On Adapting The Scarlet Ibis

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The most frigid of times, January can also be the most florid of times for new opera in the Northeast. Hot on the heels of New York City’s PROTOTYPE Festival of new music-theater pieces, Boston Opera Collaborative is preparing to open its production of The Scarlet Ibis by David Cote and Stefan Weisman. This adaptation of a popular 1960 short story by James Hurst, a staple of many Minnesotan English curricula, taught in high schools from Rochester to Farmington to Mankato, also runs from Thursday through Sunday at Longy in Cambridge. Tickets HERE.

A tragic story of childhood and illness, The Scarlet Ibis has long fascinated readers. The operatic adaptation by Cote and Weisman first appeared at the 2015 PROTOTYPE Festival, and this year will be staged by both Boston Opera Collaborative and Chicago Opera Theater. Basil Considine spoke with librettist David Cote about adapting The Scarlet Ibis for the stage and walking the line between theater criticism and opera writing.

BC: How did your partnership first conceive of adapting James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis as an opera? [continued…]

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BMOP Mounts 12-Tone Take on Children’s Book

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The Boston premiere of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Charles Wuorinen’s “an over-flowing feast of witty, inventive music-theater,” will take place Saturday night at Jordan Hall in the third installment of the Boston Modern Opera Project’s season as Gil Rose leads a semi-staged production featuring guest soprano Heather Buck. James Fenton derived his libretto from Salman Rushdie namesake novel. The result is a sophisticated, adult fantasy-opera based on an equivalently sophisticated children’s novel written by a man under a death sentence. “For those who want an opera of widely diverse dramatic character and complex music, this is for you,” says Gil Rose.

Bombay-born Salman Rushdie completed his first children’s novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, in 1990, while in hiding in England under an intentional assassination-sentence by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini for blasphemy to Islam in the author’s previous book. [continued…]

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A Far Cry Reflects on a Legacy

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Pamela Frank (file photo)

In advance of the Criers’ concert at Jordan Hall this Friday, violinist Jesse Irons reflects on a program that encompasses Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile, Vivaldi’s: Concerto for 4 Violins in B minor, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, and Haydn: Symphony No. 44.

Some years ago, my dear Peabody Conservatory violin teacher Shirley Givens was excited that her star pupil Pamela Frank was coming to perform as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony. Givens had her ways, and she finagled the entire studio to attend a dress rehearsal where Pam performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto, followed by a chat. The stunning performance showcased Pam’s incredible ability to weave in and out of the orchestral textures: to soar above when needed, and to almost embed and strengthen the orchestra when the part called for it. It was an entirely egoless performance, all about Beethoven’s intention, and the music was fully alive and moving.

About a year later, Givens, planning to be away for the week, had arranged for a special guest teacher for her studio. I was extremely nervous for what would be my first lesson with Pam, but I pulled out Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D Major No. Four. I remember playing through the first movement and being out of breath. Pam asked, with a smile, “how do you feel?” Tired, I said. Pam looked at me and said, “You better not be tired, you have two more movements to play!” I was instantly smitten. After the lesson, I bought her recording of the Mozart violin concertos and I’ve probably listened to her recording of the fourth 100 times. In fact, I used to tune my violin to it! [continued…]

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Helen, thy beauty is to me….

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Helen of Troy by Rossetti

Odyssey Opera continues its sixth season next month at the Huntington Theater with the Boston premiere of Gluck’s (1770) Paride ed Elena to Ranieri de’ Calzabigi’s libretto. This marks the first of three works to be performed in Winter/Spring 2019 inspired by one of the most enigmatic figures in ancient history, Helen of Troy. The company tells us that Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) will feature three leading female roles performed by Mireille Asselin (Elena), Meghan Lindsay (Paride), and Erica Schuller (Amor), with orchestra and chorus conducted by Gil Rose, and stage direction by Crystal Manich (Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera).  The fully-staged, five-act production will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Paride ed Elena was the third and last of the so-called “reform” operas on which Gluck collaborated with the librettist Ranieri de’ Calzabigi. According to Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera’s Artistic and General Director, “Paride ed Elena is yet another operatic gem that has disappeared from the canon. The ‘why’ remains a mystery as this opera has something for everyone: a passionate love story, glorious orchestral textures, sensual ballets, and the sumptuous melodies that we’ve come to expect from Gluck’s masterful vocal writing. Odyssey Opera is thrilled to revive this neglected work and introduce it to Boston audiences.” [continued…]

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Interesting and Unusual Opera CD Suggestions

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Last year in this space [HERE] I offered an overview of more than a dozen fascinating new CD releases of opera recordings, ending with detailed reviews of two additional operas: by Bellini and by English composer John Joubert. My feature stirred up some lively comments.

