MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Refugees and Opera

Joshua Barone recently reported for the New York Times on a new production at Bavarian Staatsoper for part of its youth program that was “written for refugees, children of immigrants and born-and-raised Bavarians.”
The piece draws on Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, among other sources. “Theater about the refugee crisis has proliferated in Germany since migration into the country reached its peak in 2016,” writes Barone. “But rarely has the hot-button issue … entered the realm of opera, much less children’s opera.”

Actually, the Zuflucht Kultur Association has been engaging with these issues for several years, offering productions of Mozart’s Zaide, Così, and Idomeneo (which traveled to the Lucerne Festival last summer), Carmen, Orfeo, and, most recently, Don Carlos.

Here’s a radio interview (in German) with mezzo Cornelia Lanz, one of the association’s producer-performers, on their Orfeo production.

Filed under: directors, music news, opera

Porgy and Bess in Seattle

An unforgiving work overload is keeping me from covering Seattle Opera’s just-opened Francesca Zambello production of Porgy and Bess, an opera I love. I did cover it the last time the company presented Gershwin’s work, in 2011, in a version directed by Chris Alexander — well before I had launched this blog, so I hope you will forgive me for posting that
piece here. Two of the singers cast in 2011 are back onstage for the current production: Mary Elizabeth Williams and Jermaine Smith):

Seattle’s version admirably digs beneath the surface of this elusive classic of American identity. It avoids sentimentalizing Porgy into a saint and brings more human focus to characters who can often become caricatures. But some pivotal moments are under-emphasized….

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Filed under: George Gershwin, review, Seattle Opera

Wolf Kahn: Reaching Up and Bearing Down

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Pines Against Evening Sky (1996), oil on canvas: From the Wolf Kahn retrospective Reaching Up and Bearing Down at the LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe.

This especially unusual exhibition features a never-before-seen group of 21 large-format pastels from various periods of his art-making career, as well as oil on canvas paintings—breathtaking, classic Kahn artworks that thrive in the liminal space between representation and abstraction.

These works reveal Kahn’s exquisite ability to express the beauty of nature and the land. Kahn calls pastel his “determining medium” and considers it to be foundational to all his work. This striking group of pastels demonstrates the artist’s fluency with a medium that he describes as one of “immediacy,” allowing him to make the most direct recordation of his experience of being in nature.

Online catalogue here.

Filed under: art

Daniele Gatti Replacements at Lucerne Summer Festival

The replacement conductors for the two programs that the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra had originally scheduled at the 2018 Summer Festival in Lucerne with their former, now-ousted music director Daniele Gatti have been announced.

Manfred Honeck takes the reins for the 5 September concert; the very interesting lineup of Wagner, Berg, and Bruckner’s Third Symphony remains unchanged.

And on the evening after that, Bernard Haitink will replace Mahler’s Seventh (which was to have been paired with Webern with the Ninth Symphony. Given the reception of his Mahler Ninth last year in London, this should be one for the ages:

Other conductors extract more pathos (or self-pity, depending on one’s view of Mahler and the conductor involved) from the final Adagio, but few usher it towards its faltering close with more care and gentle humanity than Haitink did here. If the Ninth is the work through which Mahler confronted his mortality and came to terms with it, then in this performance it was expressed unswervingly.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler, music news

Santa Fe Opera 2018: Ariadne, L’italiana, and Butterfly

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ANA MARÍA MARTÍNEZ (MADAME BUTTERFLY) AND JOSHUA GUERRERO (F.B. PINKERTON). PHOTO CREDIT: KEN HOWARD FOR SANTA FE OPERA, 2018

Here’s my report on the rest of the 2018 summer season at Santa Fe Opera* for Musical America. I write about Ariadne auf Naxos, L’italiana in Algeri, and Madama Butterfly. My review of the company’s new production of Doctor Atomic is here.

Santa Fe, NM—-During the long reign of founder John Crosby, Santa Fe Opera cultivated its reputation as a “Strauss house.” Yet only three of the composer’s operas had been presented under the company’s third general director, Charles MacKay, before he decided to include a brand-new production of Ariadne auf Naxos as a key attraction of his farewell season.

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[PDF here: Santa Fe 2018 MA reviews]
*Apart from Candide, the one production I had to miss.

