MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Don Giovanni Completes the “Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy” at San Francisco Opera

Etienne Dupuis as Don Giovanni;
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

I wrote about Michael Cavanagh’s production of Don Giovanni currently being presented by San Francisco Opera.

SAN FRANCISCO  — The flames are already flickering as the overture begins in the new production of Don Giovanni directed by Michael Cavanagh at San Francisco Opera. Set and projection designer Erhard Rom’s accompanying visuals establish a scenario of civilizational destruction as the backstory for what we’re about to see transpire onstage. 

Filed under: Mozart, review, San Francisco Opera

Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? Comes to San Francisco Symphony

Quite looking forward to tonight’s San Francisco Symphony concert, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, which brings John Adams’s most-recent piano concerto to Davies Hall. Vikingur Ólafsson is the soloist, and on the basis of this morning’s open rehearsal, this should be a performance to remember.

We had a good one in January with the Seattle Symphony and Jeremy Denk, Adams himself guest conducting.

The rest of the program includes a beautiful work by the late Steven Stucky, Radical Light (also an SFS premiere), and Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony.

Filed under: Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams, San Francisco Symphony

Solstice Celebration

Celebrate the Summer Solstice on Tuesday evening with the musical program Vibe Check at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Ave N) from 6 to 10pm.

Anchoring the evening on amplified five-octave marimba, Eric Jorgensen will be joined by Rachel Nesvig (Hardanger fiddle), Leanna Keith (flute), Aaron Michael Butler (sound manipulation), and Steve Peters (field recordings) for an evening of meditative sounds created in real time and shifting to correspond with the changes in natural light for this longest day of the year. The audience is encouraged to bring pillows or blankets for maximum meditation and is can come and go at will.

Donations will be accepted at the door. All ages welcome. 

Filed under: music news

2022 Ojai Festival

The 76th edition of the Ojai Music Festival begins today and runs through Sunday. I was honored to write the notes for the inspiring, original, “discipline-colliding” program curated this year by AMOC* (the American Modern Opera Company) and featuring its unparalleled team of artists. That a collective is serving in the role of music director/curator is one of the unique features of this summer at Ojai.

There are many fascinating tangents to AMOC*’s program: a focus on the legacy of Julius Eastman, whose music begins and ends the festival; perspectives on Minimalism, especially from Eastman, Hans Otte, and the young generation of composers emerging today; adventurous juxtapositions of music, dance, and theater; and the exciting convergence of early music sensibilities (on the part of today’s performers, that is) and “new music.”

Also in the lineup are several anticipated premieres: AMOC* co-founder Matthew Aucoin’s new cycle of “mini-concertos,” Family Dinner; Bobbi Jene Smith and colleagues’ intriguing latest dance-theater projects, Open Rehearsal and The Cello Player; Carolyn Chen’s music-dance work How to Fall Apart; and Anthony Cheung’s poetry-song cycle, the echoing of tenses. Also part of this cornucopia of premieres was to have been a new staging by AMOC* co-founder Zack Winokur of Olivier Messiaen’s song cycle Harawi (part of his “Tristan trilogy”), but this will not be able to happen because Julia Bullock is unable to travel from her home in Germany due to Covid. Harawi has been a long-in-the-making collaboration between the soprano and Winokur — it’s a major loss not to be able to present it at the festival. But such is the extraordinary team ethic and resilience of this company that member Davóne Tines and colleagues agreed to step in at the last minute to offer an entirely different program for the Friday night slot: Tyshawn Sorey’s For James Primosch and Tines’s own curated program Recital No. 1: MASS.

Filed under: new music, Ojai Festival

Ascending To The Stars On Messiaen Trek From The Canyons, Illustrated

Former Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot returned to conduct Messaien’s ‘Des canyons aux étoiles…‘ (Photos by James Holt / Seattle Symphony)

I reviewed an extraordinary (and rare) performance of Messiaen by Ludovic Morlot and Seattle Symphony for Classical Voice America:

SEATTLE — For their recent reunion, Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony put aside the familiar repertoire to offer a program devoted entirely to Olivier Messiaen’s vast, 12-movement work inspired by the landscape of the American West, Des canyons aux étoiles…. The experience was blissfully unique, reminiscent of similarly rare outings during Morlot’s eight-year tenure as music director (2011-19) that have not faded from memory: a riotous Varèse Amériques early on, the collaborations with John Luther Adams, semi-staged Ravel and Stravinsky — and, indeed, other Messiaen performances, including the orchestra’s first encounter with the Turangalîla Symphony….


Filed under: Ludovic Morlot, Olivier Messiaen, Seattle Symphony

Seattle Pro Musica’s The Way Home

Friday night at 7.30 pm, Seattle Pro Musica will stream its final concert of the season, The Way Home, which they performed live on 21 and 22 May.

From SPM’s description: “The Way Home honors America’s multicultural heritage with music that seeks to foster respect for all persons and groups, especially immigrants and refugees. Through these performances, we hope to enrich audiences with a greater understanding of and compassion for those who seek shelter from harm.

