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Henry Purcell

Saturday, October 1, 2016

getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

September 3

A Retrospective: MOSTLY MOZART 50 Years – Making the most of Mozart’s genre bending spell

getClassical (Ilona Oltuski) capture by Tony Leonardo Cimino An integral part of the ever mounting – and at times interlacing – culture cycles initiated by Lincoln Center, the festival, now middle-aged, expands its efforts to rejuvenate and expand its communal presence. Exploring the impacts of varied programs and settings in different social contexts, the festival creates diverse concert experiences, with broader accessibility and intimate immersion in music its goals. Keeping with tradition, today’s Mostly Mozart avoids fixating on preconceived definitions or micromanaging its contextual relevance. It’s a continuous balancing act between established repertoire and innovation. Instead, there is Mozart – programs densely packed with featured works across his vast opus of instrumental, choral and operatic works, performed by the festival’s own Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra under its artistic director Louis Langrée, with famed soloists and guest ensembles – and then there is everything else. Over the years the festival has extended its realm from early Baroque to new commissions – 50 presented here by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the dynamic ensemble in residence – with one premiere each year, perhaps to make up for times when contemporary music had no place at Lincoln Center. Many of ICE’s micro-concerts, dispersed throughout the campus and the duration of the festival, set out to engage new audiences with free, public appearances. The festival’s muse transcends genres freely without limiting each experience to a rigid context, casting a vote of confidence for each of its artistic productions and impressive artists. With programs buzzing with fluid formats, its curator, Lincoln Center’s ‘Ehrenkranz Artistic Director’, Jane Moss, often succeeds in engaging with Mozart as trendsetter of an ever-evolving brand. This article by Ilona Oltuski, has been previously published by BLOGCRITICS on 9-2-16 PR for Mozart: souvenir buttons from the library’s collection, courtesy of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Under the title “Mozart Forever,” an exhibit at the Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center accompanied the Mostly Mozart festival’s 50th anniversary, running the length of its five week-long season from July 22 through August 27. Showcasing highlights from the festival’s history, the exhibit attests to its huge popularity and early knack for free-spirited ambiance– always without neckties – since its inaugural inception in 1966 as “Midsummer Serenades: A Mozart Festival” by Lincoln Center’s William W.Lockwood Jr. The festival was coined “Mostly Mozart” in 1970. The goal was to fill the summertime vacancy, attracting new audiences to classical music with concerts held in informal atmospheres, and offering high entertainment value at ticket prices as low as $3. “Air-conditioning had been the ultimate game changer, making concerts during the summer season possible for the first time,” explains Gerard Schwarz, the orchestra’s first director, now director emeritus. “Here was a chance to fill the Philharmonic Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic, while its musicians went on tour, performed in parks or took their personal vacation time off.” Harking back to the festival’s initial success, Schwarz added: “Mozart’s symphonic works were not performed much at the time, partially due to the fact that every great guest orchestra that came to town wanted to show off their full orchestra, not required in Mozart. The same was true for season programs of the New York Philharmonic – instead of using only 35-40 players in a Mozart program, they wanted to engage all of their 80-90 players, sometimes even 100 or more in a great Mahler 5th Symphony. So here was a great chance to dive into these neglected works.” Since 1968, works by Haydn (hence the term “mostly”) and then by Handel, Schubert and Beethoven were added to the repertoire to attract more accomplished soloists and visiting guest conductors to the festival. Some of its differing forms of presentation, including popular midnight concerts and pre-concert recitals, were in place early on in the festival’s history. But despite varying presentations and additions, the festival’s repertoire maintained a focus on the wide range of Mozart’s vocal and instrumental oeuvre. Poster ad from the library’s exhibit Entering the Lincoln Center arena as Vice President of programming in 1992, and now Ehrenkranz Artistic Director, Jane Moss relieved Lockwood, the festival’s original founding director, bringing new aspirations along. “She always had an extraordinary vision,” says Schwarz, who had been brought in as the festival orchestra’s first full-time Artistic Director in 1982. For 20 years his mission was to craft for the orchestra a consistent musical point of view. Established in 1973, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra consisted mainly of freelance musicians from