MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Seattle Opera Announces Its 2021-22 Season

Seattle Opera has announced its return to live, in-person performances on 16 October, when it launches its 2021-22 season.

The lineup includes La bohèmeThe Marriage of Figaro, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Blue. In addition to the mainstage productions, tenor Lawrence Brownlee will give a recital on 29 April 2022 at McCaw Hall with pianist John Keene.

General Director Christina Scheppelmann: ““The theater, where music, storytelling, lights, performers, and audiences meet, is a space of magic and impact. This past year has been difficult and challenging on so many levels. As we process all that we’ve been through, we can come here to enjoy ourselves. We can rediscover the positive moment and outlook we are seeking. Through opera, we can reconnect with our deepest emotions and our shared humanity.” 

Production info:

This season begins with a long-awaited La bohème (Oct. 16–30, 2021, at McCaw Hall) featuring Seattle Opera favorites, debuts, and artists who had been scheduled to sing in the cancelled 2020 bohème. Performers include Ginger Costa-Jackson (Carmen ‘19, Cinderella ‘19), John Moore (Eugene Onegin ‘20, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs ‘19), Brandie Sutton (Porgy and Bess ‘18), Michael ChioldiTheo HoffmanBarry JohnsonYosep KangFederico De MichelisAshraf SewailamTalise TrevigneEugene Villanueva, and Kang Wang. An audience favorite for more than a century, this tale of young Bohemians who dedicate their lives to art and love is told through Giacomo Puccini’s lush, romantic score. For the full cast and creative team list—and to purchase tickets—go to seattleopera.org/boheme.  

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice (Jan. 12–30, 2022, at Tagney Jones Hall, The Opera Center) will blur the line between fantasy and reality. Set in the company’s intimate glass-box theater, audiences will have a front-row seat to the action as Orpheus descends into the underworld to rescue his beloved wife Eurydice. Chía Patiño, former head of Ecuador’s National Theatre, creates an all-new production with three principal singers and a small orchestra. Returning artists include Stephen Stubbs, a Grammy-winning conductor and respected authority on early music, plus Sharleen Joynt, whose recent performance as The Controller in Flight was praisedby Bachtrack: “We know we’re in for an acting treat when we see Joynt’s impeccably turned-out Controller … we see her arched eyebrows and penetrating stare in close-up as she delivers stratospheric coloratura.” Two countertenors make their debuts: Christopher Ainslie “A Rockstar of Baroque Opera” (New York Times) and Key’mon W. Murrah, an artist with “unreal,” “expressive,” and “effulgent vocal acrobatics” (Schmopera). Full production details and ticket information is available at seattleopera.org/orpheus.  

The season continues in February with Blue, (Feb. 26 – March 12, 2022, in McCaw Hall) the 2020 winner of Best New Opera by the Music Critics Association of North America. This portrait of contemporary African American life is the creation of librettist Tazewell Thompson (five NAACP Awards, plus two Emmy nominations) and composer Jeanine Tesori (Tony-winner known for Fun Home). A story of love, loss, church, and sisterhood, Blue depictsa young couple celebrating the joy of family with the birth of their son. Later they lean on close-knit community in the wake of their son’s death at the hands of a police officer.

”Unfortunately, the themes in Blue have no expiration date,” wrote Thompson in The New York Times. “I add my voice to those of the characters singing in the opera, and to those of the real families suffering great losses. Our eyes will never be free of tears.” 

The opera will include three cast members from the original, 2019 Glimmerglass festival production: Seattle Opera veterans Gordon Hawkins (Aida ’18, Nabucco ‘15) and Kenneth Kellogg (Don Giovanni ‘21), plus mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter in her company debut. Seattle Opera will center the voices of its Black American community partners to guide conversations surrounding the work. More information is available at seattleopera.org/blue.    

Rounding out the season is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (May 7‒21, 2022, in McCaw Hall). From exuberant overture to uplifting finale, this beloved comedy based on the radical Beaumarchais play comes alive with rich commentary on social class and gender roles. The first woman to lead St. Petersburg’s historic Mikhailovsky Theatre, Maestro Alevtina Ioffe makes her company debut with this traditional production, to be directed by Peter Kazaras (The Turn of the Screw ’18, An American Dream ’15 and ’17), leader of Opera UCLA. In the title role stars Grammy-winning bass-baritone Ryan McKinny whose “powerful voice drips with gold” (Opera News) and Michael Sumuel, whose vocals are “smooth and ingratiating” (Daily Camera). Complete cast, creative team, and ticket information is at seattleopera.org/figaro.

Filed under: Seattle Opera

Lucerne Festival’s “Crazy” Summer

Lucerne Festival today presented its new plans for an expanded season and also introduced the programming for the 2021 Summer Festival. The theme is inspired by the “crazy” times we’ve been living through. In German, the usual for crazy (verrückt) also carries the connotation of “dislocation” — as in a revolutionary artist shifting and upending conventional paradigms.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival

Jonathon Heyward’s Tenure Begins

Jonathon Heyward begins his tenure with Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie: this gifted young conductor will go far!

Program: Igor Strawinsky — Symphonie für Blasinstrumente

Edward Elgar – Introduktion und Allegro für Streicher

Joseph Haydn – Sinfonie Nr. 100 G-Dur “Militär”

Filed under: conductors,

Rossini at the Drive-In, as San Francisco Opera Returns

Photo: Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera is presenting a fully staged opera before a live audience for the first time in 16 months. I wrote about the opening for The New York Times.

