26 Mar 2013
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been performed in Houston and Paris.
Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.
The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been performed in Houston and Paris.
The matinee performance on Saturday March 16, 2013, in San Diego was the work's West Coast premiere. The title refers to the yearly migration of monarch butterflies between the United States and Mexico.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the indigenous people of Mexico made music with rattles, drums, flutes, and conch-shell horns. The Spanish introduced violins, guitars, harps, brass instruments, and woodwinds which tended to replaced most of the original instruments. Native peoples learned to play and eventually to make the European instruments, which were first used only for Mass. Later the new instruments came into more general use but some of their shapes and tunings were adjusted for local use. Mexican music has evolved greatly over the intervening centuries, so it has undergone many changes. Mariachi music is thought to have developed from "Son" music, which featured guitars and harps played by part time musicians wearing huarache sandals and white clothing.
Cecilia Duarte as Renata
By the end of the nineteenth century, the traditions of European music were firmly established in Mexico and various forms of musical entertainment were written and performed by both Mexican and European artists. In rural areas, the members of local bands wore in charro outfits. Later this clothing would be worn by urban Mariachi bands, which until recently were all male. Mariachi music and the musicians who played it became more professional in the nineteen forties and fifties. Mariachi Vargas became a legend, appearing in films and accompanying stars singers. The group expanded by the addition of trumpets, violins and even a classical guitar so that they became a kind of orchestra, keeping the traditional son/mariachi base while integrating new musical ideas and styles. Mariachi Vargas traces its history from the 1890s. Generations of players have maintained the group's authenticity as a mariachi band while the music has evolved. Although the last Vargas associated with the group died in 1985, the group still considers itself the original band because the music has been passed down from one generation of musicians to the next.
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been performed in Houston and Paris. The matinee performance on Saturday March 16, 2013, in San Diego was the work's West Coast premiere. The title refers to the yearly migration of monarch butterflies between the United States and Mexico. Members of families, too, migrate between the two countries and sometimes spend a great deal of time away from their loved ones. Much of the audience in San Diego's sold out Civic Theater was Mexican-American and many of the people could relate personally to the family portrayed on stage. The show opened with Brian Shircliffe as Mark singing of the butterflies and accompanying himself on the guitar. His baritone voice sounded like liquid gold and his song was the beginning of a very intense performance.
Soprano Brittany Wheeler portrayed the Americanized Diana, a member of the latter generation, who wanted to catch up with her Mexican past. Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo was Lupita, a Mexican village wife whose husband was spending most of his time away from her. Both of them sang with dramatic tones as they portrayed their important characters. Colombian tenor David Guzman was the lone high male voice in this performance and his trumpet-like sound was a good fit with the Mariachi orchestra and the lower voices of much of the cast.
Cecilia Duarte as Renata, Brittany Wheeler as Diana and Octavio Moreno as Laurentino
The most fascinating character was Renata, played by Mexican mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte. She sang both lyrical and dramatic songs, she also danced, and her characterization brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. Because Renata missed her husband, she hired a guide to take her and her son to him. She told no one that she was pregnant and wanted her baby to be born in the States. Unfortunately the long walk through the desert was too hard for her and, like others before her, she died before reaching her goal. The guide took the little boy back to Mexico, but he did not see his father for many years. Duarte gave an amazing performance and I would love to see her again.
Saul Avalos was a committed Chucho; Octavio Moreno a strong voiced Laurentino, and Juan Mejia an energetic Victor. The music composed by José Pepe Martinez is sometimes dramatic and at other times lyrical with kind of a big band sound from muted trumpets. His use of the harp added welcome rhythmic textures while the text told the story clearly and with considerable detail. Foglia's scenery was practical, Cesar Galindo's costumes attractive, and the lighting by Brian Nason made the visuals most effective.
Supertitles were offered in both languages so that whether you spoke Spanish or English you always knew what was being sung. The Mariachi band was led by violinist Jose Martinez, Sr. The three trumpets were always perfectly in tune, as were the harp, vihuela, guitarron, and guitar, but there were one or two instances when the violins were not completely synchronized. It's a shame that the company was only in San Diego for one day. Let's hope they will soon be back. Before and after the opera there were performances by Mariachi bands on the plaza outside the theater and it was good to see so many excellent local groups taking part.