MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Lavena: in your hands

My review of the cellist Lavena is in the July issue of Gramophone:

An enigmatic soundscape shivers into being in Gemma Peacocke’s Amygdala for solo cello and fixed electronics. The cellist wends her way, tentatively, towards acoustic clarity, playing richly expressive double-stops as if coming up for air….

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Filed under: CD review, Gramophone

Abraham’s Land

I just received this press release for the world premiere of Abraham’s Land at Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Avenue, Kirkland, WA,  July 15-18, 2021:

This original musical is by Seattle playwright Lauren Goldman Marshall and Pulitzer-nominated composer, Roger Ames, with additional music by David Nafissian and Paul Linnes, at Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Avenue, Kirkland, WA,  July 15-18, 2021. 

A public preview performance is scheduled for Thursday, July 15, at 11 am PST to reach audiences in Israel, West Bank and Gaza, where it will be 9 pm.  Remaining performances will be at 7 PM on July 15 (opening night), 16, and 17,  and 2 PM on Sunday, July 18. For ticketing, live and livestream, go to www.kpcenter.org or call 425-893-9900. 

Thirty years in the making, Abraham’s Land began as a Jewish/Palestinian collaboration, by Lauren Goldman Marshall, Hanna Eady, and David Nafissian, and was first performed in Seattle in 1992.  Marshall further developed it with Palestinian and Israeli youth at Seeds of Peace International Camp in 1999.  The current rendition features a new libretto and score. 

The three lead roles are played by Jewish-American, Israeli, and Palestinian-American actors. Abraham’s Land tells a human story, set against the backdrop of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, during the First Intifada.  Israeli Sergeant Yitzhak prides himself on being an ethical soldier, but when a Palestinian demonstration in Jerusalem appears threatening, he fatally shoots the provocateur, Ismail. 

Devastated to learn that the victim was unarmed, Yitzhak is haunted by Ismail’s ghost.  Disguising himself as a Palestinian, Yitzhak journeys to a refugee camp in Gaza to return Ismail’s identity card and ask his family for forgiveness.  In the process, he experiences the humanity of the other side and the darker aspect of his own.  Ultimately, he must choose between making amends and his duty to his country. 

With recent changes in Israeli leadership, increasing tensions and violence in the region, the reexamination of the United States’ role in the Middle East, and the rise of antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism and tribalism in the United States and abroad, this work is especially timely.  

This innovative production is directed by acclaimed director David Grabarkewitz, former Resident Director at the New York City Opera.  Music director Paul Linnes conducts a seven-member ensemble.  Choreography is by Kathryn Van Meter and Waseem Sbait.  The 22-member racially and culturally diverse, professional cast is drawn from New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle.  It features Michael Strass, Netanel Bellaishe, Maria Habeeb, Hassan Nazari-Robati, David Studwell, Bobbi Kotula, Danya El-Kurd, Camilla Ethridge & Paul Shapiro, along with a multi-generational ensemble.  

Each performance will be followed by a post-play discussion, with representatives from local Jewish and Muslim communities.  In addition, the Saturday performance will feature a pre-show talk by a visiting public health professional and mother from Gaza, Alaa Hammouda, who will share her story from her perspective as a 30-year resident of Gaza.  Further, an interactive workshop on Saturday 1-3 PM PST, will use techniques from Theater of the Oppressed to explore issues in the play. 

General admission is $39, students & seniors $25, with discounts for groups of ten or more.  Day of show rush tickets, as available, will be offered for $20, and for youth through TeenTix for $5.  Livestream performances are pay-what-you-can, with levels ranging from $1 to $20.

Filed under: musical, theater

Opera in Latin America: San Francisco Opera Talks

San Francisco Opera’s Opera Aficionado virtual conversations in July will focus on Opera in Latin America in a series of live, 75-minute Zoom discussions.

  • Sunday, July 11, 1 pm: The Zarzuela

Speaker: Stage Director Emilio Sagi

Originating at a palatial, 17th-century hunting lodge near Madrid, the Zarzuela is a dramatic form of musical storytelling that once dominated the stages of Spanish-speaking counties in worlds both old and new. Opera stage director Emilio Sagi will lead us on a historical survey of an art form rarely appreciated—or even known—in modern-day America

  • Sunday, July 18, 1 pm: Baroque Opera in the New World

Speaker: Laura Prichard

The arrival of Spanish colonists in what they thought was a “new world” forever changed human civilization and its course in history. Laura Prichard will travel with us back in time to the Baroque Era in Latin America, where unique forms of classical music and opera flourished. From boy choirs singing a cappella to the lost operatic works of Mexican composers like Manuel de Zumaya, this lecture will have you yelling Bravo! for all things Mexican Baroque.

