MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Music and Justice: Dave Brubeck and Contemporary Responses

This weekend, 26-28 February, the Lowell Milken Center for American Jewish Experience at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music is presenting a series of performances and discussions to launch its new Music & Justice series. The events include a revival of Dave Brubeck’s visionary cantata from 1969, The Gates of Justice, performed in dialogue with contemporary compositions around social justice themes. There will also be a day-long public conference featuring prominent scholars and experts.

I wrote a feature on this project for Chorus America, which includes input from two of the three Brubeck sons, Darius and Chris, who will join to play the jazz trio in The Gates of Justice.

feature story

Filed under: choral music, music news, social justice

Benefit Concert for Earthquake Victims

Students and alumni of the Barenboim-Said Akademie, among whom are a number of musicians from Türkiye and Syria, initiated a benefit concert to be held on Monday, February 20, 7.30pm in collaboration with the Pierre Boulez Saal. Focusing on the theme “2Home,” the concert will contribute to efforts aiding those affected by the massive earthquake in these two countries.

The program includes works of Western classical music as well as compositions from the Middle East, especially from Türkiye and Syria.perform at the Pierre Boulez Saal on February 20.

In addition to the concert at the Pierre Boulez Saal on Monday, February 20, there will be three smaller concerts in the foyer of the Barenboim-Said Akademie on February 16, 17, and 18, each at 4pm. Admission to the foyer concerts is free; donations are welcome. Proceeds from all four concerts will go to the Earthquake Relief Fund of the German Red Cross. Call +49 30 4799 7411 for tickets.

more info

Filed under: music news, Pierre Boulez Saal

Missy Mazzoli’s The Listeners

As a huge fan of Missy Mazzoli, I’d meant to post this wonderful gift from Den Norske Opera & Ballett but let it slip through the cracks. The company recently made this recording of its world premiere production of her latest opera, The Listeners, available on YouTube until 12 May 2023.

Premiered last September as part of the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, The Listeners continues Mazzoli’s longstanding collaboration with the librettist Royce Vavrek. They developed an original story by Jordan Tannahill based on the phenomenon of the “global hum,” the dynamics of cults, and the abuse of power.

Synopsis from Den Norske Opera’s website:

“The Listeners” follows Claire, a suburban high school teacher living in the southwestern United States. Her life spirals out of control when she begins to hear a mysterious low-frequency hum. The Hum keeps her awake at night and threatens her sanity, but she finds an ally in Kyle, a student who also hears the all-consuming noise. When Kyle discovers a group that meets regularly in hopes of understanding and eliminating the source of the Hum, Claire is optimistic that this might be a turning point in her crisis. The group is led by the charismatic Howard Bard and his second-in-command Angela, who provide a compassionate environment for the beleaguered Claire and Kyle.

As the group grows in number the meetings devolve into strange, ritualistic behavior. When former soldier Dillon is expelled from the group after suggesting that the noise is a government conspiracy, he attempts to shoot down a mobile phone tower. He is arrested and criminal attention is placed on Howard and the cult of Listeners. The group explodes when it is revealed that Howard has abused his power and manipulated the members. Claire, armed with newfound confidence, picks up the pieces in an effort to harness the power of the Hum.

Filed under: Missy Mazzoli, music news, new opera

Art From Ashes: Music of Remembrance 

Starting tomorrow, Sunday, January 22 and running through Sunday, January 29, Music of Remembrance (MOR) will present its annual Art From Ashes concert to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This year’s concert, streamed free, offers a remastered video of selected works from a special event where MOR’s core ensemble performed on a quartet of historic instruments from the Violins of Hope collection.

That event at Benaroya Hall on March 1, 2020 – just before the pandemic shuttered all stages only days later – mostly features music by composers lost to the Holocaust: David Beigelman’s haunting Dybbuk Dances; string trios composed in the Terezín concentration camp by Gideon Klein and Hans Krása; and a quartet by Erwin Schulhoff. The concert opens with the Aria by Miecyslaw Weinberg, who suffered persecution at both Nazi and Soviet hands.These musical treasures remain as a testament to inspiring courage and resilience in a time of unfathomable horrors. They tell stories that resonate today as strongly as ever.

The Violins of Hope are a unique private collection of string instruments that belonged to Jews who played them before and during the Holocaust. Lovingly restored by Israeli violin makers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, they now sing again even though their former owners were silenced. They help keep history alive and connect us to inspiring and intimate human stories. 

Music of Remembrance’s next live concert at Benaroya Hall on March 19, 2023 features mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke in Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope, a dramatic song cycle that was inspired by these historic instruments. The songs imagine the stories that the violins would tell about their own odysseys and those of their owners.