During 2018 the harvest has been even more astounding. Whether you are new to the world of opera listening or have great familiarity with the repertoire, you are bound to find something for your taste, or to give as a gift to someone who loves music, theater, or the singing voice.

I divide the pile of discs into several rough categories, for convenience: 1) relatively well-known works that have been recorded many times; 2) a handful of valuable Mozart recordings from different points in his career; 3) lesser-known works by well-known composers; 4) Baroque and Classic-era works done in some version of Historically Informed Performance style; 5) forgotten French works from the 19th century that have now been given first recordings, in superb performances; and 6) other forgotten works that turn out to be quite interesting, most of them, too, in expert performances that play to a work’s strengths.

Well-Known Works, Often Seen in a New Light [continued…]

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Camerata Seasonal Renaissance Music: Legendary & Hot

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The Green Mountain Man

Ever ready to assist in the marketing activities of our literate and resourceful presenters, we herewith take note of the potential Gloire, Sororité and Fraternité in Boston Camerata’s five forthcoming holiday concerts.

Artistic Director Anne  announces that she is pleased this year, to be unveiling a brand-new production, full of color and sweep. “Gloria: An Italian Christmas” will feature six vocal soloists, harp, lutes, gambas, organ, cornetto, sackbuts, and choir, performing some of the hottest music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque. Some cast members, like bass singer-lutenist Joel Frederiksen, and the legendary cornettist Bruce Dickey, are coming over from Europe to participate. We are also happy to welcome students from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. Such an adventure for us…

FLE:  Yes, there are performers and hot music involved, but what about composers?

We’ll be featuring the titanic Gabrieli and Monteverdi along with a plethora from the Renaissance A-list: Marenzio, Cipriano, Willaert, and others. And, to keep the Camerata tradition alive, there will be Christmas songs from country chapels and popular sources. We found a cache of these simple, beautiful carol melodies in a Florentine print of the 17th century, transcribed some of them, and will be premiering them for modern audiences, alongside the magnificent sound structures meant for San Marco in Venice, and other major-league places.

The Camerata has also an extensive repertory book of Christmas concerts, and you are continuing to share it with the public. When did this all begin for you? [continued…]

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Marvin’s Ninth Inning

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In 2010, following his retirement after 32 years as Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University, Jameson (Jim) Marvin founded the Jameson Singers, an SATB choir of some 70 voices, which draws  experienced amateur singers across Boston (and includes many of Marvin’s former Harvard students). The ensemble’s 9th season will be Marvin’s final one. Exuberant and witty, Marvin discusses, among other things, the season to come: “Wondrous Light” holiday concerts on December 1st and 8th featuring works from early Renaissance to the present day (including some of Marvin’s own compositions and arrangements) and next May’s performance of the mighty German Requiem by Brahms.

GL: In your forthcoming book “Emotion in Choral Singing: Reading Between the Notes” (which will be released December 12th!) you write I believe choral music has the power to draw us into a spiritual realm, a transcendence that allows a fleeting moment of peace.” This is quite the statement!

JM It seems to me there’s a reason for choral music, a real purpose. And, simply put, it is easier to express emotion with text and singing. Of course instrumental music also has the great power to express emotion, but I find that the inclusion of text and the use of the human voice allows choral music to lift us out of our everyday experience. I believe strongly in that mission – an experience so momentary and yet so valuable. We are singing to inspire and also, to an extent, to educate. We are blessed as human beings to have the capacity to express emotion through singing or through music period. And I think humanity needs that.

Singing to educate…do you see yourself primarily as an educator? [continued…]

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MIT Announces Major Gift for Music Facility

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Will Frank Gehry be invited back?

