MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Creating Contexts: Reimagining the Art of the Recital

Here’s my new story for Stanford Live magazine on three remarkable singers who will each be appearing over the next two months: Gerald Finley,  Davóne Tines, and Jakub Józef Orliński:

The voice is not only the oldest of all musical instruments—some evolutionary models even hold that singing predates the development of spoken language. Yet the contexts in which this ancient form of communication is presented can change dramatically, reflecting the ever-shifting priorities and realities of the present moment….


Filed under: programming innovation, singers, Stanford Live

SOUNDbox, the New Series at Nonsequitur

The SOUNDbox team includes, from left, Marina Albero (curator), Steve Peters (Nonsequitur director), Heather Bentley (board member), Carlos Snaider (curator) and Leanna Keith (curator). (Daniel Husser)
The SOUNDbox team includes, from left, Marina Albero (curator), Steve Peters (Nonsequitur director), Heather Bentley (board member), Carlos Snaider (curator) and Leanna Keith (curator) (credit: Daniel Husser)

Here’s my Seattle Times story on a new Nonsequitur series that’s about to launch at the Chapel Performance Space:

Experimental music. Contemporary classical and post-classical. Free improvisation. Electroacoustic. Sound installation. Avant-garde … There’s a bewildering babel of labels used to try to classify artists who are defiantly unclassifiable….


Omar Willey is a SOUNDbox curator and a virtuoso of the spoken word. (Omar Willey and Creative Commons)
Omar Willey is a SOUNDbox curator and a virtuoso of the spoken word. (Omar Willey and Creative Commons)

Filed under: Nonsequitur, Seattle Times

Juilliard’s Focus 2022: The Making of an American Music, 1899-1948

Tonight is the opening program in Juilliard’s weeklong Focus 2022 Festival, which will tackle the theme The Making of an American Music, 1899-1948. And all events will be livestreamed through Juilliard LIVE on the school’s website.

I had the privilege of editing the program book and can attest that these carefully curated programs are well worth your attention. From the recent New York Times article on Focus and its founder and director, the remarkable Joel Sachs: “’It blossomed into a kind of monster,’ Sachs said, chuckling. “The program book is 88 pages. But it’s a really interesting period.'” [link to program book]

Filed under: American music, Joel Sachs, Juilliard

Winter Festival

This weekend marks the start of Seattle Chamber Music Society’s two-weekend Winter Festival.

And see the video above for a lecture by Michael Kannen, cellist, founding member of the Brentano String Quartet, and Professor of Chamber Music at the Peabody Institute, about the piano quintets of Antonin Dvořák, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Cesar Franck — all featured this winter.

Filed under: Seattle Chamber Music Society

San Francisco Opera’s 100th Anniversary Season

So it’s now official: San Francisco Opera will launch its centennial season with the world premiere of a new John Adams opera: Antony and Cleopatra, set to the composer’s own libretto culled from Shakespeare’s tragedy and various classical sources (Virgil, Plutarch, etc.). Music Director Eun Sun Kim will conduct the production directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer; the cast will be led by Julia Bullock and Gerald Finley as the lovers, with Paul Appleby, as the young Caesar, Octavius, Alfred Walker as Antony’s confidante Enobarbus, and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong as Octavia (Octavius’ sister and the wife of Antony).

But there’s much more that promises to make this an extraordinary season, with a return to eight mainstage offerings. SFO will present the local premiere of El último sueño de Frida y Diego by Gabriela Lena Frank, an SFO co-commission that will receive its first performances at San Diego Opera in October 2022 before coming to the War Memorial Opera House in June 2023.

There will be new SFO productions of La Traviata directed by Opera San José’s incoming general director Shawna Lucey, Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice featuring countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński in a new production by Matthew Ozawa, and Madame Butterfly directed by Amon Miyamoto and starring Karah Son and Michael Fabiano.

Two operas that received their American premieres in the 1950s are also being featured: Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and the Richard Strauss masterpiece Die Frau ohne Schatten in a David Hockney production. Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is also part of the lineup, in the Bay Area premiere of the Robert Carsen production. On 16 June 2023, there will additionally be a gala 100th Anniversary Concert.

Complete press release here.

Bookmark for the latest news and updates.

Filed under: John Adams, music news, San Francisco Opera, Uncategorized

And Still More on Dausgaard and the Seattle Symphony…

The first actual in-depth reporting on the disaster that has befallen the Seattle Symphony with Thomas Dausgaard’s sudden departure has just been published at Post Alley.

The formidable Doug McLennan brings powerful journalistic chops to a dismayingly complex story that appears to involve a toxic work environment. Many questions are left unanswered — not least because of the stonewalling he reports, which itself would seem to reinforce the picture painted of an institution out of balance.

I would also add that this story fails to give proper credit to Dausgaard’s predecessor, Ludovic Morlot. He played an undeniably important role in developing the orchestra’s current level of artistic excellence.

I rather like the use of “repotia” here — the same rhetorical device Shakespeare uses in “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”: “Again though, when a new leader comes in, culture inevitably changes, and there’s almost always turnover among staff.”

So sad that the fallout from all of this will inevitably affect these amazing musicians for some time to come — just as we’re coming out of the pandemic…

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Strained Relations

in happier days…

After the bombshell that dropped on Friday, we hear a response from Thomas Dausgaard via Javier Herndández’s report in The New York Times on the Thomas Dausgaard-Seattle Symphony breakup: “I felt personally not safe,” Dausgaard said, providing few specifics as he offered his first public comments on his abrupt resignation, which the orchestra announced on Friday. “I felt threatened.”

According to Hernández’s report: “Dausgaard said he felt the culture of the organization shifted and became ‘ruled by fear.’ At one point, he said, an employee of the orchestra was pressured to make negative comments about him to the administration. (The symphony denies the accusation.)”

The irony is that, as far as I could tell, Dausgaard and the musicians still had an impressive chemistry together, even after the long absence due to visa restrictions and whatever else might have been responsible — as I noted in what turns out, in retrospect, to have been a de facto farewell concert.

The pandemic obviously exacerbated tensions that seem to have already been simmering, as Hernández points out. What a distressing turn of events — just when SSO was playing at such a high level. Along with Dausgaard and Jaap van Zweden, who are some other major classical music figures who have so radically reassessed their career commitments?

NYT story

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard Steps Down as Seattle Symphony’s Music Director

This bombshell has just arrived: Thomas Dausgaard is resigning from his position as Seattle Symphony’s music director. Here’s the official press release, which leaves many questions unanswered:

SEATTLE, WA – The Seattle Symphony honors Thomas Dausgaard, whose defining 12-year partnership alongside the Symphony comes to a close with the announcement today of his decision to step away from his role as its Music Director, ahead of his originally planned final season in 2022/2023. Dausgaard, who appeared regularly as a guest conductor since 2010 and became Principal Guest Conductor in 2014, began his tenure as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony in 2019. Dausgaard’s collaboration with the Symphony for over a decade has earned widespread acclaim, marked by innovative programming, championing of music by composers of today and Grammy-nominated recordings.


Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Edgar Moreau’s Sprint to Stardom

My profile of French cellist Edgar Moreau is the cover story of the Jan-Feb 2022 issue of Strings (print only).

Filed under: cello, Strings

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