  • Sunday, July 25, 1 pm: Contemporary Latin Stage Works

Speaker: Albert Montañez

In today’s operatic landscape, the old classics still reign, and the roster of new works premiered by major companies is dominated by composers of European and American birth. Meanwhile, composers throughout Latin America continue to tell their own stories and heritage through our beloved art form of opera. Multidisciplinary artist Albert Montañez returns to Opera Aficionado to shine a spotlight on new stage works from the contemporary Latinx world.

TICKETS: $5–$40

Students, educators and individuals in need: $5/session.

General admission: $20/session, discount available for multiple-sessions order.

Enable another person to attend*: $40.

*This is not a tax-deductible contribution.

Tickets are available until noon on the day of each event at sfopera.com/aficionado.

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

In Memoriam Louis Andriessen

Louis Andriessen has died at the age of 82. His publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, announced the death this morning of the eminent Dutch composer:

Boosey & Hawkes is sad to announce the death of Louis Andriessen, one of the most original and influential composers of the contemporary era. He died this morning (1 July) in De Hogeweyk dementia village in Weesp, near Amsterdam, aged 82. Andriessen leaves behind a corpus of remarkable music including the ensemble work De Staat and the opera Writing to Vermeer. A generation of younger composers were taught by him or were indebted to his unique fusion of jazz and minimalist styles.

from NPR:

Andriessen wrote in a wide range of idioms, including orchestra and chamber works, songs, choral pieces, music for brass band and solo works for piano, bassoon, organ, harpsichord, violin, oboe, percussion and trumpet. Perhaps most visible were his collaborative theatre works and operas, which adapted an eclectic array of texts. For De Materie, a genre-resistant theater work created with Robert Wilson for the Netherlands Opera, Andriessen incorporates documents pertaining to 17th-century shipbuilding, a decree on Dutch independence from Spain, the diary of Marie Curie and the straight-lined art of painter Piet Mondrian. Near the work’s end, as staged in 2016 at New York’s Park Avenue Armory, a flock of 100 sheep joined the cast.

On The only one, the world premiere of which Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted with the LA Philharmonic in May 2019:

Two artistic discoveries influenced Andriessen as he wrote The only one. The first was a collection of poems by the Flemish poet Delphine Lecompte from The animals in me. “These witty, intelligent, experimental, and sometimes scabrous poems immediately fascinated me. My focus turned to faraway America, with its great tradition of songwriting,” he says.

His second discovery was the work of Nora Fischer, an Amsterdam–based singer known for developing dynamic creative projects that fuse classical and pop music. Andriessen says, “The depth of her versatility has strongly influenced the musical language of the piece.” He further explains that “the piece flirts a bit with certain kinds of pop songs and light music, and starts out with a beautiful song.”

“Andriessen used bits of old music, an allusion to the Dies Irae motif and some Minimalism, a jazz riff here and a Mexican brass allusion there, as he often has,” says the Los Angeles Times. “But he always remakes it into a complex and powerfully blatant new thing, and here edge-of-your-seat operatically so.”

Andriessen’s final work was May for choir and orchestra, a tribute to Frans Bruggen setting texts from the Dutch impressionist poem by Herman Gorter and premiered at the Concertgebouw in December 2020:

Filed under: Louis Andriessen, music news

Liederabend, Op. Worldwide (digital)

Tune in on Sunday 27 June 2021 at 8pm EST for a free livestream of 21c Liederabend, Op. Worldwide (digital)a new music project co-directed by Paola Prestini and Beth Morrison (also to be broadcast on WNET’s ALL ARTS).

21c Liederabend is the first program in a six-episode retrospective titled Contemplations from National Sawdust, celebrating the 5th anniversary of Brooklyn-based new music incubator National Sawdust.

The event is a contemporary take on the 19th-century Liederabend tradition and presents collaborative, multimedia vocal and instrumental compositions.  Op. Worldwide is the first to be exclusively presented as a broadcast/streaming event, featuring six world premieres that bring together a dozen talents from around the globe, in fields ranging from composition and poetry to fine arts and video. A conversation with soprano Renée Fleming on the future of the art form rounds out the program.