Filed under: Musical America, Puccini, review, Rossini, Santa Fe Opera, Strauss

A New Doctor Atomic at Santa Fe Opera

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JULIA BULLOCK (KITTY OPPENHEIMER). PHOTO CREDIT: KEN HOWARD FOR SANTA FE OPERA, 2018

Here’s my review for Musical America of the new production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, which Peter Sellars directed for Santa Fe Opera:

SANTA FE, NM—As with any classic tragedy, from the outset we already know the denouement of Doctor Atomic: The world’s first atomic bomb will be successfully detonated in the New Mexican desert at dawn on July 16, 1945—a prelude to the atrocities of its use less than a month later on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Review here:
Doctor Atomic-Musical America-review

Filed under: John Adams, Musical America, Peter Sellars, review, Santa Fe Opera

Sante Fe Storm

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The day after Doctor Atomic and its storm….

Filed under: photography

Ariadne auf Santa Fe

Getting ready for Santa Fe Opera’s new production of one of my favorite Strauss operas.

The biographer Michael Kennedy on the rapport between composer and librettist:

We do composer and librettist an injustice if we judge the creation of Ariadne only through their published correspondence, which has misled some writers to assume that Hofmannsthal was Strauss’s intellectual superior and that this was a partnership between a Viennese man-of-letters and a Bavarian musician baffled by his collaborator’s metaphysical flights of fancy. Strauss certainly acted as a brake on these, but he understood totally what Hofmannsthal was aiming for, even if he sometimes thought it unnecessarily obscure.

Hofmannsthal’s libretto here.

Filed under: Santa Fe Opera, Strauss

A Weekend at Tippet Rise

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Jeffrey Kahane playing the “Goldberg” Variations. Credit: photo is by Emily Rund, courtesy of Tippet Rise Art Center

My report for Musical America on my recent trip to the Tippet Rise Art Center for a weekend of chamber music, sculpture, and nature has now been posted. PDF version here: Tippet Rise-pdf-07.30.18_MusicalAmerica

FISHTAIL, Montana–Lots of music festivals beckon with the prospect of a temporary retreat from the mundane. Tippet Rise Art Center takes this to a remarkable extreme, thanks to its geography. Located on a 10,260-acre working ranch in rural south-central Montana, Tippet Rise requires nothing less than a pilgrimage just to take in one of the musical weekends of this year’s summer festival season, spread over eight weeks between July and September.

Filed under: Bach, John Luther Adams, Musical America, pianists, review, travel

Lohengrin Stream from Bayreuth

If you missed the live stream last Wednesday (25 July, the traditional opening day of the Bayreuther Festspiele), through the magic of VPN you can still view a recording of the complete performance on BR-Klassik here. Apparently it’s still available to view until 31 December.

This staging by Yuval Sharon is a genuinely historic production. This is the first time an American has directed at Bayreuth. It also marks the achievement of a complete “cycle”: Christian Thielemann, 59, has now conducted all ten canonical Wagner operas at Bayreuth. And one of the production’s especially powerful elements is the portrayal of Ortrud — Wagner’s most fascinating villain? — in her return to the Green Hill after a long hiatus.

David Allen’s review for the New York Times is particularly astute:

[Sharon] is the closest thing that American opera has to a genuine avant-gardist. … This is a story, in the director’s mind, not about Elsa’s tragic failure to keep her faith, but about Lohengrin’s unreasonable demands, about the hypocrisy of his — and, therefore, modernity’s — inability to live up to his own vision for society. And who will make that hypocrisy clear, challenge it, overcome it? The women.

Christian Wildhagen, writing for the NZZ, was less swayed by the young American. He observes:

Doch dass die offenbar tiefschürfend reflektierte, mit allerlei Romantik und Farbensymbolik angereicherte Szenerie und das über weite Strecken biedere, ermüdend oft auf die Zentralperspektive fixierte Stehtheater im weiten Bühnenrund sinnstiftend (und nicht bloss illustrierend) ineinandergriffen – davon kann auch hier keine Rede sein.

The indispensable perlentaucher.de rounds up some of the German critical press here.

Filed under: Bayreuth Festival, directors, Wagner, Yuval Sharon

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