the New York Chamber Orchestra. “The musical goal at the time had been to enjoy traditional masterpieces on a high artistic level, not to challenge the status quo,” says Schwarz. “That was what I was hired for, and what’s wrong with a really great performance of a traditional masterpiece? At the time, no one looked for avant-garde, but we did want to expand beyond performing all Mozart concerti and symphonies into performing works by composers who influenced Mozart, like Johann Christian Bach (son of Johann Sebastian), who wrote the first concerti that Mozart orchestrated, and in turn, show works by artists who had been influenced by his work, like Tchaikovsky in his first concerto.” Under Schwarz’s orchestral leadership, the festival expanded its name recognition and added to its long list of prominent performers, including, according to Schwarz, “Zukerman, Perlman, Mintz, Starker, Bronfman, Ax, Watts, Emerson String Quartet, Joshua Bell, and Cecilia Bartoli,” who “had her debut” at Mostly Mozart. The orchestra’s performance schedule also broadened beyond the summer festival, growing to include visiting tours around the United States and abroad. From the library exhibit: Al Hirschfeld sketch of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra with Gerard Schwarz conducting In Salzburg, the epicenter of everything Mozart, the answer to the quest for contemporary programs required a separate response to the traditional festival spectacle: its contemporary music festival “Dialogues,” initiated in 2006. New Yorkers, by contrast, consistent with the city’s diverse canon, enjoy their Mozart fare in a conglomerate of sundry collectives, old and new. Today, contemporary music does not faze New York’s traditional classical music loyalists; it has been accepted as part of our broad artistic curriculum, begrudgingly by some, but by others with open arms, among them fervent critics and the festival’s curator, Jane Moss. Schwarz, who has worked on Mostly Mozart with Moss for 10 years, describes Moss’s aspirations: “Replacing Lockwood at Mostly Mozart, Moss had a very broad vision and was more interested in cutting-edge new music. She originally had made the case for a new platform, ‘The Lincoln Center Festival,’ at Avery Fisher Hall (renamed in 1976) for its upcoming renovation in 1993.” Instead of executing her vision at the reign of the new festival, though, it was famed critic and arts administrator John Rockwell who took on the new festival’s leadership until 1998, followed by its former executive director Niguel Redden, who built the Lincoln Center Festival into a showcase of diverse performances of international theater, circus, and music, with artists and productions from more than 50 countries. Louis Langrée speaks at “Meet the Musicians of the Mozart Festival Orchestra” at David Rubinstein Atrium. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Moss, besides curating further themed initiatives like the White Light Festival, which made use of Lincoln Center’s entire complex, and other seasonal and recurring programs like Lincoln Center Outdoors, was left to revitalize Mostly Mozart, steering it towards a new and bolder brand. Following Schwarz as the orchestra’s director was Louis Langrée, who has now served as the Renée and Robert Belfer Music Director for 14 seasons. During the festival’s free public conversation at the David Rubinstein Atrium, “Meet the Musicians of the Mozart Festival Orchestra,” audiences had an interesting opportunity to familiarize themselves with the vision of the festival’s impresario and the orchestra’s tirelessly cheery and engaging leader: “It is here, at Mostly Mozart, so many people have experienced classical music for the first time,” says Langrée, thoughtful in his charming French accent. “That’s a lot of responsibility, and at the same time a great source of delight. One never gets to perform so much of Mozart’s works at once during the concert season calendar, and it allows one to go deeper here and to discover new layers. At the same time Mozart was such a central figure of Western music; his great imagination that transcended through all musical genres made him an inspiration for the next generations.” Moss took those thoughts a step further, claiming, with no resistance, Mozart as the innovator: an ideal fulcrum for exploring new musical horizons. “Mozart was a contemporary composer in his time. He would definitely want us to be looking at the new.” Coming to Lincoln Center from the world of theater, Moss composed a particular coalition of genres, platforms and scenery with dramatic inclinations, each informing the others. Photo: Jane Moss during Meet the Musicians podium discussion by Ilona Oltuski She is not afraid to label productions more for their entertainment value than for highbrow artistic purpose; the arias-potpourri of Mostly Mozart’s opening night gala including selections from Mozart’s operas and entitled “The Illuminated Heart” is a good example. With its great collective of performers and clever incorporation of screened images onto the stage, the gala was an introductory forum into famed Mozart melodies that was welcoming and highly entertaining if abbreviated, hardly allowing for the full, dramatic expansion of any complete version; two examples of Mozart’s fully-staged works, however, were shown during the festival’s season. Opera Arias Potpourri: ‘The Illuminated Heart,’ Photo by llona Oltuski For many soloists who have made their debuts at Mostly Mozart, the festival is known as a springboard for international careers. This season’s free orchestral opening performance at Damrosch Park featured Simone Porter performing Mozart’s serene Violin Concerto No. 3. Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Louis Langrée, conductor, Simone Porter, violin (Mostly Mozart debut) Photographed Friday, July 22, 2016 at 7:30 PM at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, New York, NY. Photograph: © 2016 Richard Termine In response to the premise that we are spoiled with star appearances but often unenthused by the anonymity of the great halls, one of Mostly Mozart’s most popular series, the intimate “A Little Night Music,” has lately taken on a sexy magnetism, attracting mostly young and charismatic individual performers to appear at Lincoln Center’s own Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. After having performed Mozart’s clarinet concerto at David Geffen Hall, exciting European clarinet star Martin Fröst, flown in with stellar piano accompanist Roland Pöntinen directly from the Verbier Festival, played for enthralled audiences who were seated cabaret-style, his alluring sounds and lithe, pied piper-like gesticulations entertaining the audience members as they sipped their wine. Photo: Eman Hassan for the New York TImes: Clarinetist Martin Froest and Pianist Roland Pontien at Stanley H.Kaplan Penthouse – A little Night Music Also at the Penthouse, profound Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan, renowned recently as “artist-in-association” with the New York Philharmonic, made use of the attentive if short-spanned concentration of this late night session, presenting his thoughtful “New Suite,” a selection of short pieces ranging from Handel, Bach, Rameau and Couperin to Ravel, Thomas Adès, Ligeti and Barber, played through in a continuous flow during one sitting. The New York Philharmonic recently featured Barnatan, among other artists, in a trendy concert presentation at an intimate downtown venue. Moss’s use of Lincoln Center’s Penthouse as a cool, elegant alternative is a notable, perhaps ingenious tactic for bringing the personal staging and downtown vibe of these salon-style shows home. At the other end of the spectrum, astounding by its sheer size, stands the display of populist egalitarianism in the premiere of David Lang’s “the public domain” for 1,000 voices, performed by an amateur chorus picked from all of New York City’s boroughs. Unlike New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini, who penned a gleaming review of the momentous choral performance, while watching from the balcony above the imposing gathering I failed to pick up on the intensity of this work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. In fact I could hardly hear the choral group’s many murmuring voices emerging through the hazy and steaming hot plaza. Performance of ‘the public domain’ by David Lang. Photo by Ilona Oltuski, with an excerpt of the original score I did, however, find the piece’s context fascinating. According to Lang: “All the texts are internet search engine auto-completions of the sentence ‘One thing we all have is our…’ which gave me a list of sometimes very personal statements, from people all around the world. I didn’t use all of them. I took out those that referred to specific people, that insulted or praised a person or group, that said anything – good or bad – about a particular religion or nationality or gender, that endorsed or disparaged a particular commercial product or activity, that were pornographic. My interest was to make a text that would seem in some way universal, a list of attributes we might all agree on, that could feel in some way universal.” The well-organized spectacle, under the direction of choreographer Annie B. Parson and conductor Simon Halsey, is worth mentioning, as it filled the entire Josie Robertson Plaza in stands around the fountain. The atmosphere was dominated by the emotional excitement of its partaking members and viewers alike. It reminded me of the citywide Make Music events such as Make Music New York, promoting the inclusive spirit inherent in all music making and embodying a sentiment we all seem to crave, a desire to bridge our differences with our common humanity in these volatile times of social and political ambiguity and isolation. Mostly Mozart’s increasingly open-ended curatorial vision and shifting dimensions have raised the bar of its narrative, with the new and old illuminating each other’s perspectives. Programming for multiple tastes also makes the festival easily approachable, and there is something playful about its outstretched musical and physical territorial reach. This year’s events took place in 11 different locations within Lincoln Center’s campus, with some of the events grouped to allow for sequential visits and provide an immersive effect through interrelating spatial and sonic experiences. David Geffen Hall’s more intimate ceiling