Of particular interest is Prestini’s new work Jarful of Bees, a multimedia, immersive short film created in collaboration with artists Natalie Frank and Erin Pollock, librettist Royce Vavrek, and mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti. The film weaves together Frank and Pollock’s animated painting, drawing, and claymation into a dreamlike visual landscape that elucidates Prestini’s vocal and electronic score and the ethereal voice of Gigliotti. 

Filed under: commissions, music news

San Francisco Opera Announces New Season

And it’s now been announced: San Francisco Opera returns to a season of live performances with Puccini’s Tosca on Saturday, August 21, inaugurating the tenure of Eun Sun Kim as the company’s new music director. The refurbished War Memorial Opera House will greet audiences with newly installed custom seats and accessibility enhancements.

This is being billed as a “transitional year” and includes three new productions: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio and, continuing the Company’s Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni. The season also includes a revival of Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber, a free Opera at the Ballpark simulcast, multiple concert programs, and a new livestreaming option for select performances.

From the press release:

Kim’s music directorship begins with Tosca, a masterpiece central to San Francisco Opera since it opened the War Memorial Opera House in 1932. Kim will also lead Live and In Concert: The Homecoming on September 10 and returns to the podium on October 14 to conduct a bold new production of Beethoven’s ode to freedom Fidelio, along with the annual Adler Fellows concert, The Future Is Now, and a Summer 2022 tribute to the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Eun Sun Kim said: “When I was appointed Music Director Designate in December 2019, it seemed certain that the time until I officially assumed the position would fly by. And then, of course, the whole world came to a standstill. I’m so proud of the way the entire San Francisco Opera family has worked to remain resilient during this time—we’ve created new ways to make music together and we’ve encouraged each other in strength. Now this steadfast faith will allow us to finally rejoin the audiences who have so patiently waited for our return to the War Memorial Opera House. I hope this is a joyful moment for our whole community, as we open this new chapter together with a sense of renewed hope and optimism.”

After making “a company debut of astonishing vibrancy and assurance” (San Francisco Chronicle) leading Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka in June 2019, Eun Sun Kim was appointed Music Director Designate in December 2019 in a move the New York Times called “pathbreaking.” The Seoul, South Korea-born Kim will help shape San Francisco Opera’s artistic vision as the Company heads into its second century. San Francisco Opera’s first two general directors, Gaetano Merola and Kurt Herbert Adler, both regularly conducted performances during the Company’s first six decades. In 1985, Sir John Pritchard was appointed San Francisco Opera’s first music director (1985–89). He was succeeded by Donald Runnicles (1992–2009) and Nicola Luisotti (2009–18). Kim is the fourth music director in the Company’s 99-year history.

San Francisco Opera Tad and Dianne Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “Opera gives us opportunities to gather and share in deep, collective, emotional expression. I have never felt more urgently the need for us to gather in this way. We need to be together again, and, on August 21, we will raise the curtain and do just that. But we are not returning unchanged. We emerge with a new music director in Eun Sun Kim! We emerge informed by the bold experiments of the last year, carrying them forward with our new livestreaming program. And we emerge with an even deeper understanding of the power of opera to connect us after the long winter of its absence.

“That all of our productions this season will be new or recently new to our stage is a testament to the local artisans who built them and to the local community which has supported this Company so magnificently during this year. We will return to the social history of the Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy, be welcomed back into the light of liberation with Beethoven’s Fidelio and enter into the great story of imperial China in Dream of the Red Chamber. But first we return to Tosca—the time-honored way that San Francisco Opera reopens, recommits to our community and reemerges with all of the thrilling energy of live grand opera. It is a moment I cannot wait to share.”

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

Piazzolla Music Competition Winners

The winners of the Piazzolla Music Competition were recently announced:

SOLOIST

GOLD: ANTON STACHEV, accordion – St. Petersburg, Russia  

SILVER: DANIEL ROJAS, piano – Sydney Australia

BRONZE: LYSANDRE DONOSO, bandoneón – Paris, France

BRONZE: MAXIMILLIAN NATHAN, vibraphone – Montevideo, Uruguay

SPECIAL PRIZE: ROSE WOLLMAN, viola – Evansville, Indiana

ENSEMBLES

GOLD: QUINTETO RESPIRO, Sebastien Innocenti (Bandonéon), Emilie Aridon-Kociolek (Piano), Sabrina Condello (Violin), Fabio LoCurto (Clarinet/Bass Clarinet), Dorian Marcel (Doublebass) – Paris, France

SILVER: DALÍ QUARTET, Ari Isaacman-Beck (Violin), Carlos Rubio (Violin), Adriana Linares (Viola), Jesús Morales (Cello) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

