Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
Count (William) Basie (1904-1984)
Tommy Reilly (1919-2000)
Willhelm Killmayer (1927-2017)
Gregg Smith (1931-2016)
Dame Janet Baker (1933)

and

X. J. Kennedy (1929)
Robert Stone (1937-2015)
Ellen Hinsey (1960)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
Mario Bernardi (1930-2013)
Dame Anne Evans (1941)
Maxim Vengerov (1974)

and

Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950)
Paul Tillich (1886-1965)
H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)
Jacqueline Susann (1918-1974)
Heather McHugh (1948)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

William Henry Fry (1881-1864)
Georges Enescu (1881-1955)
Allan Monk (1942)
Gerard Schwarz (1947)
Rebecca Evans (1963)

and

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761)
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Frank McCourt (1930-2009)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)
Benjamin Godard (1849-1895)
Basil Cameron (1884-1975)
Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973)
Dame Moura Lympany (1916-2005)
Goff Richards (1944)
Tan Dun (1957)

and

Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
Margaret Murie (1902 -2003)
Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

Italian-born Viennese composer Antonio Salieri, born in Legnago, in the Republic of Venice (1750). Although he was quite popular in the 18th century, he probably wouldn't be well known today were it not for the movie Amadeus (1984). The movie was based on Peter Shaffer's play by the same name (1979), which was in turn based on a short play by Aleksandr Pushkin, which was called Mozart and Salieri (1830). These stories all present Salieri as a mediocre and uninspired composer who was jealous of Mozart's musical genius; Salieri tried to discredit Mozart at every turn, and some versions of the story even accuse him of poisoning his rival.

But Salieri was a talented and successful composer, writing the scores for several popular operas. He had a happy home life with his wife and eight children. And because he had received free voice and composition lessons from a generous mentor as a young man, he also gave most of his students the benefit of free instruction. Some of his pupils included Beethoven, Franz Liszt, and Franz Schubert. He was the Kapellmeister — the person in charge of music — for the Austrian emperor for 36 years. He and Mozart were competitors, but their rivalry was usually a friendly one; Salieri visited Mozart when he was dying, and was one of the few people to attend his funeral.

After the turn of the 19th century, Salieri's music began to fall out of fashion. "I realized that musical taste was gradually changing in a manner completely contrary to that of my own times," he wrote. "Eccentricity and confusion of genres replaced reasoned and masterful simplicity." He stopped composing operas and began to produce more and more religious pieces. He suffered from dementia late in his life and died in 1825. He had composed his own requiem 20 years earlier, and it was performed for the first time at his funeral.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)
Abram Chasins (1903-1987)
George Melly (1926-2007)
T.J. (Thomas Jefferson) Anderson (1928)
Edward Cowie (1943)
Jean-Bernard Pommier (1944)
Heiner Goebbels (1952)
Artur Pizarro (1968)

and

Oliver St. John Gogarty (1878-1957)
Mae West (1893-1980)
Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
V. S. Naipaul (1932-2018)
Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
Jonathan Franzen (1959)

and from the Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1982, the first compact discs for commercial release were manufactured in Germany. CDs were originally designed to store and play back sound recordings, but later were modified to store data. The first test disc, which was pressed near Hannover, Germany, contained a recording of Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony, played by the Berlin Philharmonic. The first CD commercially produced at the new factory and sold on this date was ABBA's 1981 album The Visitors; the first new album to be released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street, which hit the stores in Japan — alongside the new Sony CD player — on October 1. The event is known as the "Big Bang of digital audio."

Friday, August 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861)
Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937)
Jacinto Guerrero (1895-1951)
Ralph Downes (1904-1993)
Bill Evans (1929-1980)
Sarah Brightman (1959)
Franz Welser-Möst (1960)

and

Catharine Trotter Cockburn (1679-1749)
William Maxwell (1908-2000)
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Portland Opera's "In the Penal Colony" kills it

Sean Doran as The Condemned Man, Martin Bakari as the Visitor, and Nathan H.G. as The Soldier in Portland Opera's new production of Philip Glass's In the Penal colony. Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
Bleak, harrowing, and painful to watch, Portland Opera’s production of Philip Glass’s In the Penal Colony was a compelling glimpse into hell. Based on a short story of the same name by Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony is a macabre tale set in a prison where a horrific machine is scheduled to kill an inmate. Directed by Jerry Mouawad and presented in the Studio Theatre in the Hampton Opera Center on August 3rd, Portland Opera’s performance made me squirm and want to look away, because it was as if I were viewing an execution.

Ryan Thorn as The Officer | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
The intimate confines of the Studio Theatre put the audience uncomfortably close to the action in which a high-level visitor interacts with an officer at a penal colony somewhere in the tropics. The officer is proud of the execution machine, which can gradually kill a condemned prisoner, who has no idea of what he is guilty of. However, the machine malfunctions, and the prisoner is set free. Then the crazed officer takes his place and is killed. The libretto, by Rudolph Wurlitzer, was expertly to the point.

Written for a string quintet, Glass’s minimalist music and repetitive style expressed the story very well. Gnawing lines conveyed harshness and brutality. Edgy and motoric sounds suggested the machine. The multitude of dissonant tones aptly described the unjust spectrum of the situation. All was played with icy resolve by violinists Margaret Bichteler and Nelly Kovalev, violist Hillary Oseas, cellist Dkylan Rieck, and bassist David Parmeter under the baton of Nicholas Fox.

Martin Bakari deftly created the cautious and analytical role of The Visitor. Bakari’s lyrical tenor embraced his character’s curiosity and passiveness as when he declared that he opposed “the procedure” yet would not interfere. Ryan Thorn’s imposing baritone amplified The Officer’s conviction that he was fulfilling his commander’s orders. One of the most impressive moments when Thorn sang with steady conviction while his hands shook violently, imitating the harrowing teeth of machine.

