MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Mystery Mass: Seattle Pro Musica celebrates Bach’s enigmatic masterpiece in B minor

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Here’s my Seattle Times story on Karen Thomas and Seattle Pro Musica’s preparation for the Bach Mass in B minor, their concluding program of the season (this weekend):

Many classical-music fans consider Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor as the ultimate peak of Western choral music — but the composer never heard it performed in its entirety.

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Filed under: Bach, choral music, preview, Seattle Times

Flying Dutchman at Seattle Opera

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© Philip Newton

My review of Wagner’s Dutchman at Seattle Opera has been posted on Bachtrack:

Though the legend of a seaman doomed to sail forever was already hackneyed by the time he took it up, it was through his idiosyncratic treatment of this material that Richard Wagner first found his authentic voice. “Do you fear a song, a picture?” sings the heroine Senta in her first confrontation with Erik, her hapless suitor.

But Wagner was well aware of the dangerous potential art possesses when the goal is no longer escapist entertainment. So is director Christopher Alden, whose production (originally created for Canadian Opera Company two decades ago) mirrors the young composer’s sense of thrilling new horizons beyond routine and convention.

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Filed under: directors, review, Seattle Opera, Wagner

Songs My Mother Taught Me

Filed under: miscellaneous

20 Years Ago Today

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I’m in a bit of shock realizing today marks the official debut of my professional career writing about music. Exactly 20 years ago, I published my first review as a freelance critic for the Washington Post (link below).

It wouldn’t have happened without the incredibly generous mentoring of Tim Page, who agreed to give a complete unknown this chance.

Tim remains one of my dearest friends. It all started with his encouragement.

Meanwhile, I hope I’ve made at least a modicum of progress in my writing since then.

Takács Quartet: Not for the Timid

 

Filed under: Bartók, chamber music, review, Washington Post

Hell, Paradise, and Parody

Getting in the mood for Seattle Opera’s upcoming Dutchman production.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

The Flying Dutchman by Albert Pinkham Ryder (c. 1896)The Flying Dutchman by Albert Pinkham Ryder (c. 1896)

Here’s a piece I wrote for San Francisco Opera’s new production of The Flying Dutchman – a look into Wagner’s attraction to the source material he used for his breakthrough opera:

“…[T]he faithful woman hurls herself into the sea and the curse on the Flying Dutchman is lifted, he is redeemed, and we see the ghostly ship sinking to the bottom of the sea. The moral of this piece, for women, is that they should beware of marrying a Flying Dutchman; and we men should draw from it the lesson that women, at best, will be our undoing.”

It might not be unreasonable to assume this quotation comes from a critic hostile to Wagner. Or perhaps it represents a merry ribbing of the unintended absurdities that never seem far from the surface in his operas, a la Anna Russell? (“The scene…

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