MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: Alcina Casts Surprising Spells in Santa Fe

64947-alcina-else-van-den-heever-c-ken-howard-for-santa-fe-opera-2017-resized

Elsa van den Heever (Alcina) © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2017

My review of Santa Fe Opera’s Alcina for Bachtrack:

George Bernard Shaw crystallised longstanding biases when he declared that Handel’s operas were “only stage concerts for shewing off the technical skill of the singers”. David Alden, a longstanding maverick director and hero of Regie-philes, made his reputation in part through his striking interpretations of Handel. If anything, his production of Alcina, which he first staged at the Opéra National de Bordeaux in 2012 (with many of the same singers), pushes too far in the opposite direction to the theatrically static fossil of Shaw’s stereotype.

continue

Filed under: directors, Handel, review, Santa Fe Opera

The Devil Gets the Best Tunes

1702_cummings_no22_c_robert_workman

Laurence Cummings (Photo by Robert Workman)

Here’s a piece I wrote for this month’s Juilliard Journal about Agrippina:

In one of Agrippina‘s pivotal scenes, the Emperor Claudius—at first presumed dead at sea by the scheming title character, only to be inconveniently rescued—crows in triumph over “conquered Britain” as a “new subject” for the Roman throne. That wouldn’t exactly be music to Brexit supporters—but, then, international migrants like George Frideric Handel (né Georg Friedrich Händel) would have had a harder time in a Europe of zealously policed borders.

continue reading

Filed under: Handel, Juilliard

Mr Handel

gfhandelKeeping watch in his Brook St bedroom.

Filed under: Handel, photography

Alexander’s Feast: A Handelian Ode to the Power of Music

2016-04-16-alexanders-feastMy essay on Handel’s magnificent ode Alexander’s Feast has been posted on the LA Master Chorale Site:

It sounds strange to refer to George Frideric Handel as a neglected composer. Messiah is such a fixture that the holiday season would feel bereft   were it suddenly to disappear from the scene. (Never mind that its association with Christmas postdates the practice during the composer’s lifetime.)

continue reading

Filed under: choral music, Handel, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Hidden Handel

Director Trevore Ross on staging Handel’s oratorios for the LA Master Chorale. First in their five-season-long project is Alexander’s Feast.

Filed under: choral music, directors, Handel, Los Angeles Master Chorale

The Power of Musick

Filed under: Handel

Handel Discovey

In time for Handel’s birthday on Tuesday, Gramophone magazine reports on the upcoming premiere in April of a cantata by the composer from his early period in Italy. The score was recently discovered in the private collection of early-music figure Ton Koopman:

Koopman’s website explains: ‘It is an earlier but very different version of the cantata [‘Tu fedel? Tu costante?’, HWV 171]. Only the first aria is substantially the same, while the three remaining arias are entirely new. HWV 171a, as the cantata will be known, also differs from the later version in calling for an oboe in addition to two violins and basso continuo. There can be no doubt about Handel’s authorship, because of numerous motivic connections with his other works, including the opera Almira, performed in Hamburg in 1705, before the composer left for Italy.

Filed under: Handel, music news

Street Symphony’s Messiah Project

Street Symphony, the LA-based ensemble of musicians who bring their art to prisons, Skid Row, and other marginalized groups, has posted this story of homeless combat veteran Don Garza and how he was affected by Handel’s music (hat tip: Ayana Haviv):

Filed under: Handel, music news

Another View of Semele

The Birth of Bacchus, Giulio Pippi and Workshop

The Birth of Bacchus, Giulio Pippi and Workshop

For another angle on the Semele myth treated by Handel, here’s a painting by Giulio Pippi (called Giulio Romano) and Workshop (before 1499-1546), from the Getty Museum. The painting depicts the happy outcome of poor Semele’s demise. From the Getty’s description:

Originally part of a series of mythological love stories, this panel is a comment on passion’s perils. Semele, a mortal impregnated by Jupiter (Roman king of the gods), is consumed by fire after the god’s jealous wife, Juno (queen of the gods), tricks her into looking directly at him despite his warnings. Below is the newborn Bacchus (god of wine), Semele’s son by Jupiter. As the hapless father flees clutching his thunderbolts, Juno looks on apprehensively.

Filed under: Handel, painting, photography

A Ravishingly Entertaining Semele Alights in Seattle

Brenda Rae (Semele) and Alek Shrader (Jupiter); (c) Elise Bakketun

Brenda Rae (Semele) and Alek Shrader (Jupiter); (c) Elise Bakketun

My review of Seattle Opera’s latest production is now live on Bachtrack.com (Happy 330th, George Frideric!)

It’s amusing to imagine the pitch Handel must have used to convince the presenters of Covent Garden’s oratorio concert series for the 1744 Lenten season to back his latest creation. Why not schedule his theatrical treatment of a myth that portrays the head of the pagan gods setting his human mistress up in a pleasure palace? After all, the moral is clearly stated at the end: “Nature to each allots his proper sphere”. Still, you can’t send your audience home on a such a grim choral note, so all the more reason to end things with a cheerful ode to the powers of Bacchus!

continue reading

Filed under: directors, Handel, review, Seattle Opera

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

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR

  • Not My Job: Katy Tur Of NBC News Gets Quizzed On Turducken
    The correspondent and anchor, known for her reporting from Donald Trump's presidential campaign, fields questions about the multi-poultry Thanksgiving delicacy.
  • Reading The Game: This War Of Mine
    Our occasional series on storytelling in video games returns with This War of Mine — a game about surviving during wartime that proved so wrenching, our critic couldn't bring himself to finish it.
  • How The TV And Movies Are Using Gen X Nostalgia
    NPR's Kelly McEvers and Pop Culture Happy Hour's Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon sit down to talk about this era of TV and movies, many of which are catering to Gen X nostalgia — from Stranger Things to the latest Star Wars film.
  • In A Crisis Of Sexual Harassment, Whither The Office Romance?
    Efforts to eliminate harassment in the workplace target a site where couples tend to meet and fall in love — but also a place where power can be abused.
  • 'Last Jedi' Puts The Smarts — And The Heart — Back Into The 'Star Wars' Franchise
    The late Carrie Fisher makes her final appearance — now as General Leia — in Star Wars Episode VIII. Critic David Edelstein says The Last Jedi is nothing short of terrific.
  • F-L-A To Win
    Finally, an Ask Me Another quiz made for Flava Flav fans: We crowned our big Orlando winner with a final round in which every answer contains the consecutive letters F-L-A.
  • Hard Times
    Did you know that Neil Diamond is a ten on the Mohs Scale of Hardness? In honor of our venue, Orlando's Hard Rock Live, we rewrote famous rock 'n roll songs to be about things that are hard.
  • This, That, Or The Other
    Our contestants give it their all—blood, sweat and tears, win, lose or draw. Can you guess whether each phrase is a Pitbull lyric, a nursery rhyme or a Mark Twain quote?
  • What's So Funny?
    Can you tell a Fran Drescher from a Seth Rogen? In this quiz, contestants have to identify famous people from their distinctive laughs.
  • Rhymes With Orange
    Contestants are challenged to a quiz about obscure words that rhyme with famously unrhymable words.