and thrust stage set up for Mostly Mozart Festival. Photo from Mostly Mozart Festival on Facebook by Ruby Lan Lincoln Center’s setting for the festival’s smaller orchestral lineup at David Geffen Hall was altered in the 2005 season to include a temporary thrust stage over its first 11 rows, giving it a more intimate presence and making it possible for audiences to surround the orchestra. Additionally, while resembling a design feature that may be found at an airport lounge, an added ceiling structure helps to maintain the warmth of the sound, and also provides additional lighting for a softer glow during performances. For the first time, Lincoln Center’s Public Library, under its prolific artistic producer Evan Leslie, collaborated with the festival on three occasions, coming up with fun ways to enlighten audiences. An entertaining and free Pub Quiz of “Mostly Mozart Trivia” was held at the David Rubinstein Atrium in collaboration with ICE, effortlessly engaging audiences in entertaining and educational activity. Members of ICE at David Rubinstein Atrium, Photo by Ilona Oltuski Leslie also hosted an interview with pianist Emanuel Ax at the library. A beloved New York musical figure and a festival fixture for many years, Ax shared excerpts of his favorite playlist ranging from opera to jazz, all drawn from a collection of the library’s treasure trove of recordings. The musical interludes were spiced up with personal anecdotes from Ax’s extensive performance career. One of the musical qualities most revered by the pianist, “the directness in music making,” came through in his own refined performance at David Geffen Hall with the eminent Emerson String Quartet of works by Purcell, Schubert and Dvořák. The festival’s own orchestral ensemble was featured in various collectives during the season, most convincingly in smaller ensembles, but also in a truly tremendous configuration under the baton of Louis Langrée, performing the lively Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D-minor in a remarkable collaboration with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes at Alice Tully Hall. Andsnes’s collaboration in Webern’s arrangement of Bach’s “Ricarcar” with a trio of musicians from the orchestra was remarkable. The generally energetic and stylistically convincing performance of the full orchestra, however, varied. In one performance at David Geffen Hall under the baton of guest conductor Matthew Halls, the orchestra’s coherence and tempi, despite joining forces with the velvety singing tone of violinist Joshua Bell, were less successful. The author with violinist Joshua Bell. Photo by Heidi Frederick My personal, selective listening perspective of the season’s vast catalog came to an end with “Mozart Dances” at the David B. Koch Theater. The reprise of a 2007 New York performance of the work, presenting a brilliant fusion of classical and modern dance by choreographer Mark Morris set to three Mozart pieces, had everything one could wish for: expressivity, sarcasm, eccentrics and genuine character; but most of all, the performance showed a requisite sensitivity for the underlying musical structures in Mozart, structures not easy to translate into dance. In a public discussion between the music director and choreographer, it became obvious how the ideal rhythmic interpretation and fluctuations in tempo vary between the contexts of a music ensemble and a dance troupe. Morris used abrupt angles and ornamentations to draw a swift, often humorous aesthetic vernacular from his dancers’ bodies. He often juxtaposed graceful classical ballet movement with anti-classical positions, like en croix demi-pliés, or matched elongated grand battements with abrupt exits in which the performers stomped off the stage. The dancers’ caprice and playfulness was wholly reflected in the music, yet there was also a tangible intimacy to the score which remained inherent in the dance. Langrée adapted the execution of the score in complete coherence with the choreography with radiant support from pianist Garrick Ohlsson in both concerti (No. 11 in F major, K. 413 and No. 27 in B-flat-minor, K. 595), but especially impressive in unison with pianist Inon Barnatan in the majestic Sonata in D major, K. 448 for two pianos, performed in between the concerti. Mark Morris Dance Group in “Mozart Dances.” Photo by Richard Termine Over its 50 years, the Mostly Mozart Festival has built a large following, enjoyed an international reputation and presented A-list performers, all while tending to the shifting expectations of trendy New Yorkers. Under Moss and its current music director Louis Langrée, it genially circumvents the self-imposed restriction of its catchy name. One may insist on the purity of Mozart and balk at the increasing blurring of the festival’s programmatic lines, but one may also argue that Lincoln Center’s curators’ separate visions and means inspire a flow of different, invigorating productions that ultimately benefit audiences by presenting a broad range of work. It’s no secret that the festival’s growth into an internationally renowned urban cultural summit derives from its ability to keep its traditional integrity while freely allowing for conceptual expansion.