BRONZE: Zagrab Philharmonic Orchestra: QUINTETO EMEDEA, Mathias Naon (Violin), Lysandre Donoso (Bandoneon), Emilie Aridon-Kociołek (Piano), Adrien Merahi (Electric guitar), Lucas Eubel-Frontini (Double bass) – Paris, France

SPECIAL PRIZES

CONCERT: Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra /Quinteto Emedea

CONCERT: Grosseto Symphony Orchestra and Anton Stachev, St. Petersburg

CONCERT: Athens Philharmonia Orchestra and Rose Wollman, Indiana

MASTERCLASS Pablo Ziegler Award: Sonus Piano Trio, California

MASTERCLASSES iClassical Academy Award: Pianoduo LUSTRE, Osaka

MASTERCLASSES iClassical Academy Bonus Award: Gonzalo Esteban Antuña, Río Cuarto, Argentina

MASTERCLASSES iClassical Academy Bonus Award: Nada Brahma Graz, Austria

Proceeds from the competition, totalling $10,000, are being donated to the Playing for Change Foundation to support music and art education in under-resourced communities around the world.

Filed under: competitions, music news

Lear from Bayerische Staatsoper

Bayerische Staatsoper is making the stream of Christoph Marthaler’s new production of Lear by Aribert Reimann available until 1 July here.

Synopsis:

King Lear intends to distribute his kingdom among his three daughters. Those that love him the most will receive the most. As Cordelia only describes her love in plain, simple words, she disappoints her father and leaves empty-handed. The kingdom is divided between the other two, and discord and scheming set in immediately. Lear is broken by it, becomes a powerless beggar and loses his sanity.
Aribert Reimann composed his opera Lear based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear, with a libretto by Claus H. Henneberg. It celebrated its world premiere at the Nationaltheater in the 1978 as a work commissioned by the Bayerische Staatsoper. Reimann’s composition illustrates a dramaturgy that moves the game of power obsession along at breakneck speed. Lear’s vocal line, characterised by exorbitant virtuosity, illustrates the broken King with his manner of speaking only appearing confused on the surface. The instrumental cluster structures of this monumental work create a breath-taking atmosphere, and are the reason why, as an opera classic of the 20th century, this metamorphosis is an indispensable mirror image of our age.

Cast:

König Lear Christian Gerhaher 

König von Frankreich Edwin Crossley-Mercer 

Herzog von Albany Ivan Ludlow 

Herzog von Cornwall Jamez McCorkle 

Graf von KentBrenden Gunnell 

Graf von Gloster Georg Nigl 

Edgar Andrew Watts

Edmund Matthias Klink 

Goneril, Tochter König Lears Angela Denoke 

Regan, Tochter König Lears Ausrine Stundyte

Cordelia, Tochter König Lears Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (

Narr Graham Valentine

Bedienter Dean Power 

Ritter Marc Bodnar 

Bayerisches Staatsorchester

Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper

Creative Team:

Conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste

Production Christoph Marthaler

Production Assistant Joachim Rathke

Set Design Anna Viebrock

Costume Design Dorothee Curio

Lighting Michael Bauer

Choruses Stellario Fagone

Dramaturgy Benedikt Stamp

Filed under: Bayerische Staatsoper

Happy 80th Birthday, Martha Argerich!

There is simply no artist like her. The formidable Martha Argerich turns 80 today. Here’s a feature from Deutsche Welle:

At the age of 80, Martha Argerich remains an incomparable virtuoso, a performer marked by special charisma and nuanced, agile technique….

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Filed under: Martha Argerich, music news

In Memoriam Paul Taub

Today at 4:00 pm PDT, LoudSwell will stream a memorial concert for the irreplaceable flutist and musical visionary Paul Taub.  You can access the performances at Loudswell.com and on The Royal Room Facebook page.

Both sites will have a link to donate to the artists. Performed live on The Royal Room stage, following all Washington State Department of Health guidelines.

The lineup of performers includes:

Members of Seattle Chamber Players
Seattle Modern Orchestra
Laurie DeLuca
Dave Sabee
Mikhail Schmidt
Byron Schenkman
Angelique Poteat
Kin of the Moon (Heather Bentley, Leanne Keith, Kaley Eaton)
Cristina Valdes
Beth Fleenor
Chuck Deardorf
Wayne Horvitz
Jarrad Powell
Jovinos Santos Neto
Michael Partington
Agata Zubel
Claire Chase
And many more…

The obituary I wrote following Paul’s untimely death on 13 March is here.

Filed under: memorial, music news, new music

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