Music from trailblazing young composers Saunder Choi, Caroline Shaw, Derrick Skye, and Chris
Hutchings explore the peril and helplessness faced by many refugees. Songs from the 14th and 15th
centuries remind us that the refugee experience resonates across human history. Works by Melissa
Dunphy, Reginald Unterseher, and Stephen Paulus express the hope that our hearts will open to
welcome those in need of refuge.”

Electronic program available here.

Filed under: music news, Seattle Pro Musica

Morlot and SSO Together Again for Epic Messiaen

Ludovic Morlot conducts the Seattle Symphony in The Mayors’ Concert for Ukraine and Refugees Worldwide earlier this year. (James Holt / Seattle Symphony)

Tonight Ludovic Morlot rejoins the Seattle Symphony for the first of two performances of one of Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… I spoke to the conductor about the program for The Seattle Times:

A new chapter in Ludovic Morlot’s relationship with the Seattle Symphony is underway.

Now holding the title of conductor emeritus, Morlot has chosen some unusual fare for his concerts on June 2 and 4: the orchestral epic “Des canyons aux étoiles …” (“From the Canyons to the Stars …”) by Olivier Messiaen, which will be presented in a multimedia presentation accompanied by video projections by Deborah O’Grady.


Filed under: Ludovic Morlot, Olivier Messiaen, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Times

RIP Ingram Marshall (1942-2022)

The news of Ingram Marshall‘s passing hits hard. His music was wonderfully imaginative and rich in personality, and his generosity and warmth as a mentor made an enormous impact well beyond the experimental-music scene. I will be forever grateful for Ingram’s kindness and support in participating in The John Adams Reader. He shared so many evocative stories about the culture he and his friend experienced in the Bay Area in the 1970s and early ’80s.

From Frank J. Oteri has reposted an extensive interview he conducted in July 2001 for NewMusicBox.

And here is a series of linked articles and interviews from Ingram’s own website.

Filed under: Ingram Marshall, music news

Iannis Xenakis at 100

Sunday night from 10pm–midnight PST, celebrate the legacy of Iannis Xenakis on Flotation Device at 91.3 KBCS-FM Bellevue/Seattle/Tacoma. The program, hosted by composer/intermedia artist and polymath Michael Schell, will include selections from Karlrecords’ new remastered edition of Xenakis’s electroacoustic works (w/enhanced bass) by Martin Wurmnest and Rashad Becker.

The Greek-French avant-garde composer was born on 29 May 1922 in Brăila, Romania. In honor of his centenary, fellow composer Roger Reynolds and flutist and arts activist Karen Reynolds have published Xenakis Creates in Architecture and Music: The Reynold Desert House, which explores their collaboration to create a house design integrating music and architecture. The book also includes analyses of three representative chamber works by Xenakis as well as letters, diaries, notes, photographs, sketches, and transcriptions of person-to-person conversations. More here from Roger Reynolds:

A few years ago, we contracted with Routledge publishers to issue a book: Xenakis Creates in Architecture and Music: The Reynolds Desert House. The cumbersome title was a result of negotiation over how to assure the maximum number of potential “key words” that could attract search engines. In the following months and years, we learned a bit about book publishing.

We had worked for years on the notion that the multifarious materials we had gathered over four decades could somehow be shape-shifted into a coherent collection of chapters, they forming a book that would be detailed, accurate, informative, and would also provide an intimate window into Xenakis’s ways and capacities as we had experienced them.

Iannis and Françoise came to UC San Diego at our invitation for a festival in his honor in 1990. While they were in Southern California, we drove them out to the land that we had purchased in the Anza-Borrego Desert — a deeply ravined site on which we dreamed of realizing a design that he had offered to us during a dinner we shared with them in their 9, rue Chaptal apartment in Paris in 1984.

When several representative chapters were drafted, we submitted them to our Routledge editor, who in turn sent them to the required external reviewers. A particularly thoughtful remark by one clinched the deal:

This is a very unique proposal of the highest quality on a topic that is greatly underdeveloped: the links between musical, architectural and literary creativity in Xenakis’s work.

We worked for many months completing eight chapters with a multitude of illustrative images: photos, designs, letters … Now, after innumerable proofings, the book exists, and we hope it will be shared.

Filed under: avant-garde, Iannis Xenakis, music news, Roger Reynolds

Akhnaten Returns to the Met

The Metropolitan Opera has revived its splendid production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten. Joshua Barone writes: “There were, though, some crucial differences from 2019. Phelim McDermott’s production, now more lived-in, unfolded with elegant inevitability rather than effort; the score was executed with a clarity and drive absent on the often slack album. And while “Akhnaten” may be one of Glass’s tributes to great men who changed the world — through science, politics and faith — Thursday’s performance of it made a persuasive argument for where the real power lies: with the women.”

Here’s my program note:

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Philip Glass, program notes

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