MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

The Mother of Us All Tonight

This evening at 7pm EST, the Met Museum hosts the digital premiere of The Mother of Us All by Virgil Thomson to Gertrude Stein’s libretto about Susan B. Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement.

The production, which was filmed during live performances at the Met’s sculpture court in the American Wing in February, is a collaboration between Juilliard and the New York Philharmonic (and part of the latter’s ongoing Project 19 initiative.

Watch the premiere on Facebook, YouTube, or at the bottom of the Met’s page here.

Louisa Proske, the production’s brilliant director, offers an introduction here:

Filed under: American opera, directors, Juilliard, New York Philharmonic

Jörg Widmann

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My new profile of Jörg Widmann for the Juilliard Journal:

Which Jörg Widmann would you like to meet? The prolific artist who appears on Bachtrack.com’s list of the top 10 most frequently performed living composers for 2019 (alongside figures like Philip Glass and John Adams)? The virtuoso clarinetist who has inspired numerous new compositions? The conductor of major international orchestras? The erudite lecturer? The teacher and mentor of young musicians?

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Filed under: Jörg Widmann, Juilliard

A Chat with Nicholas McGegan

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Nicholas McGegan conducting Juilliard415 in 2019

Ahead of his upcoming Juilliard projects, I spoke with the always delightful Nicholas McGegan.

A new year and decade: 2020 brings some major milestones for eminent conductor, harpsichordist, and flutist Nicholas McGegan…

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Filed under: conductors, early music, Handel, Juilliard

Juilliard’s 2020 Focus Festival: Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century

The 36th annual Focus Festival at Juilliard starts tomorrow with a fascinating program by the New Juilliard Ensemble and its director, Joel Sachs–the first of six free concerts to take place between Friday and January 31. (The clip above is of Mary Lou Williams performing “Roll ’em” from 1944, on the menu for Program III on Tuesday night.)

Joel Sachs, the mastermind behind Juilliard’s Focus Festival tradition, co-curated this year’s edition with Cuban-American composer and conductor Odaline de la Martinez.

If you’re in New York over the next week, it’s really worth considering a visit to one of these amazingly varied programs. Each one is full of discoveries.

The topic, Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century, was of course inspired by a desire to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment being ratified.

Yet, as de la Martinez remarks: “Although prospects for women composers have improved greatly over the last few decades, let’s not forget how much more work needs to be done!”

In this preview by Joshua Barrone (with samples of several of the 32 composers on the roster), de la Martinez goes on to say: ““A lot of these composers have disappeared because people don’t know what to look for. And musicology used to teach only men. It’s about time to make cases for other composers, and women.”

View the complete program

Filed under: Juilliard

Mozart’s Sex and Mind Games at Juilliard

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Sara Jean Tosetti’s costume sketches for Ferrando, Dorabella, Fiordiligi, and Guglielmo

For the Juilliard Journal, I spoke to stage director David Paul and music director Nimrod David Pfeffer about their production of the final Mozart-Da Ponte collaboration, which Juilliard Opera performs later this month.

Così fan tutte is subtitled “The School for Lovers” — but this third and last of Mozart’s collaborations with his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte also provides an excellent education for emerging opera artists. The two couples at the center of the narrative “are young people who are at a juncture of having to figure out who they are and what they want out of love and life,” according to David Paul, who will direct Juilliard Opera’s new production. “They have to make consequential decisions for the first time in their lives, which makes Così remarkably appropriate for what these students are living through.”

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Filed under: directors, Juilliard, Mozart

A Bold New Season for Karina Canellakis

Karina_Canellakis_Conducts_BeethovenMy profile of Karina Canellakis for the Juilliard Journal has just been posted. Maestra Canellakis returns to her alma mater next month to conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in a program of Missy Mazzoli, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Richard Strauss.

In early summer, the first of several record-breaking heat waves scorched Western Europe just as Karina Canellakis was settling into her new home in Amsterdam…

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Filed under: conductors, Juilliard

Turangalîla at Juilliard

Here’s my Juilliard Journal story for the upcoming performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie with David Robertson:

Turangalîla is the work of my life,” Olivier Messiaen wrote in a letter to a young Leonard Bernstein, who was preparing to conduct the world premiere near the end of 1949. Messiaen thanked him in advance for agreeing to take on this formidable challenge, “since I know (having seen you in The Rite of Spring) that you will do it in a way that is marvelous and brilliant.”

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Filed under: Juilliard, Olivier Messiaen

Dido and Aeneas at Juilliard

Here’s my program essay for Juilliard Opera’s production of Dido and Aeneas at the Willson Theater, directed by Mary Birnbaum and led by Avi Stein, with choreography by Claudia Schreier. Closes tomorrow.

“Even this little boarding-school opera is full of [Purcell’s] spirit, his
freshness, his dramatic expression, and his unapproached art of setting
English speech to music.” This was the verdict that Cornetto di Basso (aka
George Bernard Shaw, using his pen name as a music critic) reached when
covering an otherwise less-than-thrilling performance of Dido and Aeneas
in 1889. Though two centuries old by then, the score had only first been
published in 1841; the opera would not be performed outside England until
1895, when the bicentennial of Henry Purcell’s death stimulated curiosity
about his work.

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Filed under: Henry Purcell, Juilliard

Barbara Hannigan’s New York Conducting Debut

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Here’s my story for the Julliard Journal on the phenomenal Barbara Hannigan:

Even as an internationally acclaimed soprano, Barbara Hannigan is unable to resist challenging herself to ever more-formidable accomplishments. In 2011 she made a bold leap to the podium, debuting as a conductor at the Châtelet in Paris with Stravinsky’s Renard.

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Filed under: Barbara Hannigan, conductors, Juilliard

On the Air! Juilliard’s Focus Festival Salutes Radio Commissions

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For this year’s Focus Festival at Juilliard, titled On the Air! A Salute to 75 Years of International Radio Commissioning, Joel Sachs has curated six programs sampling this wealth of compositions from an international array of stations.

The opening concert is on 25 January at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater, when Sachs will lead the New Juilliard Ensemble. All six Focus events are free of charge.

Sachs explains what inspired the 2019 Festival:

I unexpectedly realized the role of radio in October 2017, while writing a program note about Argentinean-German composer Mauricio Kagel for a New Juilliard Ensemble concert. Because Kagel settled in Cologne, I began thinking about the extraordinary post-World War II new music scene that flourished there, where he and many other compositional giants, German and foreign, had settled.

Being reasonably acquainted with that Rhineland city and its institutions, I immediately recalled the German letters WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk, West German Broadcasting), the radio-TV public broadcast based there. An enormous operation, WDR generally considered the most important broadcaster in German, with five radio transmissions, television, internet broadcasts, and a group of external studios in various cities around Germany’s industrial heartland. Having had a professional relationship with WDR 3, I realized that it has had a vital role as one of the most prominent of European radio stations with its decades-old commissioning program.

Dots began to connect. I had performed or recorded at the BBC, Radio France, Swiss stations in Zurich and Basel, Austrian radio in Salzburg, but what had never struck me was that they all were busily commissioning composers, not just creating background music for radio dramas, but also music intended for live performance in concerts, and not just those composers who produced ‘comfortable’ music. Suddenly I had a topic for Focus 2019: “On the Air! A Salute to 75 Years of International Radio Commissions.”

more on the 2019 Focus Festival at Juilliard: 25 Jan-1 Feb

Filed under: commissions, Juilliard

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