MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Contemplating End Times with the Emerson Quartet

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Emerson String Quartet Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

My review of the Emerson Quartet’s performance for the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center for Musical America (paywall):

NEW YORK—“Conclusions are the weak point of most authors,” George Eliot famously declared, “but some of the fault lies in the very nature of a conclusion, which is at best a negation.” That may hold true for fiction, but composers glory in the powerful statements they can make when a piece approaches the double bar line. And, in the case of certain composers, music written when their own lives are nearing the end possesses a special mystique.

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Filed under: Beethoven, Emerson String Quartet, Musical America, review, Shostakovich

Musical America New Artist of the Month: Seth Parker Woods

Musical America is featuring cellist Seth Parker Woods as New Artist of the Month for October. My profile here.

Filed under: Musical America

Reena Esmail: Musical America’s New Artist of the Month

reena-esmail-amber2I had the privilege of writing this profile of the remarkable young composer Reena Esmail, Musical America‘s New Artist of the Month:

At Chorus America’s annual conference this past June in Los Angeles, a general session devoted to the topic “The Medicine of Music” featured a singalong demonstration of a new interactive choral work titled Take What You Need.

It wasn’t only the members of Street Symphony and the Urban Voices Project, a community choir of singers from LA’s Skid Row neighborhood, who appeared transformed as they sang this music by Reena Esmail. The large audience of choral professionals from around America joined in, visibly moved by this confirmation of musical meaning.

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Filed under: Musical America, new music, profile

The Apple of His Eye: Review of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

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EDWARD PARKS (STEVE JOBS) AND JONAH SORENSON (YOUNG STEVE JOBS) PHOTO CREDIT: KEN HOWARD FOR SANTA FE OPERA, 2017

My review of the new Mason Bates/Mark Campbell opera is now out on Musical America:

SANTA FE, N.M.—“Hope or hype? … Score or snore?” Early into The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, the snappy questions pour out in rapid-fire succession from an ensemble attending the first public announcement of the iPhone in 2007.

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Filed under: American opera, Mark Campbell, Mason Bates, Musical America, review, Santa Fe Opera

Spoleto Festival USA: Relishing the Challenge

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Adrian Angelico (Marquise de Merteuil) and  Christian Miedl (Valmont); photo by Leigh Webber Photography

Part Two of my report on the 2017 edition of Spoleto Festival USA is now live on Musical America (subscription required):

CHARLESTON, SC—Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Spoleto Festival USA, but this year’s edition underscores what I regard as one of the festival’s most admirable traits: a refusal to rest on laurels. Spoleto took a notable dare in programming Luca Francesconi’s profoundly unsettling Quartett among this summer’s opera offerings.

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Filed under: Musical America, new music, review, Spoleto Festival USA

Spoleto Festival USA: Historical Contexts, Contemporary Impulses

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Vivaldi’s Farnace starring Anthony Roth Costanzo at 2017 Spoleto Festival (first-ever fully staged production in U.S.); photo by Leigh Webber Photography

Part One of my report on the 2017 edition of Spoleto Festival USA is now live on Musical America (subscription required):

CHARLESTON, SC—Spoleto Festival USA has a way of weaving the threads of history into fascinating, unexpected patterns. The 450-seat Dock Street Theater [below], where Vivaldi’s Farnace is now receiving a superlative production, sits on the site of a theater that initially opened in 1736—just nine years after Vivaldi introduced the work at the Teatro Sant’Angelo in his native Venice.

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Filed under: Musical America, review, Spoleto Festival USA

Dinner at Eight Fails to Sate the Appetite

My Musical America review of the new opera Dinner at Eight by composer William Bolcom and librettist Mark Campbell is now live (behind the MA paywall).

ST. PAUL, MN–Minnesota Opera has long had in place a vigorous program to promote the creation of contemporary works. Dinner at Eight is the latest of these and brings the tally of new operas that the company has produced to 45. For this project …

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Filed under: American opera, Minnesota Opera, Musical America, review, William Bolcom

Jaap van Zweden Takes the New York Philharmonic for a Test Drive

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Last week Jaap van Zweden conducted the New York Philharmonic in their first concert together since he was named Alan Gilbert’s successor as music director (starting in the 2018-19 season).

The program was a rich one: the Prelude to Wagner’s Lohengrin, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and the New York premiere of a brand-new viola concerto, Unearth, Release, by the highly talented young LA-based composer Julia Adolphe.

My review for Musical America has now been posted (behind the usual paywall):

NEW YORK—Four-and-a-half years after making his New York Philharmonic debut, Jaap van Zweden ascended the podium on Thursday for his first concert with the orchestra since being appointed …

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Filed under: Musical America, new music, New York Philharmonic, review, Tchaikovsky, Wagner

Don Pasquale and Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

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In addition to Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, I reviewed September’s other two productions at San Francisco Opera: a winning Don Pasquale (in which Larry Brownlee made his company debut) and a weak Andrea Chénier. The review is online at Musical America (subscription required):

SAN FRANCISCO—Was it merely coincidence or a cleverly tucked-away reference by way of programming? Regardless, San Francisco Opera opened its new season with a trio of operas in rotation … »Read

Filed under: Lawrence Brownlee, Musical America, review, San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera’s Dream of the Red Chamber

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Pureum Jo as Dai Yu (c)Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

My review of the world premiere production of Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber at San Francisco Opera has now been posted on Musical America (behind paywall):

SAN FRANCISCO—By its very nature, opera is a medium well-suited to synthesizing widely varied traditions into fascinating new hybrids. Dream of the Red Chamber, which received its world premiere production by San Francisco Opera in September, seeks to adapt one of the most beloved works of Chinese literature to the musical and theatrical dimensions of Western opera.

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Filed under: Musical America, review, San Francisco Opera

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