August 14

A Midsummer Night’s Dream review – the return of a sweet enchantment

Glyndebourne, East Sussex The latest revival of Peter Hall’s enduring production of Britten’s opera retains all the old magicOne afternoon in 1943, the composer Michael Tippett climbed a dark spiral staircase in Canterbury Cathedral to hear the pure, ethereal voice of one of the choir’s altos, Alfred Deller. As he wrote later: “In those moments the centuries rolled back. For I recognised absolutely that this was the voice for which Purcell had written.”Tippett launched Deller’s career and with it a revival of the English baroque and the countertenor voice, lost from the operatic stage for more than 200 years. He also, perhaps unwittingly, set in train the genesis of another composer’s opera. Benjamin Britten was also an admirer of Henry Purcell and when, in 1960, he came to write A Midsummer Night’s Dream it seemed natural to follow Purcell’s example in The Fairy Queen and cast a countertenor as Oberon. Deller was the obvious choice to create a role that all leading countertenors have savoured ever since. Continue reading...

Royal Opera House

July 15

BBC Proms 2016: Our must-see recommendations

The Royal Albert Hall © David Samuel 2012 Prom 2: Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov (16 July) Boris is back - and conveniently for us, compiling this list in date order means the Royal Opera House Prom comes out on top. With a cast led by bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and conducted by Antonio Pappano , this concert performance of Mussorgsky ’s operatic masterpiece tells the tragic tale of a Russian Tsar plagued by guilt. The semi-staged performance is preceded by a workshop from the BBC Singers , where aspiring performers can join in with some of the opera’s choruses. Prom 5: Beethoven — Missa Solemnis (19 July) Fresh from conducting Verdi ’s epic Il trovatore on the Covent Garden stage, Gianandrea Noseda is at the helm of – if possible – an even larger masterpiece. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was composed over four years towards the end of the composer’s life and is considered to be is one of his supreme achievements. With a stellar cast of singers including soprano Camilla Nylund, mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert, tenor Stuart Skelton, bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann, the Hallé Choir , Manchester Chamber Choir and BBC Philharmonic , the effect is sure to be breathtaking. Proms 10 and 11: Wagner and Tippett (23 July) A full day of Wagner may feel relatively short for those attuned to his lengthy operas – but for newcomers to this composer’s work, 11 July should serve as an introduction. Prom 10 at 11am showcases the 'Ride of the Valkyries' from Die Walküre in a family-friendly performance, alongside other classical staples from the BBC’s Ten Pieces series – music designed to open up the world of classical music to children and young people. The evening’s Prom 11 includes the final scene from Die Walküre, alongside Tippett ’s contemplative oratorio, A Child of Our Time. Prom 14: Rossini – The Barber of Seville (25 July) There’s something of a Rossini focus at this year’s BBC Proms, and who better to celebrate the 200th anniversary of The Barber of Seville than our friends at Glyndebourne ? Danielle de Niese leads the cast as Rosina, a young girl eager to escape the elderly Count Almaviva’s affection, with comic consequences. There’s also a pre-concert talk for those wanting to learn more about the role and politics of hair-styling in 18th- and 19th-century Europe (!) with Alun Withey and historian Kathryn Hughes. Proms 27 and 30: Stravinsky (5 and 7 August) Fans of Stravinsky ’s ballet scores won’t be disappointed with this Proms Season: over the weekend of 5, 6 and 7 August, audiences will be treated to Petrushka (1947 version) , The Firebird , and The Rite of Spring , complete with pre-performance talks. Those looking to collect all the performances of Stravinsky’s works over the 58 day-long festival should also save the date for the Pulcinella Suite on 20 July . Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe (13 August) A suitably Shakespearean recommendation in the 400th anniversary of his death. This performance takes regular Prommers away from the familiar surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall to an altogether smaller performance space: the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe . Expect English Baroque music in spades, with music by Purcell , Blow , Locke and Draghi , as well as incidental music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest . Prom 41: The Hallé – Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (16 August) Tenor Gregory Kunde stars alongside mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and the Hallé in Mahler ’s synthesis of song and symphony, Das Lied von der Erde, conducted by Mark Elder . Continuing the Season’s focus on cello music, (kicking off on the First Night with a digital light projection from Sol Gabetta), Leonard Elschenbroich will perform a London premiere: Colin Matthews’s Berceuse for Dresden, which takes inspiration from the eight bells of the Dresden church at which it was premiered. Prom 45: Janáček — The Makropulos Affair (19 August) A dream team of singers assemble for a concert performance of Janáček ’s tragic satire, The Makropulos Affair, performed under the baton of Czech conductor Jiří Běhlohlávek . Finnish soprano Karita Mattila — acclaimed for her portrayal of the opera’s heroine at New York’s Metropolitan Opera — leads the cast. Prom 59: (More) Beethoven (29 August) A rare treat to hear music from Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio . Despite his prolific musical output, the composer appeared to struggle with the overture, eventually writing four versions. This version (Leonore No. 2) is the first attempt and is thought to have been composed for the 1805 premiere – but nowadays the final version, Leonore No. 1, much lighter in style and with fresh musical material, is often heard in performance. This Prom also features András Schiff playing the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, 'Emperor', and the Symphony No. 7, performed by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and conducted by Herbert Blomstedt . Prom 67: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel (4 September) The conductor affectionately dubbed ‘The Dude’ is back, conducting the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in their first Proms appearance since 2011. In this Olympic year, the Proms is celebrating South American music and musicians with a premiere of Venezuelan composer Paul Desenne ’s Hipnosis mariposa, alongside Villa-Lobos ’s effervescent orchestral tribute to J. S. Bach, Bachianas Brasileiras No 2. For ballet fans, the performance ends with two dizzying works by Ravel : La Valse , originally conceived as a ballet but now frequently heard as a concert work, and the Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe . Prom 75: The Last Night of the Proms (10 September) There’s much more to the Last Night than tub-thumping Elgar and flag-waving pomp (although if that’s your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed). Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez is the star soloist for a diverse evening of music, including 'Una furtiva lagrima’ from Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore , 'Ah ! mes amis' from La fille du regiment , as well as a generous helping of lush English song. Jette Parker Young Artist Lauren Fagan is also set to perform in a jewel in the evening’s programme, Vaughan Williams ’ Serenade to Music, scored for 16 soloists, alongside the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. Don your black tie and get queuing! What are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s BBC Proms? Let us know via the comments below. Tickets for the BBC Proms 2016 can be purchased from the Royal Albert Hall website . All Proms will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 , with a selection available to watch on BBC Four .