In non-singing roles, Sean Doran excelled as The Condemned Man, and there was a collective sigh of relief in the hall when he ran off to freedom. Nathan H. G. was equally convincing as The Soldier, who must carry out orders even though he might not like them.
Ryan Thorn as The Officer and Martin Bakari as The Visitor | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
In addition to directing, Mouawad designed the set, effectively using just a few props. A huge canvas cloth covered the floor. Suspended from the ceiling was another canvas cloth, decked with drawings to represent how the machine works. A large plexiglass window was lowered over a blood-soaked bed to give the sense of tattooing teeth.

Delivered in one act, In the Penal Colony was gripping and worthy of Kafka. But in the end, despite the terrific performance and the relevancy of the many serious topics touched on, I didn’t have the feeling that I would like to hear this opera again. That is interesting in light of the Glass’s statement (in the program notes) that “it’s the most performed opera that I’ve written.” There must be something innate that draws people to public executions.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Albert Spalding (1888-1953)
Jaques Ibert (1890-1952)
Leon Theremin (1896-1993)
Lukas Foss (1922-2009)
Aldo Ciccolini (1925-2015)
Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)
Rita Hunter (1933-2001)
Anne Marie Owens (1955)
James O'Donnell (1961)

The Woodstock music festival began on this day in 1969.

and

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832
Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
Edna Ferber (1885-1968)
T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935)
Julia Child (1912-2004)
Benedict Kiely (1919-2007)
Denise Chávez (1948)
Stieg Larsson (1954)

and from the Composers Datebook:

Today Johannes Nepomuk Maelzel (1772-1848), German inventor credited with the creation of the metronome, was born in Regensburg. For a time he was the friend of Beethoven and collaborated with him on various projects.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)
Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1955)
Jan Koetsier (1911-2006)
Ferruccio Tagliavini (1913-1995)
Georges Prêtre (1924-2017)
Yuri Kholopov (1932-2003)
Cecilia Gasdia (1960)
Beta Moon (1969)

and

Ernest Thayer (1863-1940)
John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Russell Baker (1925-2019)
Danielle Steel (1947)
Gary Larson (1950)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir George Grove (1820-1900)
John Ireland (1879-1962)
Luis Mariano (1914-1970)
George Shearing (1919-2011)
Louis Frémaux (1921-2017)
Don Ho (1930-2007)
Sheila Armstrong (1942)
Kathleen Battle (1948)
Gregory Vajda (1973)

and

Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)
Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)
Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Porter Wagoner (1927-2007)
Buck Owens (1929-2006)
Huguette Tourangeau (1940)
David Munrow (1942-1976)
Pat Metheny (1954)
Stuart MacRae (1976)

and

Robert Southey (1773-1843)
Edith Hamilton (1867-1963)
Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959)
Donald Justice (1925-2004)
William Goldman (1931)
Anthony Swofford (1970)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954)
Ginette Neveu (1919-1949)
Raymond Leppard (1927)
Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008)
Tamás Vásáry (1933)

and

Louise Brogan (1897-1970)
Alex Haley (1921-1992)
Andre Dubus (1936-1999)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
Douglas Moore (1893-1969)
Leo Fender (1909-1991)
Marie-Claire Alain (1926-2013)
Edwin Carr (1926-2003)
John Aldis (1929-2010)
Alexander Goehr (1932)
Giya Kancheli (1935)
Bobby Hatfield (1940-2003)
Dmitri Alexeev (1947)
Eliot Fisk (1958)

and

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
Joyce Sutphen (1949)
Mark Doty (1953)
Suzanne Collins (1962)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Music critics at Tanglewood

The Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) held its annual meeting at Tanglewood from July 26 to 28. As an MCANA member, I've enjoyed hearing great concerts, listening to lectures and panel discussions, and talking with my colleagues about the music business at these yearly events. Our time at Tanglewood was packed with such opportunities, and I've included some photos and a brief synopsis of my time there.

Tanglewood raised $32 million to build its new Linde Center for Music and Learning, which had its grand opening just a month before we arrived. Encompassing four buildings that provide concert and rehearsal space plus a café, the Linde Center is now the home of the Tanglewood Learning Institute. The TLI offers a wide range of cross-cultural programs, including performances, lectures, and multi-media presentations that can stretch year-around.

Sue Elliott, the director of the TLI (btw: Elliott used to work at Seattle Opera), gave an intriguing presentation about Wagner's Ring at Studio E. (The seating can be retracted to allow a full-size orchestra to rehearse there.)

Sue Elliott at Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning
We also heard Boston Symphony's music director, Andris Nelsons and Wagnerian soprano Christine Goerke talk with BSO and Tanglewood artistic director Anthony Fogg.

Andris Nelsons, Christine Goerke, and Tony Fogg at Studio E, Tanglewood

Nelsons told us that he first heard a Wagner opera when he was five years old. He said that afterwards he was depressed for about a month, but that "it was a good depression." Goerke is a very entertaining talker. Here she is with some of her fans afterwards.


Another engaging and insightful speaker we heard was soprano Jane Eaglen, who now teaches at the New England Conservatory:



On Friday (July 26), MCANA gave its Award for Best New Opera to composer Ellen Reid and librettist Roxy Perkins for p r i s m (see this article for more information). Because Reid was at a family wedding, she could not attend in person; so she spoke to us us via a taped video.


Fortunately, Perkins was able to attend our ceremony, and field a number of insightful questions from Canadian critic Arthur Kaptainis before receiving her trophy:



Later that evening we heard a concert featuring the BSO under Nelsons. The performance opened with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 2, To October, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. That was the first time that the BSO had ever performed this Symphony, and we could all understand why, because the text joyously praised Lenin. Well, Shostakovich had received a commission from the Propaganda Department of the state music publishers, which assigned the text. He made the most of it with stirring music that moves from a dark, moody, interior to an bright, optimistic exterior.