Finding the money and the will to build a major building for the musical arts at Massachusetts’s most famous technical institute has been bruited about for more than 50 years. With the announcement that Joyce Linde, a longtime supporter of MIT and the arts, has made a “cornerstone gift” to enable building a new “state-of-the-art” music facility, that hurdle now seems overcome. The yet-to-be designed building must accommodate the current and future needs of the considerable and growing program. That there is such popular support of musical arts in various forms will come as a surprise to many, and the Joyce Linde commitment represents the beginning of an unfolding story.

The new building will stand between two illustrious neighbors. The Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto drew plans for the serpentine red-brick Baker House Dormitory when he was a professor in residence at the Institute in 1948, as one of but a few structures he built in America after the Finish Pavilion at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. Eero Saarinen’s 1955 Kresge complex made a radical statement of form and material. A building committee will eventually name a signature architect worthy of this prime location.

“Our campus hums with MIT people making music, from formal lessons, recitals, and performances, to the beautiful surprise of stumbling on an impromptu rehearsal in the Main Lobby after hours,” says L. Rafael Reif, president of MIT. “Now, through a wonderful act of vision and generosity, Joyce Linde has given us the power to create a central home for faculty and students who make and study music at MIT — a first-class venue worthy of their incredible talent and aspirations. As a champion of the arts, Joyce knows the incomparable power of music to inspire, provoke, challenge, delight, console, and unify. I have no doubt the new building she has made possible will amplify the positive power of music in the life of MIT.” [continued…]

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Larry Phillips Remembered

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Our friend over many years and BMInt colleague Ellis Laurimore Phillips III died on October 31st, at age 70, from complications of Type-1 diabetes. The harpsichordist, organist, composer, music critic, and philanthropist, seemed never to age, though he bore a long decline with bemused stoicism. He partook in the musical and social life of Boston with a light-seeming but deeply committed grace. Larry’s professional music career ran for 40 years after he won the John Robb Organ Competition in 1972 from the Royal Canadian College of Organists and the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges, Belgium in 1974.

According to the official obituary, early recognition led to signing with music agent Albert Kay Associates in New York City, who represented him from 1976-2002. He performed nationally as an organist and harpsichordist, making a valuable contribution to the Early Music revival of the 1970s with many solo performances including the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, and the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra. In the 1970s, Larry was a founding member of the musical trio, Quantz, an Early Music and Baroque ensemble. He was Artistic Director and founder of the Festival Music Players, a Boston-area chamber music sponsoring organization. Larry composed the motet, “All Shall be Well” for the Commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the foundation of Saint Botolph’s Church, Boston, Lincolnshire by HRH Princess Anne in 2008. Three of Larry’s hymns were published in the Unitarian Universalist Hymnbook, “Singing the Living Tradition” including “O Liberating Rose” which receives continued popularity among choral groups throughout Unitarian Universalist congregations. Larry worked as the Music Director for the First Parish Church, Waltham, where he was church organist and much beloved choir director from 1982-2002. Larry served as the co-founder and director of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network and an editor of the Signature Choral Series, published through the Unitarian Universalist Association. A list of his 50 BMInt reviews is HERE. [continued…]

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War and Dance in Brass

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Patrick Valentiino (file photo)

Bay Colony Brass provides Bostonian music lovers with unique large brass ensemble performances. The group—some 20 volunteer performers—was founded in 2000 and incorporates each member of the large brass instruments as well as percussion. Led by Music Director Patrick Valentino, Bay Colony Brass most closely resembles the one-to-a-part full brass section of a large symphony orchestra and bears little resemblance to the very different and larger British brass band. BCB uses five trumpet players, five French horns, four trombones, euphonium, tuba, and two or more percussionists but with a unique twist. Because of changing instrumentation between pieces, musical requirements, stamina, and preferences of the players and Music Director, keen observers will notice that the members rotate positions during the course of the concert.  Bay Colony Brass’s repertoire includes works from the Renaissance, Baroque, classical, 19th-century romantic, and 20th-century eras. There is music written for brass as well as transcriptions from orchestra works and Broadway, jazz, and film scores. The group has also commissioned recent compositions for today’s large brass ensembles.