Miecyslaw Weinberg
Aria, op. 9 (1942)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin Natasha Bazhanovviolin
Susan Gulkis AssadiviolaWalter Graycello

Hans Krása
Dance (Terezín, 1943)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin Susan Gulkis Assadiviola  Walter Graycello

Gideon Klein
String Trio (Terezín, 1944)
Mikhail Shmidtviolin Susan Gulkis Assadiviola  Walter Graycello

David Beigelman
Dybbuk Dances (Lodz, 1925)
Artur Girsky, violin Natasha Bazhanovviolin

Erwin Schulhoff
Five Pieces for String Quartet (1923)
Mikhail Shmidtviolin Natasha Bazhanovviolin
Susan Gulkis Assadiviola Walter Gray, cello

Filed under: music news, Music of Remembrance

Seattle Opera Announces 60th-Anniversary Season

Das Rheingold, Brian Staufenfels production; image (c) Cory Weaver

I’m delighted by the mix Seattle Opera has come up with for the 2023-24 season. Along with the first bit of Wagner’s Ring to be staged here in a decade (setting aside an abridged concert Walküre performed a couple years ago), the company makes a rare outing with Handel in its first-ever production of Alcina, directed by Tim Albery and conducted by Christine Brandes, with Vanessa Goikoetxea as Alcina, Randall Scotting as Ruggiero, Sharleen Joynt as Morgana, and Ginger Costa-Jackson as Bradamante.

Malcolm X, the milestone debut opera by Anthony Davis from 1984, to a libretto by Thulani Davis, also promises to be a highlight. Presented in co-production with Detroit Opera, Opera Omaha, the Metropolitan Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, it will be directed by Robert O’Hara, with a cast including Kevin Kellogg as the civil rights icon, Joshua Stewart as Street/Elijah Muhammad, and Leah Hawkins in her compay debut as Louise Little/Betty Shabazz. Kazem Abdullah conducts.

And even another go at Rossini’s Barber of Seville (directed by Lindy Hume, new head of Opera San José) gets an interesting new angle with the wonderful young conductor Valentina Peleggi making her Seattle Opera debut.

Das Rheingold kicks the season off in August, in Brian Staufenbiel’s production first introduced at Minnesota Opera in 2016. It will be a homecoming for Seattle Opera’s beloved Wotan of Rings past, Greer Grimsley, heading a mostly American cast that includes Michael Mayes as Alberich, Melody Wilson as Fricka, Frederick Ballentine as Loge, Kenneth Kellogg as Fafner, Peixin Chen in his company debut as Fasolt, and Denyce Graves as Erda. Ludovic Morlot will conduct.

As to whether this presages the beginning of a new complete Ring, Seattle Opera tweeted: “We have no plans to produce the full Ring in the near future, but Wagner will continue to be a regular part of our seasons.”

“I am thrilled to be able to celebrate 60 years of Seattle Opera with this first-rate lineup of artists and titles,” said Christina Scheppelmann. “60 years is a significant milestone for any American opera company, and it’s a testament to the strong tradition of opera and the performing arts in this city. This season will be both a reminder of that history and a promise of many more years to come.”

Performance information

Das Rheingold

·         Music and libretto by Richard Wagner

·         August 12, 16, 18, & 20, 2023

·         McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109)



·         Music by George Frideric Handel, libretto by an unidentified poet

·         October 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, & 28, 2023

·         McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109)


Holiday Chorus Concert

·         December 8, 9, & 10, 2023

·         Tagney Jones Hall at the Opera Center (363 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109)

X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X

·         Music by Anthony Davis, libretto by Thulani Davis, story by Christopher Davis

·         February 24 & 25, March 1, 3, 6, & 9, 2024

·         McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109)


The Barber of Seville

·         Music by Gioachino Rossini, libretto by Cesare Sterbini

·         May 4, 5, 10, 12, 15, & 18, 2024

·         McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109)


60th Anniversary Concert & Gala

·         May 11, 2024

·         McCaw Hall

Filed under: music news, Ring cycle, Seattle Opera

Daniel Barenboim Ends His Tenure at Berlin Staatsoper

The Berlin Staatsoper just released a statement by long-term general director Daniel Barenboim announcing the end of his tenure there for reasons of health: “Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated significantly over the past year. I can no longer provide the performance that is rightly demanded of a general music director. Therefore, I ask for your understanding that I am giving up this position as of 31 January 2023.”

It’s the sad culmination of what has been a very difficult period for the maestro. Over the last few months, he had to cancel the many celebrations that had been organized around his 80th birthday in November.

This will be a sea-change for Berlin in particular, whose musical life the indefatigable Barenboim has dominated for decades.

Filed under: Berlin Staatsoper, Daniel Barenboim, music news

Celebrating San Francisco Opera’s Centenary at SFO

Company’s first production of The Ring of the Nibelung (1935)

SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport have unveiled a new exhibition in connection with San Francisco Opera’s centennial titled San Francisco Opera: A Centennial Celebration. The curated installation in the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 (located post-security in Departures Level 2) showcases the Company’s first century and the art of operatic stagecraft.

