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.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.
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.