This weekend, Bay Colony Brass is proud to present the US premiere of Christopher Gough’s Lexington and Concord as the featured piece in their performance Exploring War and Dance. Set in 4 movements, Lexington and Concord vividly depicts elements of life in the colonies that would lead to the start of the American Revolution. The work takes us through the growing unrest among the colonies and builds from there until war was inevitable. Rumor, gossip, and intrigue lead to a hymnlike rallying cry for quartet. Finally, the war itself, complete with the sounds of alarm, galloping horses, and approaching armies, ending with echoes from the beginning of the conflict.   [continued…]

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Tanglewood Season Only 7+ Months Away!

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The next 2019 Tanglewood season offers something for everyone, with concerts six out of seven days during most weeks and two on Sundays. The spectrum of offerings is remarkable as well. Traditional orchestral heavies are well-represented: two Mozart, six Beethoven (including three symphonies), Schubert (Symphony 2), two Mendelssohn (Midsummer and Scottish), four Schumann (including the increasingly popular Concert Piece for Four Horns), five Brahms, four Dvorak (including Symphonies 7, 8, 9), three Tchaikovsky, two Rachmaninoff (Piano Concertos 1 and 3), and so on—mostly with the BSO but also including the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. The complete calendar is HERE.

An especially ambitious offering, with the TMC Orchestra: Wagner’s Die Walküre complete, act I on July 27th and the other two on July 28th, afternoon and evening. The stellar cast: Amber Wagner (Sieglinde), Simon O’Neill (Siegmund), Ain Anger (Hunding), Christine Goerke (Brünnhilde), James Rutherford (Wotan), and a Fricka not yet chosen. I remember back in 1965 or 1966, when Leinsdorf directed act I in Symphony Hall, my mother wrote me she was about to go hear it reluctantly, knowing how she loathed Wagner. The next day she wrote again —“I take it all back, it was glorious!

A generous helping of visitors adds to the variety. The Venice Baroque Orchestra on July 11th will play Albinoni, Corelli, and five Vivaldi (winding up with Summer, the silliest piece imaginable, but forgivable because it is summertime, after all). The National Youth Orchestra of the USA offers an intriguing program: Berlioz’s Nuits d’été and Strauss’s Alpensinfonie, a large-scale work that has acquired too much popularity in recent years. The Knights, nominally a chamber orchestra, comes on August 15 to play a Hungarian program: Ligeti, Kurtág, Kodály (Galánta Dances) and the Brahms Hungarian Dances and Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham. On August 21 the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, 80 musicians strong, performs “on traditional Chinese instruments placed in a Western configuration.” [continued…]

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BoC-Berk Band Hits Silkroad for Werden Brüder

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Sandeep Das to play tabla

For almost two decades, Boston’s Silkroad initiative has attempted to enact, in music and other art forms, its firm belief that engaging and embracing difference builds a more hopeful world. They have shown that music specifically can spark radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning.

Friday November 16th at 8pm, Grammy Award-winning Silkroad soloists join the Boston Conservatory at Berklee student orchestra in dynamic performance at Symphony Hall. Conducted by Bruce Hangen, the program will feature poetry-inspired contemporary classical works by Tan Dun, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Gabriela Lena Frank among others. The Silkroad soloists include Sandeep Das, tabla; Maeve Gilchrist, Celtic harp; and Kaoru Watanabe, Japanese shinobue flutes / taiko drums.

“It is an honor to bring Silkroad artists Sandeep Das, Maeve Gilchrist, and Kaoru Watanabe to Boston Conservatory at Berklee for this exciting concert,” said Michael Shinn, dean of music for Boston Conservatory – Berklee. “This marks the start of a longer-term collaboration between the Conservatory and Silkroad that will reimagine conservatory music training, both in concert and in the classroom. With this special collaboration, Conservatory students will now have the chance to perform a radically innovative program alongside these cutting-edge performers in one of Boston’s iconic locations for music, Symphony Hall.” [continued…]

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Yes, Yes, Nonet

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Louise Farrenc by Luigi Rubio (1835)

The now elusive Louise Dumont Farrenc (1804-1875) was once a prominent French composer, virtuoso pianist, and teacher, who had received favorable notice from Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and others. The Weston Wind Quintet & Friends will be giving a rare performance of her Nonet in E-flat Major op. 38, for string quartet and wind quintet [listen HERE] in a free one-hour concert in the Plymouth Public Library (132 South Street) Wednesday November 7th at 7pm.

