MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra This Summer

News from the Metropolitan Opera and Polish National Opera:

The Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera will gather leading Ukrainian musicians into the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra for a European and American tour July 28–August 20, including stops in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, before culminating with concerts in New York and Washington, DC. The tour has been assembled with the cooperation of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Ministry of Culture.

The orchestra will include recent refugees, Ukrainian members of European orchestras, and some of the top musicians of Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and elsewhere in Ukraine. The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine is supporting the project by addressing the organizational issues of allowing male musicians to put down weapons and take up their instruments in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity.

Money raised from the tour will go to support Ukrainian artists. Donations can be made to the Ministry of Culture at https://donate.arts.gov.ua/en

Under the leadership of Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, the orchestra will perform a program that includes Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s Seventh Symphony; Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Ukrainian virtuoso Anna Fedorova; and either Brahms’s Fourth Symphony or Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony.

Leading Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, who is singing the title role of Turandot at the Met this spring, will also perform Leonore’s great aria “Abscheulicher!” from Beethoven’s Fidelio, a paean to humanity and peace in the face of violence and cruelty.

The orchestra’s musicians will gather in Warsaw on July 18 for an intensive rehearsal period led by Maestro Wilson to forge the ensemble, followed by the opening concert in the Polish capital at the Teatr Wielki–Polish National Opera on July 28. The residency and opening performance are being paid for by generous funding from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, under the leadership of Minister Piotr Glinski. The tour will proceed with stops at the BBC Proms, on July 31, for a televised performance; Munich on August 1; the Chorégies d’Orange Festival in France on August 2; the Berlin Konzerthaus on August 4; the Edinburgh International Festival on August 6; Snape Maltings in England on August 8; the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Festival on August 11; and the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie on August 13. The orchestra will travel to New York on August 16, with concerts at Lincoln Center on August 18 and 19, followed by the final destination, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on August 20.

The musicians are drawn from the Kyiv National Opera, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, and Kharkiv Opera, among other Ukrainian ensembles. Outside of Ukraine, players come from ensembles including the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, the Belgian National Orchestra, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, music news

Parsifal at the Met

I had meant to post a link to my program essay (starts on Ins2) for the Met’s recent Wagner Week, which culminated in François Girard’s darkly visionary production from 2013, starring Jonas Kaufmann, Katarina Dalayman, Peter Matei, René Pape, and Evgeny Nikitin, with Daniele Gatti conducting.

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Wagner

Philip Glass’s Akhnaten at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera’s nightly streams include some really special offerings this coming weekend, both of which are being made available to the public for the first time on the Met’s streaming platform — these are not available in the Met on Demand Video and Audio Catalogue. These are Satyagraha and Akhnaten, two of the operas from Philip Glass’s “Portrait Trilogy.” Both are in the productions brilliantly directed by Phelim McDermott. Karen Kamensek conducts the performance of Akhnaten given last fall on 23 November 2019.

Here’s my program essay for Akhnaten to help prepare for the stream on Saturday 20 June 2020:

On January 6, 1907, the entrance to a rock-cut tomb was uncovered in
the Valley of the Kings outside modern-day Luxor, Egypt. The mummy
safeguarded within may have been the preserved body of the pharaoh
Akhnaten (today more commonly known as Akhenaten). Rigorous DNA testing
conducted in 2010 was reported to have confirmed that identification, though
the matter remains hotly contested—like just about everything else associated
with this most controversial of ancient Egypt’s vast lineage of rulers.

UPDATE: The documentary by Michael Blackwood that I mention — A Composer’s Notes: Philip Glass and the Making of an Opera — is unfortunately no longer available on YouTube but has been released on DVD by Glass’s label Orange Mountain and can also be found on Amazon Prime here.

continue (starts on p. 10)

Click to access 112319-akhnaten.pdf

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Phelim McDermott, Philip Glass

Verdi’s Ernani at the Met

The current offering from the Met’s streaming program is Verdi’s opera Ernani, based on a Victor Hugo play and premiered in 1844.
Here’s the program note I wrote long ago for this 2012 production, which stars Angela Meade, Marcello Giordani, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, with Marco Armiliato conducting.

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Verdi

Tonight’s Met Stream: Parsifal

Here’s a link to Parsifal, the seasonally appropriate streaming from the Metropolitan Opera for the next 24 hours. This performance, directed by François Girard and with Danile Gatti conducting, was transmitted live on March 2, 2013.

A pdf of the program is here, with my program note starting on p. 2 of the insert.

Cast IN ORDER OF VOCAL APPEARANCE:
Gurnemanz: René Pape
Second Knight of the Grail: Ryan Speedo Green*
Second Sentry: Lauren McNeese
First Sentry: Jennifer Forni
First Knight of the Grail: Mark Schowalter
Kundry: Katarina Dalayman
Amfortas: Peter Mattei
Third Sentry: Andrew Stenson*
Fourth Sentry: Mario Chang*
Parsifal: Jonas Kaufmann
Titurel: Rúni Brattaberg
A Voice: Maria Zifchak
Klingsor: Evgeny Nikitin
Flower Maidens:
Kiera Duffy
Lei Xu*
Irene Roberts
Haeran Hong
Katherine Whyte
Heather Johnson
* Member of the Lindemann Young ArtistDevelopment Program

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Wagner

Wozzeck: Live in HD from the Met

The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, directed by William Kentridge, will be broadcast this afternoon.

Filed under: Alban Berg, Metropolitan Opera, music news

Philip Glass’s Ahknaten at the Met

Ahknaten — in my opinion, one of Philip Glass’s greatest works — opened last night in Phelim McDermott’s excellent production at the Met. I was honored to have the opportunity to write the program note (starts on p. 40B of the attached Playbill).

On January 6, 1907, the entrance to a rock-cut tomb was uncovered in
the Valley of the Kings outside modern-day Luxor, Egypt. The mummy
safeguarded within may have been the preserved body of the pharaoh
Akhnaten (today more commonly spelled Akhenaten) …

continue

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Phelim McDermott, Philip Glass, program notes

Dialogues des Carmélites at the Met

Tonight brings the revival of the Metropolitan Opera’s classic John Dexter production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts a cast including Isabel Leonard as Blanche and Karita Mattila as the Prioress.

The production will be shown in theaters live in HD on May 12 as well. You can read my program notes here (pp. 40-47).

Filed under: Francis Poulenc, Metropolitan Opera

Bizet’s Pêcheurs de Perles at the Met

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Here’s the program essay I wrote for the Met’s production of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles directed by Penny Woolcock.

Filed under: Georges Bizet, Metropolitan Opera

Parsifal back at the Met

The Met’s revival of the François Girard production of Parsifal has started its run, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting.
My essay for the Met’s Playbill program is here.

Michael Cooper offers this report for the New York Times on >1,000 gallons of fake blood Girard calls for in his staging:

The blood creates striking tableaus — drenching the dress Evelyn Herlitzius wears as she sings the role of Kundry, a wild woman in the thrall of an evil sorcerer; and helping the audience visualize the spiritual quest taken by Parsifal (the tenor Klaus Florian Vogt). And it fits squarely into Mr. Girard’s conception of the opera.

 “We’re talking about life, Christ, Amfortas’s wound, sexuality, all of those things,” he said. “Blood became the connector.”

Filed under: essay, Metropolitan Opera, Wagner

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