SAN FRANCISCO — It feels almost too good to be true after a pandemic closure of Wagnerian scale: an audience watching a cast of singers enter the War Memorial Opera House here to rehearse and perform Rossini’s classic comedy “The Barber of Seville”….

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Filed under: New York Times, Rossini, San Francisco Opera

A Beacon of Hope

My latest feature in the May-June 2021 issue of Strings magazine explores how the Chicago Sinfonietta, founded by the remarkable Paul Freeman, has been pursuing the quest for diversity in the world of classical music:

From its very inception, the Chicago Sinfonietta was well ahead of the curve. Its longstanding commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion predates by a generation the present cultural moment’s demand for social justice.

Filed under: diversity, Strings

Seattle Opera Meets the Museum of Flight

Seattle Opera at the Museum of Flight, producing “Flight.” (Ted Huetter / The Museum of Flight)
 Seattle Opera at the Museum of Flight, producing “Flight.” (Ted Huetter / The Museum of Flight)

My latest story for The Seattle Times:

We’ve all been there.

The familiar dread that accompanies air travel — Will my flight be delayed? Will I end up stranded? — has only become aggravated in the time of the coronavirus. But the reverse side to such anxieties is the promise of escape, which leads us ever onward. The resulting ambiguity gives airports their tremendous symbolic power.

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The company premiere of Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis’s Flight will be streamed on the Seattle Opera website from April 23-25; tickets $35.

Filed under: Seattle Opera, Seattle Times

Tippett Rise on Tour

The Spring Festival Tippet Rise on Tour from April 16 to 18 will premiere 10 short films featuring eclectic music performances, readings of poetry, and live discussions with musicians. Highlights of the Spring Festival include flutist Claire Chase giving the world premiere of a new work by Bora Yoon, an homage to Surrealism by pianist Pedja Mužijević, and performances by violinists Benjamin BeilmanKatie Hyun, and Tessa Lark, cellist Gabriel Cabezas, pianists Richard Goode, and Baritone Tyler Duncan. The performances were filmed in sculptor Joel Shapiro’s studio and in the DiMenna Center for the Arts in New York City.

The three-day event will also feature Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko, who was recently appointed cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Arlen put an ask out on social media during lockdown to see if any composers would be interested in writing miniatures for solo cello that would be premiered on her Instagram in September 2020. This resulted in exhilarating collaborations with numerous composers and four of the works were subsequently filmed by Tippet Rise and will be offered during the Festival.

Each night of the Spring Festival will begin at 5:30PM MDT with a live backstage Zoom discussion before the evening’s performances.

Filed under: music news, Tippet Rise

Charpentier Program from Les Arts Florissants

Les Arts Florissants recorded its concert program Charpentier, Grands Motets at the Royal Chapel at Versailles on 28 February following cancellation of two public performances (at Versailles and La Rochelle) due to the pandemic. The film will be available on Qwest TV starting on April 9

From the press release:

Les Arts Florissants collaborates for the very first time with Qwest TV, a global video platform, to offer the exclusive broadcast of the film Charpentier, Grands Motets recorded at Versailles’ Royal Chapel.

Digital Concert – public premiere
Musical Direction: William Christie
Choir and Ensemble: Les Arts Florissants
Royal Chapel – Versailles
Filmed on 28 February 20212 without a live audience

Coproduction Les Arts Florissants and Château de Versailles Spectacles

Qwest TV recently launched a “Classical” category on their premium SVOD platform, across which Charpentier, Grand Motets will be released.

SVOD broadcast (access by subscription, with 7 days free trial)
For more details on how viewers can stream the film on Qwest, click here.

See also Les Arts Florissants’ film of Haydn’s Paris Symphony no. 87, released on 11 January 2021.

Filed under: early music, Les Arts Florissants, music news

Robert Carl: White Heron

My review of this marvelous BMOP anthology of Robert Carl’s music for Gramophone has now been posted here.

Aficionados of contemporary music will already be familiar with the name Robert Carl as a writer. He has authored extensive reviews for Fanfare and a recent, thought-provoking collection of essays on the challenges faced by 21st-century composers…

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Filed under: American music, CD review, Gramophone

Bach Passions

If you haven’t yet experienced the Peter Sellars staging of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, I can’t recommend it highly enough — and the Berliner Philharmoniker production with Simon Rattle is currently available to view for free (until Monday) at the Digital Concert Hall.

Meanwhile, Bach’s St. John Passion will be performed by John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists. It can be viewed for a fee of 9.90 Euros on a Deutsche Grammophon Stage stream from the historic Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, starting at 3pm CET on Good Friday, 2 April.

Remarks Gardiner: “I look forward to this performance for DG Stage of Bach’s St John Passion. “I recorded the piece for the first time for Archiv Produktion back in 1986 and it remains truly special to me. Bach conceived the piece as much as an act of worship as a work of religious art. Almost 300 years after it was heard for the first time, it continues to move listeners of all faiths and none.”

And here’s a performance from 2019 of the 1725 version of the St. John Passion (available for the next 48 hours) from Solomon’s Knot: recorded live at the Nikolaikirche, Bachfest Leipzig, on 19 June 2019. Dramatization by John La Bouchardière.

Filed under: Bach, music news

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