MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

La forza del regie: Frank Castorf’s Deutsche Oper Debut

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Tenor Russell Thomas (Don Alvaro) and baritone Markus Brück (Don Carlo) in Frank Castorf’s staging of La forza del destino at Deutsche Oper Credit: Thomas Aurin

Frank Castorf has long been an avant-garde institution in Berlin, but he just made his debut at Deutsche Oper with a staging of Verdi’s La forza del destino that sparked audience mutiny. Here’s my review for Musical America.

BERLIN — Booing can be a badge of honor in Germany’s theaters, particularly when it comes to canonical works. That’s at least one way of regarding the vehement reactions that have greeted Frank Castorf’s new staging of La forza del destino at Deutsche Oper…

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Filed under: Deutsche Oper, directors, Frank Castorf, review, Verdi

Reframing the Image: A Contemporary Lens on Robert Mapplethorpe’s Provocative Art

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Later this month, Cal Performances will present Triptych — a meditation on the legacy of Robert Mapplethorpe 30 years after his death that was composed by Bryce Dessner to a libretto by korde arrington tuttle. Here’s the article on this hybrid theatrical work I wrote for Cal Performances:

In this age of selfies, promiscuously disseminated Snapchat sexting, and Instagram—the omnipresent reflection of our image-saturated, disposable culture—it almost defies belief that an exhibition of photographs was once the flashpoint for the culture wars that continue to divide America…

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Filed under: art exhibition, Bryce Dessner, Cal Performances, Patti Smith, photography

Thomas Dausgaard Starts the Seattle Symphony Season

Tonight in Seattle, new Music Director Thomas Dausgaard begins his tenure with an opening night program of Carl Nielsen, Richard Strauss, and Sergei Rachmaninoff, with Daniil Trifonov as the soloist in the Russian composer’s Fourth Piano Concerto. I’m not able to be there for the opening but look forward to reporting on Dausgaard’s work with the orchestra later in the fall.

Meanwhile, you can listen to the conductor’s rapport with Strauss on the new SSO release, which includes an account of the Alpine Symphony from performances in June 2017 (which I reviewed here), as well as the prelude to the opera Antichrist by fellow Dane Rued Langgaard.

Filed under: Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Living Inside the Music: Teodor Currentzis and musicAeterna

Looking ahead to his American debut at The Shed in November, my profile of Teodor Currentzis for the fall issue of Early Music America magazine is now available.

Within a few moments of listening to a performance led by Teodor Currentzis — whether live or recorded — you realize something different is unfolding. Nothing sounds taken for granted. What you assumed to be familiar parameters of a well-known piece — tempo, dynamics, accentuation — are suddenly open to question, the music propelled by a spirit of fierce collective concentration….

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Filed under: conductors, early music, Early Music America, profile

Bernard Haitink Bids Adieu

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Tonight is the night: after farewell concerts in Amsterdam and London, Bernard Haitink will officially raise his baton for the last time when he conducts the Vienna Philharmonic is his very last concert at the 2019 Lucerne Festival. The concert has long been sold out.

Yesterday Haitink and his wife Patricia were the special guests at the vernissage launching the new book by Erich Singer and Peter Hagmann: Bernard Haitink: Dirigieren ist ein Rätsel. The maestro was visibly moved by the tributes to his life and legacy.

On tonight’s program, Haitink will conduct Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Emanuel Ax in the solo role. Could you imagine a more graceful exit from such a distinguished career?

Filed under: Anton Bruckner, Beethoven, Bernard Haitink, conductors, Lucerne Festival

Chailly Meets the Lucerne Festival Academy Alumni

One of the programs I’m most looking forward to in Lucerne is the Academy Alumni Orchestra program this Sunday, which will be led by Riccardo Chailly, music director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

Yesterday, Wolfgang Rihm and Mariano Chiacchiarini introduced the culminating work of the program: Rihm’s early orchestral composition Dis-Kontur from 1974, which starts off with a post-’68 generation update of the catastrophic hammer blows familiar from Mahler, Berg, and Schoenberg. As Ulrich Mosch writes:

Fundamental to Rihm’s pieces for orchestra was his decision to refrain from transforming the orchestra into a large, structurally controlled “sound generator” and from reinventing the ensemble by taking the approach of reorganising it according to “internal, social” assumptions – a co-op effort of equally entitled individuals or a self-regulating social and musical system, for instance.

The rest of the program that Chailly will conduct the Soviet Alexander Mosolov’s The Iron Foundry, Bruno Maderna’s Grande Aulodia for flute and oboe solo with orchestra (Swiss premiere), and Schoenberg’s Five Orchestra Pieces.

 

UPDATE: You can watch this splendid concert here:

 

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Setting Sail with Billy Budd: A Selective Overview of the Opera’s Production History

Here’s an article I wrote for San Francisco Opera’s upcoming production of Billy Budd, which opens on Saturday.

The late New Yorker critic Andrew Porter deemed Billy Budd “musically the richest and most arresting” of Benjamin Britten’s fifteen operas. It is also arguably his most provocative and challenging. While the novella Billy Budd became enshrined in the canon shortly after the belated publication of Melville’s unfinished text in 1924 — boosted by a dramatic reappraisal of the author following a long period of neglect — the opera has taken more time to find a place in the repertory….

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Filed under: Britten, San Francisco Opera

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