The Shostakovich was followed by Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12, with Paul Lewis at the keyboard, and the complete ballet score of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Both pieces were played at a very high level. The Mozart received a crisp and elegant performance that was unfortunately accompanied during the quiet and slow movement by a loud fan somewhere in the ceiling above the orchestra (as far as I could tell). The orchestra delivered a lush and lovely Ravel that was punctuated with terrific waves of sound from the instruments and the voices that washed over the audience deliciously. The wind machine, positioned at the front and extreme left-hand side of the stage and cranked by one of the percussionists, attracted a lot of attention from younger members of the audience. The addition of a few supertitles would have been helpful in order to follow the storyline, which Ravel's music evokes so wonderfully.

On Saturday morning, we took in a rehearsal in the Shed of Die Walküre that was led by Nelsons. It was the final one for the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra in preparation for three separate performances so that everyone in the orchestra could get a shot at playing at least two of the acts. That meant that each concert had a different concertmaster, and there was a rotation of positions within most of the sections. The average age of the orchestra was 25 years old, and Tanglewood hired physical therapists to deal with any issues resulting from the strenuous workout.



We absorbed Act I of Die Walküre that same evening in a concert-staging. The top-tier voices were led by Simon O'Neill as Siegmund, Amber Wagner as Sieglinde, Franz-Josef Selig as Hunding and James Rutherford as Wotan. Wagner threatened to steal the show with her extra-large voice, but all of the singers were in top form and held their own. When Selig struck a thoughtful pose at one point, it seemed to me that he didn't convey the harsh and elemental nature of Hunding. But that was my only nit. The orchestra played brilliantly, and the audience (which was less than the previous evening) responded rapturously.

Act II followed on Sunday afternoon, and the cast grew to include Goerke as Brünnhilde and Stephanie Blythe as Fricka. Blythe's voice has grown in size and expressivity even more than ever. Her lower register threatens to swallow you whole. She was absolutely amazing as the chastising Fricka, and gave Wotan the stink-eye that should have burnt a hole in his white jacket. Rutherford conveyed the Wotan with as much dignity as could be expected. He turned in an exceptional performance when lamenting Wotan's predicament to Brünnhilde.

A huge thunderclap rang out just a few seconds before the downbeat of Act III later that evening. The wind picked up and rain thrashed the trees just after the Valkyries started their Hojotohos, and it all perfectly matched up when they sang "A storm is building!". Anyone who was out on the lawn hopefully got accommodation in the shed, which had a good expanse of empty seats in the back rows. When Wagner sang "O glorious wonder," she let all of the horses out of the stable and created a tremendous sensation. The Valkyries (Kelly Cae Hogan, Jessica Faselt, Renée Tatum, Ronnita Miller, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Eve Gigliotti, Dana Beth Miller, and Mary Phillips) sang with gusto and blended well. Goerke and Rutherford created such fine moments that members of the orchestra (when they weren't playing) were watching intently... but not so intently as to forget when to come back in. The orchestra held its own with a couple of wobbly notes in the brass. The entire enterprise was exceptional.

Other notable events included a lecture by Doris Kearns Goodwin about leadership at the Ozawa Hall. It was basically a book tour speech for her latest book, Leadership, and it was well worth hearing.

Doris Kearns Goodwin with Sue Elliott

We also heard a panel that included Elliott, Fogg, Mark Volpe, president and CEO of the BSO, Jennifer Melick, managing editor of Symphony magazine, and music critic Keith Powers. They primarily discussed artistic planning and the vision of Tanglewood for the future. The folks in charge  have a lot of good ideas that will keep Tanglewood at the forefront of America's music festivals.

Today's Birthdays

Michael Umlauff (1781-1842)
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
Albert William Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Solomon Cutner (1902-1988)

and

Izaak Walton (1593-1683)
John Dryden (1631-1700)
P. L. Travers (1899-1966)
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

and from The Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, Australian-born American composer Percy Grainger marries Swedish poet and painter Ella Viola Strom at the Hollywood Bowl in front of an audience of 22,000 concert-goers. Grainger conducted the LA Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of his "To a Nordic Princess," dedicated to his bride.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Dover Quartet and friends close CMNW's Summer Fest with a pair of stunning quintets

The Dover Quartet:
 Joel Link, Milena Parajo-van de Stadt, Camden Shaw, Bryan Lee.
Chamber Music Northwest closed out David Shifrin's penultimate season as artistic director with a pair of magnificent quintets, one by Dvořák and one by Schubert. Jeffrey Kahane joined the Dover Quartet on the piano for the Dvořák, and Peter Wiley added his cello to the Schubert in the second half.

The Dvořák opened thunderous--towering and grandiose. The movement was very evocative, as is the composer's wont. Galloping at first, it evolved into a filigree wherein Kahane made the piano tinkle like a glass harmonica. It soon became a swelling ocean squall, which disspated into sudden calm. Kahane's octave work was subtly brilliant.

The Dumka was full of pathos, like a melancholy folk-tune as Milena Parajo-van de Stadt elicited a handsome helden-baritone recital from her viola. As the movement turned into an up-tempo exultation, the recapitulation became a sad sigh of relief. Or was it a sigh of grief, with every arrival like a communal exultation of mourning. In the finale, the piano sometimes over-balanced the strings, and not everything lined up perfectly; it felt like it took a while for the symmetry to align.