The concert will include a performance by the ensemble and pianist Heeyeon Chi of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in an arrangement by French oboist and conductor David Walter.

Louise Farrenc displayed great talent as a child and was accepted at 15 by the Paris Conservatoire. She wanted to study composition as well as piano, but it was another half-century before women could even enroll in composition classes. Anton Reicha, the Conservatoire’s professor of composition, agreed to teach her privately. (His Conservatoire students included Liszt, Berlioz, Gounod, and Franck.) Reicha was not only a lifelong friend of Beethoven but also one of the early popularizers of the wind quintet, composing more than 20 full-length pieces for the combination. [continued…]

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Ardent for Du Bois

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W E B Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois’s 150th anniversary has inspired the Du Bois Orchestra to feature Schubert, Wagner, and Coleridge-Taylor at University Lutheran Church on November 3rd, in the third concert of a series celebrating the life and legacy of the visionary Harvard sociologist, who combined music, sociology, and philosophy to fight for social equity. Since the orchestra’s founding in the autumn of 2015, the ensemble has maintained that classical music can be key to authentic dialogue.

The orchestra, made up of college and conservatory musicians from around the Boston area, provides an engaging community for advanced orchestral playing while also seeking to employ music to overcome social exclusion, performing marginalized and underrepresented works along with standard repertoire. In addition, outreach to youth and the underprivileged are integral to the orchestra’s belief that music can unite and transform society.

Du Bois’s documented interest in music began at Fisk University, where as a student, he called on African Americans to “build up an American school of music which shall rival the grandest schools of the past,” and commenting on a student performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah by the Fisk Mozart Society, of which Du Bois was an ardent supporter, he wrote: “Our race, just a quarter-century removed from slavery, can master the greatest musical compositions.”

When he arrived in Cambridge in 1888, calling 20 Flagg Street home, just seven blocks from the venue of Saturday’s concert, Du Bois was eager to share his good singing voice with the Harvard community. He auditioned for the Harvard Glee Club, but was rejected because he was black. Undaunted, he pursued his own musical education, actively seeking out performances of opera and orchestral music during his studies in Europe and throughout his life. [continued…]

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A Gounod Journey Through Sensual Melody

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Charles Gounod

Odyssey Opera extends its salute to the French composer Charles Gounod, as Boston’s most innovative opera company claims the local premiere of the 1858 Le médecin malgré lui  (The Doctor in Spite of Himself).

In its sixth season, Odyssey, one of the nation’s most adventurous companies, continues its Gounod voyage on Friday November 9th at 7:30pm and Sunday November 11th at 2pm, in the Huntington Avenue Theater. “Gounod is rightly viewed as the creator of the genre of lyric opera,” explains Gil Rose, Odyssey artistic and general director. “Not only was he the creator of Faust and Romeo et Juliette, he substantially influenced the course of French music and helped restore a higher sense of artistic purpose to the French stage.” Often regarded as the apostle of a lyrical, sensual, seductive Romanticism, “Gounod knows how to grasp and transcribe the human heart. He had a magical gift for melody.”

This year is the bicentennial of Gounod’s birth, and Odyssey Opera offers a chance to become better-acquainted with one of the major French composers of the second half of the 19th century. Based on a play by the great satirist Moliére, Le médecin malgré lui is a three-act comic opera set to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. This Odyssey production features baritone Stephen Salters (Sganarelle), mezzo-soprano Tascha Anderson (Jacqueline), tenor Piotr Buszewski (Leandre) in his Boston debut, and full orchestra and chorus conducted by Rose, with stage direction by Daniel Pelzig (Santa Fe Opera, Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago). The fully staged production will be sung in French with English subtitles, recitatives added by Erik Satie, “never heard before.” [continued…]

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Great and Imperial Classicists Cleaned

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Robert Levin

If plopped in Symphony Hall in a couple of weeks, would Schubert and Beethoven relish the Staubsaugering of two centuries of dust the from their Great Symphony and Emperor Concerto? BMInt’s own brilliant advisor the virtuoso pianist Robert Levin, with dynamic conductor Richard Egarr and the H+H Orchestra, will be cleaning up these masterpieces for rendition on instruments similar to those the composers knew, with the result that, in publicist-speak, these works will sound utterly fresh while maintaining their treasured grandeur and poetry.