The exhibition, on view through 13 August 13, 2023, captures San Francisco Opera’s rich history through a selection of costumes, stage props, set models, video and archival photographs from the collections of San Francisco Opera, the Museum of Performance + Design and the Metropolitan Opera Archives.

Costumes worn by operatic superstars who have graced San Francisco Opera’s stage during the past century are the focus of the presentation.

SFO Museum’s Curator of Exhibits Daniel Calderon said: “SFO Museum is delighted to feature the history of San Francisco Opera during the Company’s Centennial Season. San Francisco Opera is such an important cultural and artistic institution, and their story is both local and international. With their support, along with loans from the Museum of Performance + Design and the Metropolitan Opera Archives, SFO Museum has assembled a vibrant exhibition of costumes, photographs and artifacts that span almost a century of opera history. We know the exhibition will spur the interest of our traveling public and hope it will make new opera fans in the coming months.”

San Francisco Opera’s Director of Archives Barbara Rominski said: “Working with Daniel Calderon and the entire SFO Museum team has been rewarding on so many fronts, not least for the opportunity to share our archival collections with the airport’s enormous daily audience. Whether travelers have only a few seconds to spend with the exhibits or a long layover to really dive in, these remarkable garments and artifacts have a way of inspiring wonder at the creative possibility of this lively art form.”

Highlights include:

  • The cape and hat worn by famed Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette during San Francisco Opera’s inaugural 1923 season.
  • Legendary Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad’s Brünnhilde costume from Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre in the 1935 Company premiere of the composer’s four-opera cycle, The Ring of the Nibelung.
  • The military outfit worn by French soprano Lily Pons in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment during the 1940s.
  • A dress from Massenet’s Manon worn by soprano and inaugural recipient of the Company’s Opera Medal, Dorothy Kirsten.
  • American soprano Leontyne Price’s costume from the 1981 production of Verdi’s Aida. An iconic interpreter of the title role, Price sang her first Aida with San Francisco Opera in 1957.
  • Additional costumes from productions of ToscaUn Ballo in MascheraTannhäuser and Rigoletto reflect the work of designers Thierry Bosquet, John Conklin, Paul Brown and Constance Hoffman.

For more information and to view the Exhibition Image Gallery, visit

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

Angela Merkel on Wagner’s Ring

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been channeling her passion for Richard Wagner into a podcast discussion on SWR2 in a three-episode series as part of Sprechen wir über Mord!? Merkel’s podcasts explore criminal contexts and motives in the Ring cycle. The podcasts are in German.

Episode 1: Greed

Angela Merkel: “The ring is so universally applicable to humanity that from family life to political life, you can always find things that just keep happening to us humans.”

Episode 2: Revenge

Angela Merkel: “”If you’re so affected by revenge or retribution that you can’t get that out of your head, then you should stop doing politics.”

Episode 3: Vanity

Angela Merkel: “To claim that anyone is completely free of vanity, well, I wouldn’t say that for me either. Vanity is something that is quite inherent in people, but it also has to be restrained.”

Filed under: music news, Ring cycle, Wagner

Erin Jorgensen & Friends: The Saddest of All Keys

UPDATE: Due to freezing rain and icy streets, The Saddest of All Keys with Richard Lefebvre & Rachel Kessler will be postponed to 14 January 2023.

Marimbist Erin Jorgensen joins forces with poet/Renaissance woman Rachel Kessler and ubiquitous front man Richard Lefebvre for a one-night-only-anti-holiday-holiday show. Expect dreamy visions, tales of kicking drugs, musings on seasonal depression and spiders, JS Bach, and amplified and acoustic marimba – all in the key of D Minor, of course.

Two shows on Friday 23 December at 6 and 9pm at Odd Sea | 1539 NW Leary Way. The venue is a new performance space made from a former auto-body shop in Ballard. Run time is approximately 50 minutes. Tickets here.

Filed under: music news

Behold the Star with Seattle Pro Musica

Seattle Pro Musica presents its holiday program on 17 December at 3pm at First Baptist Church in Seattle. Titled Behold the Star, the program offers holiday favorites as well as the world premiere of Shruthi Rajasekar‘s newly commissioned I am my own, set to texts by the three Brontë sisters (Emily, Charlotte, and Anne). Winter and holiday-themed works by Herbert Howells, Francis Poulenc, and Guillaume Dufay share the program.

Behold the Star is the third in Seattle Pro Musica’s New American Composer Series. The five-concert series celebrates Seattle Pro Musica’s 50th Anniversary,with commissions and Seattle residencies by five BIPOC composers from across the country.

This performance will also be available by livestream in real time and on demand following the performance (simply register in advance here).

Tickets available at

Filed under: holiday, music news, Seattle Pro Musica

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