The Schubert featured  seamless unisons between the two cellists as the group embarked on a grand idyll. The pizzicato moving bass line from Wiley's instrument added an extra dimension to the texture of the string quartet. It was a perfect example of why quintets are so fun, and this one was delightful to listen to.  The perfectly smooth chordal section of the adagio was mesmerizing, like a paean to Morpheus. The group allowed it to grow organically in intensity and urgency. Wiley's cello functioned like a ceaseless commentary on the goings-on of the Dover Quartet's strings. The magnificently choreographed arpeggiating pizzicatos between Wiley and the violins felt like a long farewell. The third movement opened like a crisp snow to break the somnolence of the adagio, and they rendered the finale as a Tzigane dance, ferocious and rich.

It has been a true pleasure listening to the Dover Quartet at this year's festival. The depth of insight and bewildering array of styles and techniques they put on display are reminders (if such were really needed) why it's so worthwhile and important to support endeavors like CMNW's Summer Festival. Each concert is an astounding adventure, whether one knows the work intimately or is being exposed to it for the first time.

Not for the first time (nor probably the last) I reiterate that my summer just doesn't feel complete without CMNW--it's as integral to the season as ripe August blackberries or a walk in the cool Willamette valley starlight. And with this kind of quality, it will no doubt be here for a long, long time.


Today's Birthdays

Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
Adolf Busch (1891-1952)
André Jolivet (1905-1974)
Benny Carter (1907-2003)
Josef Suk (1929-2011)
Jacques Hétu (1938-2010)

and

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953)
Valerie Sayers (1952)
Elizabeth Tallent (1954)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946)
Karel Husa (1921-1916)
Felice Bryant (1925-2003)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977)
Garrison Keillor (1942)
Ian Hobson (1952)
Christian Altenburger (1957)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
Mary Carr Moore (1873-1957)
Karl Ulrich Schnabel (1909-2001)
Udo Reinemann (1942-2013)

and

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Marc Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)
Leonardo Leo (1694-1744)
Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896)
Hans Gál (1890-1987)
Erich Kleiber (1890-1956)
Betsy Jolas (1926)
Stoika Milanova (1945)
Mark O'Connor (1961)

and

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)
Wendell Berry (1934)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1978, the citizens of Patowan, Utah, decided to name a local mountain Mr. Messiaen, in honor of the French composer, Olivier Messiaen, who spent a month in Utah in 1973 an composed a symphonic work, "Des canyons aux etoiles" (From the canyons to the stars), which glorified the natural beauty of the region

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henry Berger (1844-1929)
Italo Montemezzi (1875-1952)
Albert W. Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901-1971)
William Schuman (1910-1992)
David Raksin (1912-2004)
Arthur Butterworth (1923-2014)
Jess Thomas (1927-1993)
David Bedford (1937-2011)
Simon Preston (1938)
Deborah Voigt (1960)
Olga Neuwirth (1968)

and

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Raoul Wallenberg (1912-1947?)
Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1705, in Arnstadt, J.S. Bach and a bassoonist named Johann Heinrich Geyersbach cross paths late a night and an argument ensues. Geyerbach threatens Bach with a stick and Bach draws his sword. Both are hauled up before the city magistrate and reprimanded for their behavior.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Portland Opera harvests laughter amidst the more serious tones of La Finta Giardiniera

Lindsay Ohse | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Mozart wrote thee operas by the time he was 12 years old then received a commission to write another one in 1770 when he was only 14. He followed that with three more operas, so that by the time he wrote La finta giardiniera, in 1774, to fulfill a commission for the Munich Carnival, he was already a veteran at the age of 18. According to scholars, La finta giardiniera (The pretend gardener) is the first of Mozart’s operas that shows the imprint of his style and his uncanny ability to express the implications of comic and serious situations.

Well, those facts provided an intriguing preface to Portland Opera’s presentation of La finta giardiniera on July 12 at the Newmark Theatre. The company made the most of its first-ever performance of this early Mozart work, delivering an engaging and charming new production under the direction of Chas Rader-Shieber.
Mark Thomsen, Helen Huang, Thomas Cilluffo, and Antonia Tamer | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Containing a lot of nuances and relying on impeccable timing during the humorous situations, the directions of Rader-Shieber resonated well with the singers. One of the best moments occurred when the Podesta (The Mayor) slapped Count Belfiore, jolting his attention toward his daughter Arminda instead of the pretend gardener, Sandrina. Everyone got into the silliness of the romantic juxtapositions, including the mad scene in which Sandrina and Belfiore partially disrobed. However, Rader-Shieber’s directions for Serpetta focused on her rebuttals of Nardo’s gentle advances, which gave her a negative sheen.

Lindsay Ohse glowed in the role of Sandrina, wonderfully conveying the turbulent emotions of a woman who sought refuge from her abusive lover, then after a period of “madness” falls in love with him. Thomas Cilluffo created a smug, amiable, yet slightly clueless Belfiore, singing with virility and charm while raking in the laughs. As Arminda, Antonia Tamer, convincingly preened and pouted, generating ample amounts of laughter yet managed to stiff arm her former lover. Mark Thomsen fashioned a suave and avuncular Podesta, but his voice was underpowered.
Geoffrey Schellenberg and Helen Huang| Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Florid passages flowed with pinpoint accuracy from Camille Sherman, who fashioned a loyal yet frustrated Ramiro who could not win back Arminda. Helen Huang, as the maid, Serpetta, also commanded her lines with a beautiful agility. Sporting the red cap of a gnome, Geoffrey Schellenberg (looking a bit like John Belushi) created a robust, humorous, and lovesick Nardo, the assistant gardener.
Mark Thomsen and Camille Sherman | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
A colorful new set design by Michael Olich for Portland Opera featured terraces surrounded by walls that were painted with large flower blossoms, giving the production a bright, magical effect. Olich also designed carefree costumes that bordered on the cheesy side, such as Belfiore’s flowery suit. Olich's gnome-like costumes for four supernumeraries, who deftly worked about the garden, seamlessly fit into the story.