Coming to Symphony Hall on Friday Nov. 9 at 7:30pm and Sunday Nov. 11 at 3pm; tickets HERE.

BMInt asked Egarr to give some thoughts on the Schubert and Levin to answer questions about the Beethoven.

Egarr: Schubert—what an extraordinary composer: Classical yet Romantic, intimate yet infinite. His Great symphony was considered unplayable because of its gigantic scope and difficulty, musical and technical, yet it has intrigued musicians since its creation, 1825-’27. [continued…]

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Cantatas of Love and War from the Sun King’s Fadeout

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Zachary Wilder, tenor

As is their wont, Les Bostonades tunes to its French Baroque channel on Friday at Gordon Chapel of Old South Church. Two cantata modern premieres are up: Gervais’s Telemaque and Renier’s L’Indifference Puni (US premiere). Zachary Wilder, onetime Boston-based tenor who has gone on to make a name for himself across Europe and more recently in Japan, returns for this performance. (Audiences will recognize Wilder from numerous Boston Early Music Festival productions.)

BMInt wanted to get the scoop and enlisted Bostonades violinist Sarah Darling to both interview and join in with Wilder.

SD: Les Bostonades has a long tradition of promoting French Baroque music in Boston. What’s the je ne sais quoi about this rep?

ZW: French Baroque music’s appeal really comes from its intense link to language, dance, and harmony, which were highly valued by these composers at the time. Even the instrumental music, with its swung rhythms, takes on the lilt of the French language. The resulting music is full of surprising jazzy harmonies and an irresistible groove. At least that’s why I love it. We spent a lot of time looking through repertoire in the archives at the Bibliothèque National de France. At the end of the day we were really looking for repertoire that is excellent and musically compelling; otherwise it’s uninteresting to bother digging it out just for the sake of a modern premiere. When we came upon the Renier and the Gervais cantatas, we were immediately struck by the skillful and exciting compositional styles. [continued…]

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Reviving a Searing Attack on Opera Seria

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Detail from Duplessis portrait of Gluck

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s name appears more frequently in musical textbooks than in concert programs today; though performances of his better-known works (Orfeo, both Iphigénies, and Alceste) do visit contemporary stages periodically, they are by no means standards of the operatic stage. Therefore, his opera Alceste, will be arriving as something of a novelty, when Edward Elwyn Jones leads the Harvard University Choir, Gran Harmonie, and local soloists Hailey Fuqua, Jonas Budris, and Sumner Thompson in a free concert version at Memorial Church on October 20th  at 7:30.  According to Jones:

Throughout his oeuvre, Gluck aimed for melody that is “noble, expressive, and natural, and declaimed exactly according to the prosody of the language.” The composer’s direct, immediate vocal style propels his dramas vividly, bringing tireless human emotions to life on the stage.

 Alceste’s notable arias are simple and direct: the regal “O Dieux! Du destin;” the authoritative “Divinités du Styx;” the exquisite “Ah, divinités implacables;” and the heartbreakingly poignant “Vis pour garder le souvenir.” But it is surely in the accompanied recits that we see Gluck’s true genius in portraying emotion: Alceste’s torn personality is progressing rapidly towards Gluck’s ultimate study of human psychology, Iphigenie en Tauride. [continued…]

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BLO Rosina Confides and Opines

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Boston Lyric Opera’s five-performance run of Rossini’s ever-popular Barber of Seville begins Friday at the Majestic Theater. David Angus will conduct stage director Rosetta Cucchi’s production designed by Julia Noulin-Mérat, costumed by Gianluca Falaschi, and lighted by DM Wood. The cast comprises Matthew Worth as Figaro, Daniela Mack as Rosina, Jesus Garcia as Almaviva, David Crawford as Basilio with Michelle Trainor, Steven Condy, Jesse Darden, Vincent Turregano in smaller roles.

BMInt writer and BLO annotator Laura Prichard tells us, “It is a veritable tour de force of vocal acrobatics, musical wit, and comedy. Beginning with a spirited overture, Rossini’s approach contrasts upbeat humor with poignant musical touches. Rossini mastered the opera buffa by peppering each act with duets and trios and capping each act’s finale with a sophisticated ensemble (à la Mozart). By utilizing the satirical opera buffa genre, Rossini could transform characters from the still-popular commedia dell’arte into scheming servants and deceptive suitors, laying bare the social injustices of their time.”