Tribuna musical

July 12

“Contemporary night”, a quartet of dissimilar ballets

In recent seasons the Colón Ballet offered varied Contemporary Trilogies, changing them each year. This time what we have is a quartet: two premières commissioned by the Colón to Argentine choreographers, and two famous works by established choreographers which hadn´t been seen at our great house. The results were uneven but sufficiently valid to justify the evening. And all four were very different from each other. The start wasn´t very enticing. "Amor, el miedo desaparecerá" ("Love, fear will disappear") is the work of Walter Cammertoni, who hails from Córdoba and has created "Consecuencias" for Maximiliano Guerra´s Ballet del Mercosur. Paradoxically what interested me was the music: Johann Sebastian Bach´s great Chaconne for solo violin (closing Partita Nº2) heard fragmentarily in its original form, in the cello adaptation by Robert Bockmühl, in the flashily Romantic Busoni piano transcription, and briefly at the end in Stokowski´s full orchestra version. But the dancing steps were morose and grey, too literally like the choreographer´s description: "a lost man, downtrodden and trampled, who also wounds and abandons". Although at the end there was an imaginative suggestion of raindrops in the stage design of Santiago Pérez, the cold impression was accentuated by Renata Schussheim´s costumes. Roberto Traferri´s lighting gave the requisite contrasts. Thirteen dancers from the Resident Ballet and five from the Art Institute did their best to give some life to a very static piece. Constanza Macras lives in Berlin since 1995; in 2003 she founded with dramaturgist Carmen Mehnert the company of dance theatre Constanza Macras/Dorky Park, combining dance, spoken text, video and live music, on such subjects as segregation or globalisation. She follows those guidelines in "Bosque de Espejos" ("Mirrors Wood"): in it reflexions on the human body by Michel Foucault are said by aged dancers; the music contrasts Lieder by Berg and Webern (admirably done by Carla Filipcic Holm and Fernando Pérez) with choral music by Purcell and Bach (a good chamber choir directed by Ulises Maino and accompanied by organist Ezequiel Fautario). Norma Molina and Ricardo Ale, veteran resident dancers, enact scenes from "Giselle" and "Romeo and Juliet" both dealing with death. Along with two younger soloists (Carla Vincelli and Alejandro Parente) an ample group of 21 dancers do complex psychological steps that seem to combine Merce Cunningham´s influence with classical ballet. Macras has brought along her production team: stage designs by Laura Gamberg, meaningful costumes by Allie Saunders and expert lighting by Sergio Pessanha. Macras is creative and audacious; even if one doesn´t always like the results, there´s a sensitive mind at work. Nacho Duato has had a distinguished career: after early experience in London, Brussels, New York, Stockholm and Holland with great choreographers, he was named in 1990 Artistic Director of the Compañía Nacional de Danza at Madrid and stayed there until 2007; during that period he came to Buenos Aires with his company twenty years ago, and presented at the Teatro San Martín among other things "Por vos muero" ("I die for you"), a beautiful Neoclassic ballet based on texts of Garcilaso de la Vega and with a fine selection of old Spanish music interpreted by Jordi Savall´s group. Guerra asked Duato´s permission to revive the ballet at the Colón, and Duato tells in the hand programme that he is very excited to present one of his works for the first time at the Colón; he even praises the rehearsals, so I suppose that Catharine Habasque and Kim McCarthy have been faithful to the original in this revival. Done with much style and precision by eleven dancers, with lovely music very adequate for dancing, fine stage design by Duato and costumes by Duato and Ismael Aznar (I liked the ones for women but found the bare-legged men contradictory with the refined ambience otherwise present), plus skillful lighting by Nicolás Fischtel, this was for me the best part of the evening. The voice of Miguel Bosé communicated the moving verses of De la Vega admirably. William Forsythe is considered in Europe an important choreographer; he was for twenty years at the head of the Frankfurt Ballet, and when it closed, he formed The Forsythe Company. Somehow his work was never seen at the Colón until now, when his most famous piece was premièred; it has a strange title, "In the middle, somewhat elevated", and it was commissioned by Nureyev for the Paris Opera in 1987. Frankly, I won´t mince words: I hated the music of his long-time collaborator Thom Willems, a continuous electronic clangor in strong but unvaried rhythm. Kathryn Bennetts was in charge of this revival; she says: "this work extends, prolongs and pushes classical technique...It is the most abstract and innovative choreography of its time". The girls dance in points but with expansive, athletic postures, and the men must certainly be in fine shape to cope with the material. Costumes and lighting are by the choreographer . Nine dancers impressed with their display of agility and coordination. Although the Colón Ballet is in dire need of institutional reform, it certainly has very capable artists. But due to the lack of competitions, right now there´s only one prima ballerina (no male counterpart), three official soloists (including Silvina Perillo, who danced her goodbye two years ago), and all the rest have no recognised rank, although as you read the names you find all those that dance main roles ... For Buenos Aires Herald


