And I have taught all these years in one of the world’s great schools of music. What a great privilege! If I look back on opportunities missed, there is one moment that could have changed the trajectory of my career: it was when Erich Leinsdorf saw me conduct a little kids orchestra at a summer camp in the Berkshires where his daughter was a violinist. He must have seen something in our little attempt at the first movement of Beethoven’s First Symphony, because afterwards he invited me to be some kind of assistant at the BSO. Stupidly, I turned it down because I was in the middle of my graduate studies. I mean, really, how stupid can you be?

But, you know, even though that could have led to something very different and wonderful (and I always have loved conducting), I am rather happy that I have had a not too shabby career. I’ve traveled for concerts and teaching in many parts of the world (even to Iraq, believe it or not), and have had the admiration of my students and musical colleagues. A life in music is a pretty great thing, regardless of the degree of fame or fortune it brings. [continued…]

Marcus Thompson (file photo)

On September 18th at Sanders Theater BCMS begins its 40th season with what its fans like, great chamber music: Brahms’s Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 101, Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, and Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20 in the company of Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet; Adrian Morejon, bassoon; Jason Snider, French horn; Yura Lee, violin; Marcus Thompson, viola; Clancy Newman, cello; Thomas Van Dyck, double bass. Tickets HERE.

Alongside its nine member musicians*, this season BCMS brings 16 familiar and exciting guests to 3 concert stages and adds nine works to its repertoire, including the premiere of an anniversary commission by Scott Wheeler. I enjoyed a very pleasant talk with Artistic Director Marcus Thompson about how the ensemble began, responses to recent challenges, the upcoming season, and beyond. 

FLE: Over nearly 40 years the Boston Chamber Music Society has maintained the appearance of being an exclusive club as the word  ‘Society’ implies. And maybe for roster of distinguished Member Musicians, it is something of a club which admits listeners to its fold. Long before so many other groups, series and venues got started, this Society has had quite impact on how and where chamber music is presented around town. Even though you weren’t a member in its first season, at some point ‘you made the cut,’ ‘paid the fee,’ got to be a member, and, for the last 12 years you’ve served as Artistic Director. What is BCMS’s origin story? [continued…]

Because one in three adults in Massachusetts experiences food insecurity, Music for Food gives concerts whose entire proceeds go to food providers. Last year MFF’s $22,918.12 contribution helped Women’s Lunch…    [continued]

Creator and librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs tells us that the ninth (or so) of her “diverse, timely, and relevant operas based on her original stories … Traverses the mysteries of time, space and love, through wormholes and black holes, in this sci-fi opera that blends live staging and virtual reality. Inspired by both the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock and the historic landing of the space probe Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Cosmic Cowboy meditates on both the power of human imagination and the consequences of our colonizing impulse.

The opera is an eclectic romp through the universe that ranges from the formation of the cosmos by the mating of the Sumerian gods Tiamat and Apsu to a touching pas de deux between Cooper, a robotic space probe, and Tiamat’s daughter, Tia.”

Cosmic Cowboy runs September 16 -18 at the Emerson Paramount. Tickets HERE Synopsis HERE. Cowboy composer Elena Ruehr, often reviewed on these pages, answers a few of our questions:

FLE: Humans have always explored, thus Cerise Jacobs’s making the connection between space travel and the Mayflower is not as bizarro as it might seem, though the connections with Magellen’s voyages might have been more apt. Sumerian gods, Tiamat and Apsu also apparently come into the picture in this sci-fi, fantasy mix. Wagner figures too with strange Tarnhelmisch nets. Have you dabbled in these occult spheres either as a reader or a composer before this commission? [continued…]

On Sunday afternoon, in “Music for Eugène Ysaÿe,” the Amernet String Quartet dished up, with superior respect for our delight, works of Beethoven, Chausson, Franck, and Saint-Saëns for a responsive Maverick audience.    [continued]

For Saturday’s Maverick show, music director Alexander Platt assembled forces from the Caroga Arts Collective and three important soloists for Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings as well as music by Shostakovich and Alan Shulman.    [continued]

Beethoven’s Ninth on Sunday August 28th followed the long tradition of capping the summer festival by sending the audience into the world with this most programmatic of symphonies as a recessional. Given the hiatus of 2020-21, its reappearance carried a life affirming value.    [continued]

Enthusiastic fans heartily welcomed Michael Tilson Thomas back to the Koussevitzky Shed Saturday night after a few years’ absence for a memorable concert which started with  Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral morsel Dubinushka.    [continued]

Saturday’s evening concert at a packed Shed extending into a lawn well populated with twinkling candles and lanterns brought a still defiantly boyish Michael Tilson Thomas on stage to conduct the BSO in a program of three subtly emblematic 20th-century works that grapple with human progress in three distinctive ways.    [continued]

Friday evening in the Koussevitzky Shed at Tanglewood, BSO Assistant Conductor Anna Rakitina presented a massive, fascinating, thrilling and profound program juxtaposing Shostakovich at two very different moments of his career with Dvořák’s magnificent Violin Concerto and Borodin’s fierce Polovtsian Dances.    [continued]

The Mercury Orchestra presents “an odyssey of the individual against the forces of fate through the revolutionary music of Beethoven” Saturday night at Jordan Hall. Conductor Channing Yu will be on the podium as he has been since founding the surprisingly rewarding volunteer ensemble orchestra in 2008. The concert begins at 7:30 and management suggests $10 for admission. Alone on our calendar for Boston, this event constitutes the best of all possible concerts for Saturday night.

Beethoven’s overture to Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s 1804 drama Coriolan juxtaposes the stirrings of war with a mother’s pleas for peace. His fifth piano concerto (Emperor), which he dedicated to his patron, the Archduke Rudolf, epitomizes Beethoven’s middle or heroic period, defining a new relationship between soloist and orchestra. The soloist Nan Ni 倪楠, has just won the first Fou Ts’ong International Piano Competition, sponsored by the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts. The Fifth Symphony, universally known for its opening fate motif, “not only towers as a symphonic edifice but also provides an intimately sublime portrait of individual struggle,” according to the conductor.

Channing Yu talked with BMInt about founding the orchestra and forks in his personal journey.

FLE: I know you don’t like to talk much in the musical context about your life in the medical arts but nevertheless I’m curious about your attitude as to whether music can be enjoyed for its own sake or whether it needs to be viewed as healing or something beyond especially for somebody with your dual background.

[continued…]

Continuing the inaugural series of recitals for its already renowned St. Cecilia Organ at the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, the acclaimed concert artist Chelsea Chen impressed us mightily on August 20th in works ranging from J. S. Bach to her own compositions but placing emphasis on the French and German Romantic repertoire.    [continued]