MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Intriguing Voyage Out Anchored by 19th-Century Delights in Seattle

sebastian currier

Sebastian Currier

My review of Monday evening’s Summer Chamber Festival concert, which presented the world premiere of Sebastian Currier’s piano quintet Voyage Out, along with music by Fanny Mendelssohn* and Antonín Dvořák:

Under the smart and tastefully reliable artistic direction of the distinguished violinist James Ehnes, the Seattle Chamber Music Society has basically hewed to a longstanding programming formula: an overlooked work by a familiar composer, a piece featuring instrumentation unusual for the chamber format, and a blockbuster or two, typically from the 19th century…

continue

*This observation was cut from my review, but since the event has still left me seething, I want to include it:
As if patriarchal strictures hadn’t suppressed Fanny Mendelssohn’s voice sufficiently during her own lifetime, contemporary technology continued the insult to this wonderfully gifted composer in the form of entitled, inexcusable rudeness: in both the first and second movements, the same audience member had to silence a cell phone’s intrusions (not before the beastly device rang out a full cycle of Westminster chimes as the Adagio was supposed to have ebbed into silence).

Filed under: Antonín Dvořák, commissions, Fanny Mendelssohn, James Ehnes, review, Seattle Chamber Music Society

More Than a Pretty “Song to the Moon”: Rusalka as a Dark Parable

Rusalka-Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Rusalka and Kristinn Sigmundsson as Vodník the Water Goblin in Dvořák’s-credit-Cory Weaver

Rachel Willis-Sørensen (Rusalka) and Kristinn Sigmundsson (Vodník the Water Goblin); photo (c) Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

David McVicar and San Francisco Opera have been a winning combination in recent seasons. Here’s another to add to the list along with Meistersinger and Les Troyens: the company’s staging of Rusalka in June. My review for Musical America (with another on Carmen and Orlando to follow):

SAN FRANCISCO — After he returned from his sojourn in the New World, Dvořák ceased writing symphonies and turned for inspiration to Czech legend and folklore: first, in a brilliant quartet of symphonic poems — still too infrequently programmed — and then in a pair of operas.

It’s not surprising that Rusalka, the second of these, has found its place in the international repertoire as the most popular of Dvořák’s ten stage works. Along with offering a poetic variant on a universally resonant archetype (the folktale of the mermaid), Rusalka fuses Dvořák’s disparate musical influences into a versatile musical language ideally primed for narrative effectiveness.

That said, Rusalka, which premiered in 1901, suffers from some basic dramaturgical weaknesses as well as stretches of second-rate musical inspiration. But the production presented by San Francisco Opera — only the second time Rusalka has been staged by the company — swept these shortcomings aside to reveal a richly layered and fully engaging work…

My continue

Filed under: Antonín Dvořák, directors, review, San Francisco Opera

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR

  • XXX
    Everything's bigger in Texas, but some places are bigger than Texas. In this final round, contestants guess whether a geographic area is larger than the Lone Star state.
  • Guac-pocalypse Now With Robert Earl Keen
    Singer-songwriter and Tex-Mex fan Robert Earl Keen tackles questions about other guac-troversies.
  • Queso-ra Sera
    Inspired by San Antonio's queso connection, Ask Me Another's house musician Jonathan Coulton performs another music parody about cheese.
  • Seven-tonio
    Quick: Name the seven deadly sins. In this game, contestants face-off in a game where they go back-and-forth, trying to name every item in a list of seven.
  • Stadium Sounds
    In this college football audio quiz, contestants guess the school based on sounds you'd hear at the team's home stadium.
  • Remember the Something-O
    In an ode to The Alamo, contestants answer every question with a word that ends in the letter 'O.'
  • Robert Earl Keen: Texas Troubadour
    Musician Robert Earl Keen shares how foosball led to a career in music, and how he met Lyle Lovett on his front porch. Then he demonstrates another superpower: knowing every U.S. president's birthday.
  • Helen Fisher: How Does Love Affect The Brain?
    Helen Fisher says love is a biological drive and a survival mechanism. She discusses the science of love and how much control we have over who we love, how we love, and whether that love lasts.
  • Katie Hood: When Does Unhealthy Love Turn Into Abuse?
    Unhealthy relationships don't start out unhealthy. But Katie Hood says you have to pay attention to some critical signs at that early stage, and learn the skills for healthy love.
  • Dessa: How Can You Fall Out Of Love?
    For years, musician Dessa tried to get over a toxic relationship. But she couldn't figure out how — until she tried something unconventional: using neuroscience to dull her feelings for her ex.