Playing the harpsicord and conducting, George Manahan guided the orchestra in a polished performance that overcame the dry acoustic of the hall.

At the end of the opera, Sandrina and Belfiore regain their sanity and fall in love, but the other pairings don’t work out. So, Ramiro and Arminda did not reunite, and Serpetta and Nardo remained separate entities. That outcome was a twist on the original score and worked, but left a slightly sour taste.

Today's Birthdays

Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964)
Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)
Tony Bennett (1926)
James Tyler (1940-2010)
Simon Keenlyside (1959)

and

Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885)
Ernie Pyle (1900-1944)
P. D. James (1920-2014)
Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)
Diane Wakoski (1937)
Marvin Bell (1937)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1668, German composer Dietrich Buxtehude marries the daughter of Franz Tunder, retiring organist at St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, as a condition to succeed Tunder in his position at St. Mary's. Years later, Buxtehude offered his position in Lübeck with a similar caveat that the new organist must marry his daughter. It is thought that both Handel and J.S. Bach were both interested in the position - but not in Buxtehude's daughter.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Bliss (1891-1975)
Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963)
Marvin David Levy (1932-2015)
Anthony Payne (1936)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Richard Einhorn (1952)
Angel Lam (1978)

and

Irving Babbitt (1865-1933)
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Isabel Allende (1942)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)
Hans Rott (1858-1884)
Morris Stoloff (1898-1980)
William Steinberg (1899-1978)
Jerome Moross (1913-1983)
Lionel Bart (1930-1999)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott (1931)
Jordi Savall (1941)
André Gagnon (1942)
Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)

and

Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Ernst Jandl (1925-2000)
Madison Smartt Bell (1957)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Preview of WVCMF in The Oregonian

My preview of the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival is now online in The Oregonian here. It will probably appear in the print edition later this week.

Today's Birthdays

Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Robert Planquette (1848-1903)
Norman Del Mar (1919-1994)
Steuart Bedford (1939)
Reinhard Goebel (1952)
Randall Davidson (1953)

and

Mary Harris Jones, or "Mother Jones" (1837-1930)
Primo Levi (1919-1987)
Kim Addonizio (1954)
J. K. Rowling (1965)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Moore (1899-1987)
Meredith Davies (1922-2005)
Moshe Atzmon (1931)
Buddy Guy (1936)
Paul Anka (1941)
Teresa Cahill (1944)
Alexina Louie (1949)
Christopher Warren-Green (1955)

and

Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
William Gass (1924-2017)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951)
Frank Loesser (1910-1969)
Charles Farncombe (1919-2006)
Avet Terterian (1929-1994)
Mikis Theodorakis (1925)
Peter Schreier (1935)
Bernd Weikl (1942)
Olga Borodina (1963)

and

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Don Marquis (1878-1937)
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
Paul Taylor (1930-2018)
T.J. Stiles (1964)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Edgar Meyer shines bright with the Dover Quartet

Edgar Meyer
Monday July 22 saw the great contrabassist Edgar Meyer join the Dover Quartet for a spectacular performance going into the final week of the CMNW Summer Festival. The program featured works by Bach, Brahms and a composition of Meyer's own.

Sonata No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1027 (in this case played by Katie Hyun on violin, Camden Shaw cello and Edgar Meyer on contrabass) opened the everning. It was fascinating to hear the sonata without a continuo as one thinks of it, but with two independent melodic instruments forming the support for the violin.

Meyer found the most dulcet timbre imaginable on his intrument. All three performers were able to bring pitch-perfect accuracy to the most dissonant and abstruse harmonic developments, as surely as if it were a 3-voice fugue played on a clavier. Meyer's ceaselessly gentle yet insistent mezzo-staccato was a thing of beauty. In the finale the pizzicato from the bass was so delicately and intuitively phrased--the perfect symmetry and balance cannot be overstated.

The approachable complexity of the composition required that all three perform at an equally high level to properly realize it, and the result was elegant, energetic and indescribably lovely. Absolutely everything that is best and most beautiful about baroque chamber music was present in this small ensemble.

Meyer's String Quintet (1995) opened with a gossamer Appalachian reverie. Consisting of the Dover Quartet plus Meyer, the texture was incredibly full-throated while still being gentle.  As the movement morphed into a more somber rallentando, Meyer sawed away in what could only be described as a rally into a hoe-down, and the group thundered together in primitive chordal phrases.

The second movement started as a funky blues tune, with both bass and cello having at it. Eerie sul ponticello wails from the violins presented a disturbing emotional counterpoint to the grooviness going on elsewhere. At one point Meyer had the bass neighing like a horse. The quirky, personalized nature of the composition was always present.

 In the third, viola and cello played in chilling unison while strange, warped glissandi from the bass interrupted the plaintive monodic somnolence. The finale began with ceaseless trills and tremolandi, while ominous, syncopated pedal point grumbling from Meyer lay underneath. The entire work seemed, from a technical standpoint, a loving and intensely fascinating study into the textures and effects of a string ensemble employing jazz, blues and bluegrass idioms.

Brahms String Quintet in G Major, Op 3, formed the second half of the evening. This time it was the Dover Quartet plus Paul Neubauer on the extra viola. The glorious sawing from Shaw on his cello was accompanied by a strident molto vibrato from all, forming a vision of pure fire and passion. Mysterious and subdued, the players all carefully held back in the second movement, lending a feeling of quiet tension, like a coiled spring. The poco allegretto played like a grandiose serenade. It is fascinating how the addition of one more bowed instrument, of whatever kind, transforms the sonic possibilities of a string quartet from a chamber ensemble to that of what is essentially a small string orchestra. The amazing ensemble playing displayed a deep and intimate understanding not only of how he or she could sound, but of how they could and should sound. The Dover Quartet has never disappointed in all the times I've seen them, and this was no exception.