The BLO’s Rosina, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, acclaimed for her “caramel timbre, flickering vibrato, and crisp articulation” (Opernwelt) as she “hurls fast notes like a Teresa Berganza or a Frederica von Stade” (San Francisco Chronicle), had some interesting words for BMInt.

FLE: After nearly three weeks of rehearsing, can you relate anything surprising in the BLO staging? [continued…]

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Donald Wilkinson: The Angel Took Risks

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How, then, to say goodbye to a collaborator, colleague, and companion of 25 years, someone with whom we made music, sharing good times and bad, season after season, adding up to a full third of man’s biblical lifespan? What appropriate, meaningful words can come forth, even as we struggle with our tears and our grief, to evoke for others essence of Donnie’s kind and tender soul?

He was a man of almost angelic purity. Candid and naïve almost to a fault, held back from the start by problems of education and upbringing, he wanted, despite significant inner handicaps, to go forward towards life and to give his existence meaning. And he did indeed forge a path for himself, realizing his ambition to be a performing artist, and giving enormous pleasure and consolation to countless others via the beauty of his voice. To cite a line from the American songbook, a repertoire that Donnie treasured and recorded, he did it his way. There was a nobility to his existence, and I am humbled as I contemplate, insofar as I perceive it, the arc of his life which sadly ended yesterday.

You heard that round, warm, tender singing voice, onstage and via recording, and reveled in its author’s solid, confident musicianship, in his authentic and appealing personal presence. Did you know, however, that Don’s training was as an electrical engineer, and that he spent years working in a large corporation before deciding that music was his true calling? He told me once that his family had strongly counseled against his career change. Yet he persisted, leaving secure employment, and braving, at the start of his new professional life, genuine hardship and financial stress. He took a big risk, and he succeeded, becoming a property owner in his personal life, and a reliable and welcome part of the Boston-area musical scene. [continued…]

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Twelve Tones in Tinseltown

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Omar Ebrahim as Schoenberg as Bogart.

Arnold Schoenberg fled the darkness and despair of Hitler’s Europe for 1930s Hollywood—a bold new world of golden sunshine and camera-ready beauty. Can he find a way to reconcile reflection with action, and tradition with revolution? What meaning has art in the wake of atrocity?

These are questions composer Tod Machover tries to settle in Schoenberg in Hollywood, a Boston Lyric Opera New Works Initiative commission. But the show is not some subtle intellectual disquisition. Rather, the composer told BMInt, There’s actually a lot of action, and believe it or not, there is even some blood—read about Richard Gerstl’s relationship with Schoenberg’s first wife, Mathilde, to get an idea where that is heading. Schoenberg’s life, in addition to his music, was one of the most dramatic you could imagine. So even though our cast consists only of three singers playing Arnold Schoenberg, A Boy and A Girl, they all change all the time. And the electronic handling of the 16-piece ensemble will offer lots of layers and effects.

Running for four nights (November 14th-18th) at the Emerson Paramount Theater; tickets HERE.

BMInt spoke with Machover recently.

FLE: Now, I can’t remember whether Schoenberg was introduced to Irving Thalberg by Karl Marx or Harpo Marx [continued…]

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Gounod Grand Opera To Be Outed

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Charles Gounod

Having found long-missing original parts for Gounod’s La reine de Saba, or The Queen of Sheba, Gil Rose is now preparing to lead Odyssey Opera in a concert version on Saturday, September 22nd, at Jordan Hall, in what may be both the American premiere of Gounod’s grand opera, as well as the first complete performance since its opening night in 1862. Ticket’s HERE.

