MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

St. Matthew Passion: Free Access at Digital Concert Hall

The Berlin Philharmonic is making its 2013 video of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in the Peter Sellars staging available for free until Monday.

The St. John Passion is similarly available until Monday.

From the Berlin Philharmonic’s program guide for St. Matthew Passion:

“Not all musicians believe in God, but they all believe in Johann Sebastian Bach,” said Mauricio Kagel, who grappled intensely with the life of the cantor at St. Thomas’s Church, plagued by bureaucratic city fathers and unmotivated Latin pupils, when he composed his own Passion. The term “Passion” is inextricably linked with the name “Bach”, first and foremost due to his St. Matthew Passion, already a work of superlatives in terms of its external dimensions.

That’s because the oratorio of the suffering and death of Christ, which in Bach’s lifetime eclipsed anything conceivable in the field of music, consists of no fewer than 68 individual movements (formerly counted as 78), which include, among others, the monumental opening chorus, the chorale setting “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünden groß” and the epic final chorus.

Already in the first version of the work from 1727 an extensive double choir setting of choir and orchestra is also required: the impressive stereophonic effects have lost none of their fascinating impact. (Bach himself demonstrably dared at a 1736 performance to separate the ensembles completely, enabling the real-spatial differentiation of the dialogue between the two vocal-instrumental ensembles.)

Starting off a week of festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie, Sir Simon Rattle conducts Bach’s greatest passion music, together with the Rundfunkchor Berlin, boys from the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and a top-class ensemble of soloists. It is a work you can become addicted to, a work in which you can always discover something new even if you have listened to it repeatedly. This concert is also a feast for the eyes: as in April 2010, the St. Matthew Passion is performed in Peter Sellars’ unforgettable staging.

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Filed under: Bach, Berlin Philharmonic, Peter Sellars

A New Doctor Atomic at Santa Fe Opera

doctor-atomic

JULIA BULLOCK (KITTY OPPENHEIMER). PHOTO CREDIT: KEN HOWARD FOR SANTA FE OPERA, 2018

Here’s my review for Musical America of the new production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, which Peter Sellars directed for Santa Fe Opera:

SANTA FE, NM—As with any classic tragedy, from the outset we already know the denouement of Doctor Atomic: The world’s first atomic bomb will be successfully detonated in the New Mexican desert at dawn on July 16, 1945—a prelude to the atrocities of its use less than a month later on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Review here:
Doctor Atomic-Musical America-review

Filed under: John Adams, Musical America, Peter Sellars, review, Santa Fe Opera

Alice Goodman: New York Times Profile

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Alice Goodman in Fulbourn, England. Credit Nadine Ijewere for “The New York Times”

My New York Times story on the poet and librettist Alice Goodman is now online:

When “Nixon in China” had its premiere at Houston Grand Opera on Oct. 22, 1987, there had never been anything quite like it. No previous American opera — perhaps no opera, ever — had so boldly dealt with recent political history…

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Filed under: Alice Goodman, American literature, American opera, John Adams, librettists, New York Times, Peter Sellars, Uncategorized

Le Grand Macabre directed by Peter Sellars

Peter Sellars’s production of Ligeti’s <i>Le Grand Macabre</i> is being live-streamed on the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall today.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, Ligeti, Peter Sellars

Courageous Women, Transcendent Visions

JuliaBullock

soprano Julia Bullock

My feature on this year’s Ojai at Berkeley Festival curated by Peter Sellars has now been posted:

This year’s Ojai at Berkeley festival focuses on the artistry and impact of powerful, visionary women—not only as creators and performers but as the subjects of the artworks themselves.

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Filed under: Ojai Festival, Peter Sellars, Saariaho

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