Today's Birthdays

Rued Langgaard (1893-1952)
Rudy Vallée (1901-1986)
Kenneth Alwyn (1925)
Riccardo Muti (1941)

and

Ludwig A Feuerbach (1804-1872)
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Beatrix Potter (1866-1843)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)
John Ashbery (1927-2017)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Ernő Dohnanyi (1877-1960)
Harl McDonald (1899-1955)
Igor Markevitch (1912-1983)
Mario del Monaco (1915-1982)
Leonard Rose (1918-1984)
Carol Vaness (1952)

and

Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996)
Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007)
Bharati Mukherjee (1940)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1966, Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "Torn Curtain" opens in New York — without the film score that Bernard Herrmann had composed for it. The famous director fired Herrmann during the score's first recording sessions when Hitchcock discovered Herrmann had composed a "symphonic" score and not the "pop" score that Hitchcock had specifically requested.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

John Field (1782-1837)
Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)
Ernest Schelling (1876-1939)
Georges Favre (1905-1993)
Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981)
Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012)
Anthony Gilbert (1934)
Roger Smalley (1943-2015)
Mick Jagger (1943)
Kevin Volans (1949)
Angela Hewitt (1958)

and

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Jean Shepherd (1921-1999)
Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alfredo Casella (1883-1947)
Maureen Forrester (1930-2010)

and

Eric Hoffer (1898-1983)
Elias Canetti (1905-1994)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1788 that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart entered into his catalog the completion of one of his most beloved works, Symphony Number 40 in G Minor (sometimes called “The Great G Minor Symphony”). It was written in the final years of Mozart’s life, when things were not going well. An infant daughter had died a few weeks earlier, he had moved into a cheaper apartment, and he was begging friends and acquaintances for loans. But in the summer of 1788, he wrote his last three symphonies: Symphony Number 39 in E-Flat, Symphony in G Minor, and the Jupiter symphony. It is not known for sure whether Mozart ever heard any of these symphonies performed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856)
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)
Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012)
Guiseppe de Stefano (1921-2008)
Wilfred Josephs (1927-1997)
Peter Serkin (1947)
Philippe Hurel (1955)

and

Jonathan Newton (1725-1807)
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
Frank Wedekind (1864-1918)
Robert Graves (1895-1985)
John D. McDonald (1916-1986)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Franz Berwald (1796-1868)
Johann Vesque von Püttlingen (1803-1883)
Edouard Colonne (1838-1910)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Ben Weber (1916-1979)
Leon Fleisher (1928)
Bernard Roberts (1933-2013)
Maria João Pires (1944) Susan Graham (1960)

and

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Vikram Chandra (1961)

and from the former Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1829 that William Burt received a patent for the "typographer." It was a typewriter that looked more like a record player. It had a swinging arm that picked up ink and then printed a letter, and then the paper was manually adjusted to make space for the next letter.

Monday, July 22, 2019

British Invasion at Chamber Music Northwest

It was a standing-room-only affair on the stage of the Alberta Rose Theatre at the Chamber Music Northwest concert on Wednesday, July 10. That’s because each of the four pieces on the all-British program involved 15 to 18 players, and the stage area is… well… not expansive. So only the cellists were seated. The cozy confines seemed to enhance the concertizing, and the ensembles delivered memorable performances of Vaughn Williams, Elgar, Purcell, and Britten for an appreciative audience that filled the hall.

Glowing, revelatory, superb… you name it, the performance of Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge highlighted the evening with virtuosic, incisive playing. A group of 16 introduced the theme with precision and then took the audience on a wild ride of imaginative variations that Britten concocted at the age of 24. Violinists Yura Lee, Benjamin Hoffman, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Sophie Shao were expert principals, leading the ensemble to fearlessly express the wide range of emotions in the piece.

The largest ensemble of the evening managed to find just enough elbow room to give a lovely performance of Vaughn Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The 18 musicians were divided into two orchestras and a solo quartet. Together they generated a lush sound that was heavenly with a warm, expansive sound that only needed a bit of reverberation.

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings received a vigorous interpretation. The 16 players got a little carried away during one of the tutti sections, and it became difficult for them to turn down the volume level to create more contrast. Still, their enthusiasm was infectious, and they won over the listeners.

Another ensemble of 16 gave an elegant performance of Purcell’s Chacony in G Minor in an arrangement by Britten. Yet it was a little dull because the most of the piece was played at the forte level except the very end.

Overall, the level of playing was very high, but a conductor might have helped to shape the Elgar and the Purcell.

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Arditti (1822-1903)
Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962)
Licia Albanese (1913-2014)
George Dreyfus (1928)
Ann Howard Jones (1936)
Nigel Hess (1953)
Eve Beglarian (1958)

and

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Tom Robbins (1936)
S. E. Hinton (1948)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Anton Kuerti (1938)
Isaac Stern (1920-2001)
Cat Stevens (1948)
Margaret Ahrens (1950)

and

Hart Crane (1899-1932)
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Tess Gallagher (1943)
Garry Trudeau (1948)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gaston Carraud (1864-1920)
Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921)
Gunnar de Frumerie (1908-1987)
Vilém Tauský (1910-2004)
Michael Gielen (1927-2019)
Nam June Paik (1932-2006)
Hukwe Zawose (1938-2003)
Carlos Santana (1947)
Bob Priest (1951)

and

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Pavel Kohout (1928)
Cormac McCarthy (1933)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Boyd Neel (1905-1981)
Louis Kentner (1905-1987)
Klaus Egge (1906-1979)
Peggy Stuart-Coolidge (1913-1981)
Robert Mann (1920-2018)
Gerd Albrecht (1935-2014)
Nicholas Danby (1935-1937)
Dominic Muldowney (1952)
David Robertson (1958)
Carlo Rizzi (1960)
Mark Wigglesworth (1964)
Evelyn Glennie (1965)
Russell Braun (1965)

and

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)
Julius Fučík (1872-1916)
Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
Screamin' Jay Hawkins (1929-2000)
R. Murray Schafer (1933)
Ricky Skaggs (1954)
Tobias Picker (1954)

and

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
Harry Levin (1912-1994)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933)
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Elizabeth Gilbert (1969)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Christopher Mattaliano shifts to artistic consultant role at Portland Opera