In his day, Charles Gounod, whose 200th birthday occurred on June 17th, stood among the most highly regarded of French composers. He won the Prix de Rome at 21; while studying for the next three years in the Eternal City, he found himself bored by the current repertory of Italian opera (Donizetti, Bellini, Mercadante) feeling that they lacked the vigor of Rossini, but deeply moved by the music of Palestrina in the Sistine Chapel. His profound absorption of Renaissance polyphony was not common among French composers of his day. It lent backbone to the Mass settings and other sacred works of later years. At the end of his stay in Rome, he went to Vienna, where he was quite overwhelmed by Mozart and Beethoven. On his journey home, he stopped in Leipzig, where Mendelssohn gave him a private performance of his Scottish Symphony in the Gewandhaus. All of these experiences would strike fire at various points in the future. [continued…]

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80 Years, and 45 at the Conservatory

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The genial interlocutor with the nimbus-bright silver fro who presides over First Mondays at Jordan Hall has a major birthday coming up. New England Conservatory celebrates Laurence Lesser, legendary cellist, passionate teacher, and President Emeritus, for his 80th Birthday in NEC’s season-opening orchestra concert on Wednesday, September 26th at 7:30 pm at Jordan Hall. Lesser will appear as a soloist with the NEC Philharmonia and conductor Hugh Wolff in Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque for Violoncello and Orchestra

NEC Interim President Thomas Novak says, “An integral part of NEC for more than four decades, Larry is one of the foremost cello pedagogues of our time, following in the footsteps of his teacher, Gregor Piatigorsky, in creating a lasting legacy of hundreds of students.

Admission is free, but subject to the Conservatory’s new policy requiring email reservations, motivated, reputable sources tell us, by the marketing department’s interest in doing targeted advertising. No immediate plan to begin charging for free concerts seems to lurk in the offing. Click for tix HERE.  

Lesser’s conversation with BMInt begins after the break. [continued…]

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Continuing To Fulfill Mrs. Gardner’s Mission

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The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s music season gets underway with back-to-back concerts of mostly site-specific repertoire this weekend. The highlight may come in a commissioned work responding to Whistler’s “Nocturne, Blue and Silver: Battersea Reach,” which hangs in the Museum’s Yellow Room. Jessica Meyer wrote Grasping for Light during her week-long residency at the Museum last March.

Other items in A Far Cry’s “Portraits,” featuring music inspired by renowned works of art, include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych, nods to the Museum’s upcoming Botticelli exhibition, which opens Feb. 2019. William Grant Still took inspiration for “Mother and Child,” part of his Suite for Violin and Piano, from Sargent Johnson’s lithograph,Mother and Child.”

In celebration of the Boston native’s centennial, violinist Tai Murray will join A Far Cry, in Bernstein’s “Agathon” from Serenade after Plato’s Symposium

 “Portraits” runs on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m in the Museum’s Calderwood Hall. Tickets ($15 – $36) include museum admission, and may be purchased HERE or at the door. [continued…]

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BPYO Brought Mahler Back Home

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Next week the Boston Symphony may be bringing Mahler’s Third (along with Bernstein and Shostakovich) on a European tour, but the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra got the Mahler march on the BSO last June. Benjamin Zander designed his 25th youth orchestra tour in 47 years as a kind of pilgrimage through Mahler’s life, from his birthplace to his grave. No participant is likely to forget the journey through many of the cities important in Mahler’s life, performing the Ninth Symphony eight times in some of the world’s most beautiful concert halls in five countries: Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Budapest, Pecs, as well as in Mahler’s hometown, Jihlava, and culminating in two especially inspiring concerts in the Musikverein in Vienna and at the one place where his music was well-received during his lifetime – Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw.

From the extensive accounts submitted by the the participants in their “white sheets” and blog entries, BMInt has culled a representative 2,500 words, which tell the story in terms of its culmination. For an attractively illustrated souvenir compendium of a significant portion of the inspiring comments from the participants, woven together by Zander’s explorations of the philosophy and practices that make this orchestra so remarkable,  click HERE.

Netherlands Radio’s recording [HERE] of the Concertgebouw performance of Mahler’s 9th also includes the Musikverein performances of the Butterworth Banks of Green Willow and Ravel’s La Valse, recorded by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. Both concerts will air in their respective countries during the upcoming season. In the final performance of Elgar’s Nimrod, Zander took a slower tempo than ever before, and with good reason, “we were not ready to say goodbye to each other or to conclude the experience of a lifetime!”

Richard Dyer, the former Chief Music Critic of the Boston Globe elaborated on the inspiring concluding concert in an excerpt from his extensive blogs. The unedited version is HERE. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but Mahler’s goal is not about perfection — it is about striving for perfection. [continued…]

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