From the press release:
Portland Opera Announces Executive Leadership Transition

Portland, OR (July 16, 2019) – Portland Opera announces an executive leadership transition, with General Director Christopher Mattaliano, who has led the company for 16 years, transitioning to the role of Artistic Consultant beginning with the 2019-20 season. Sue Dixon, current Director of External Affairs will serve as Interim General Director as of July 15. Dixon joined the company in May 2014 as Director of Development and was named Director of External of Affairs in 2017.

“I was incredibly fortunate to become Portland Opera’s General Director in 2003, and the past 16 years have been among the most satisfying and meaningful years of my life,” says Mattaliano. “I have formed deep, lifelong friendships within the Portland community, and have been very blessed to work with a great staff and extraordinary artists. Completing the framework for a new strategic plan that will build Portland Opera’s future created the right time for me to step aside.”

Mattaliano’s relationship with Portland Opera began in 1990 as a guest artist, directing Massenet’s Manon.  After numerous other celebrated collaborations as a guest artist, he was named General Director in July of 2003. Among many highlights during Mattaliano’s tenure, the company saw the creation of the Portland Opera Resident Artist Program in 2005, which has grown into one of the nation’s most competitive young artist programs in the country; an expansion of the company’s repertoire, including over 30 Portland Opera premieres; and an expansion of performance venues beyond the Keller Auditorium to include the Newmark Theatre and the newly created Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre. In addition, under Mattaliano’s leadership the company produced its first two commercial recordings, Galileo Galilei and Orphée by Philip Glass; collaborated with composer John Adams in co-producing Nixon in China in 2005, and produced the work of American composers such as Philip Glass, David Lang, and Laura Kaminsky. Mattaliano’s artistic leadership also included presenting works by major visual artists such as David Hockney, Maurice Sendak, and John Frame; and collaborating with a wide range of Portland organizations, including BodyVox, Portland Art Museum, Chamber Music Northwest, Third Angle, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Symphony, PHAME, and Portland State University. Mattaliano’s vision for the company included a focus on connection to community, through programs including free performance simulcasts, post-show conversations, the creation of the Opera a la Cart program, a free Portland Opera Resident Artist recital series at the Portland Art Museum, and a bilingual Spanish and English production of The Barber of Seville, for Portland Opera to Go’s educational programming.

“The Board of Directors is exceedingly grateful to Christopher Mattaliano for his 16 years of leadership and vision at Portland Opera,” says President of the Board of Directors, Curtis T. Thompson, MD. “Chris has led our company through a period of artistic excellence during his tenure, and created wonderful community programs and unforgettable productions. We are looking forward to building upon his work with this next chapter for Portland Opera, and with Sue Dixon’s leadership, vision, and commitment to community.”

Dixon, who currently oversees all aspects of fundraising, marketing, sales, communications, and special events, will serve as Interim General Director effective immediately.  “In my first five years with Portland Opera, I had a chance to work closely with Chris, our senior team, and the Board of Directors to better serve our wonderful opera patrons, and to connect them with the artistic mission of our company,” says Dixon. “I know first-hand that we have realized many great accomplishments, and also that we have great work ahead of us. As we look toward creating the future, we celebrate Chris’s legacy at Portland Opera. I am honored to be able to build upon a strong artistic and community-based foundation for the company.”

About Portland Opera 

Portland Opera exists to inspire, challenge, and uplift our audiences by creating productions of high artistic quality that celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera. 

Since 1964, Portland Opera has contributed to the cultural, artistic, and economic landscape of the city and region that we love. We celebrate the beauty and breadth of the opera repertoire with performances that take place in the Keller Auditorium, Newmark Theatre, and the Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre at the Hampton Opera Center. The company is also a committed educational partner, touring fully staged operas to schools and community centers throughout Oregon and SW Washington region each year, in addition to a host of other efforts designed to make opera accessible for all. 

Christopher Mattaliano Biography 

Christopher Mattaliano was named Portland Opera’s fifth General Director in July 2003. In this capacity, he was responsible for all artistic, financial, and administrative aspects of the company. 

Previous to this appointment, Mr. Mattaliano was the Artistic Director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival, a summer festival in Iron Mountain, Michigan, that produces a season of professional opera, chamber music, and other genres of music, including folk and jazz. 

He brought to the company an intense artistic vision honed from his extensive stage directing experience. Prior to taking the helm at Portland Opera, Mr. Mattaliano achieved considerable regional success, directing five acclaimed Portland Opera productions—Manon (1991), Eugene Onegin (1992), Pagliacci/Carmina Burana (1997), Candide (2002), and Il Trovatore (2002). In 2004, his direction of Rossini's The Journey to Reims opened his first season as General Director to both popular and critical acclaim. Since then he has directed The Rape of Lucretia (2005), Macbeth (2006), The Magic Flute (2007), Cinderella (2007), Albert Herring (2008), Rigoletto (2009), The Barber of Seville (2010), Pagliacci/Carmina Burana (2010), L’Heure Espagnole/L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (2011), Candide (2012), Falstaff (2013), The Magic Flute (2016), Songs of Love and War (2017), Rigoletto (2018), La Cenerentola (2018), and The Barber of Seville (2019). 

In addition to those productions, Mr. Mattaliano has directed productions for the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, L’Opera de Montreal, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Minnesota Opera, Dallas Opera, and Central City Opera, among many others. His work has also been enjoyed internationally at L’Opera de Nice and the Norwegian National Opera. 

He has directed world premieres of Hugo Weisgall’s Esther for the New York City Opera, jazz composer Fred Ho’s Journey Beyond the West for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Peter Westergaard’s The Tempest for the Opera Festival of New Jersey, and the American premiere of Fleischman’s Rothschild’s Violin at the Juilliard Opera Center. 

His passion for stage direction has extended well beyond the stages of those many companies. He has taught at the Juilliard School, the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Development Program, Manhattan School of Music, Yale University, Princeton University, Mannes College of Music, and the New National Theater of Japan. In 1996 his essay on auditioning (“The Dreaded Audition”) was published by OPERA America. 

Mr. Mattaliano received his BA in Theater Arts from Montclair State University with additional training at the Trent Park School of Performing Arts in London, England. In 1998 he received the L. Howard Fox Visiting Alumni Award from his alma mater as well as a National Opera Institute Stage Direction Grant. 

Since joining the company, his presence is in considerable demand on the national level, leading the keynote panel at the 2004 OPERA America conference and being named to the National Endowment for the Arts’ opera review panel. Mr. Mattaliano served on OPERA America's Board of Directors from 2005-2011. He continues to direct productions around the country, including recent productions of The Barber of Seville at Michigan Opera Theatre, Candide at Arizona Opera, and Macbeth at New Orleans Opera. 


Today's Birthdays

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Sir Donald F. Tovey (1875-1940)
Eleanor Steber (1914-1990)
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976)
Peter Schickele (1935)
Michael Roll (1946)
Dauwn Upshaw (1960)

and

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946)
Erle Stanley Gardner (1899-1970)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Antoine François Marmontel (1816-1898)
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Fritz Mahler (1901-1973)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904-2003)
Bella Davidovich (1928)
Bryden Thomson (1928-1991)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941)
Pinchas Zukerman (1948)
Richard Margison (1954)
Joanna MacGregor (1959)
James MacMillan (1959)
Helmut Oehring (1961)

and

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Tony Kushner (1956)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Jack Beeson (1921-2010)
Julian Bream (1933)
Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010)
Linda Ronstadt (1946)
John Casken (1949)
Gérard Lesne (1956)

and

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
Arianna Huffington (1950)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
Piero Bellugi (1924-2012)
Eric Stokes (1930-1999)
Unsuk Chin (1961)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Owen Wister (1860-1938)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Frank Raymond Leavis (1895-1978)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Irving Stone (1903-1989)
Arthur Laurents (1917-2011)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir Reginald Goodall (1905-1990)
Carlo Bergonzi (1924-2014)
Jeanne Loriod (1928-2001)
Per Nørgård (1932)
Albert Ayler (1936-1970)
Jennifer Smith (1945)

and

John Clare (1793-1864)
Isaak Babel (1894-1941)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Don Giovanni gets the chair in Heartbeat Opera production

Instead of being dragged down into hell, Don Giovanni got the electric chair in the new interpretation that Heartbeat Opera gives to Mozart’s masterpiece. The intrepid New York-based company’s reimagining of Don Giovanni in a semi-stage concert version intrigued a nearly full house at Lincoln Hall on Saturday, July 7 as part of the Chamber Music Northwest festival. By altering the plot a bit and using a new arrangement by composer Daniel Schlosberg for a chamber ensemble of seven, Heartbeat Opera refreshed Don Giovanni but still came up a bit short.

Directed by Louisa Proske, the production pretty much followed the traditional storyline up to the big party scene in which the Don almost rapes Zerlina, but instead of escaping, the Don is cornered and almost stripped bare by the partygoers. In the second act, Don Giovanni is held in hospital-jail cell where a doctor gives him injections, perhaps to deaden his libertine instincts. Everyone else is held in a waiting room, and the doctor finally returns to put a harness on Don Giovanni and then press the button to electrocute him.

Leela Subramaniam in the role of Donna Anna was a standout, and her vocal prowess dominated many of the ensemble numbers. Tyler Putnam’s stentorian bass baritone and versatile acting terrifically conveyed the Commendatore and Massetto. Matthew Gamble created a likeable yet conflicted Leporello. Samarie Alicea’s Zerlina sparkled with desire. Felicia Moore fashioned a forceful and convincing Donna Elvira. Joshua Sanders distinguished himself with eloquent singing as Don Ottavio.

John Taylor Ward in the title role sang gracefully but his voice seemed a bit too soft, and his acting was somewhat on the cool side. Perhaps I have seen too many hot-blooded Don Giovannis. In any case, I just didn’t find Ward convincing.

The septet of musicians performed Schlosberg’s arrangement with verve. The melodies inventively swirled between clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich, violinists Jacob Ashworth and Katie Hyun, violist Carrie Frey, cellist Clare Monfredo, bassist Evan Runyon, and harpsichordist Schlosberg (with Schlosberg wearing a wig and playing a synthesizer during the party scene). In the second act, some of the opera was shortened, and Schlosberg periodically interjected suspended, high pitched chords, which created an eerie effect, especially when the doctor pressed the syringe into the neck of Don Giovanni. The final note of the opera was an off-pitched near-honk from the clarinet. Perhaps it was a negation of the final moralizing sextet, or it signaled Don Giovanni’s undying defiance. It was sort of an ugly way to end the opera.