July 8

Sounds and sweet airs: Shakespearean operas quiz

In this year of Shakespeare celebrations, the opera world too is marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. Glyndebourne not least, with one new and one old Shakespearean productions in their summer season. Do you know your Titania from your Trinculo? Try our quizWhich Italian tenor sang the title role in Verdi’s Otello more than 400 times and was buried in his Otello costume? Luciano Pavarotti Enrico CarusoMario del MonacoFrancesco TamagnoIn Thomas Ades’s opera The Tempest, Caliban’s original speech “The isle is full of noises, / Sounds, and sweet airs” becomes which glorious aria? “Twangling instruments will hum”“This noisy place”“Friends don’t fear” “Friends do fear” In cutting and rearranging the text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to make the play work as an opera libretto, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears made one mistake with the plot. Did they:Forget to cure Tytania of her infatuation with BottomForget to cure Bottom of his ass headForget to wake up the lovers; the opera ends with everyone still asleep in the forest Forget to marry off the mortals before Theseus sends them all to bedWagner’s second opera was a flop when it premiered: it was performed once in 1836 then cancelled the next night when only three people showed up. Wagner himself later called it “a sin of my youth”… What’s the opera, and on which Shakespeare play is it based?Die Feen (The Fairies), based on A Midsummer Night’s DreamDas Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), based on Measure for MeasureMännerlist größer als Frauenlist oder Die glückliche Bärenfamilie (Men are more cunning than women or The Happy Bear family), based on Twelfth Night Die hohe Braut (The High-born Bride), based on The Taming of the ShrewFor the Paris version of Verdi’s Otello, premiered at the Theatre de L’Opera in 1894, Verdi added what to the opera’s third act?Live animals A raffle A Punch and Judy précis of the plot A ballet The text of Hans Abrahamsen’s sublime song cycle Let Me Tell You — composed in 2013 for the soprano Barbara Hannigan — strings together the lines of which female Shakespeare character? Juliet Lady Macbeth Ophelia Desdemona Which two Shakespeare plays form the basis of Verdi’s Falstaff? The Taming of the Shrew The Merry Wives of Windsor Much Ado About Nothing King Henry IVOn New Year’s Eve 2011, Placido Domingo played his first-ever god role and finally achieved on-stage status to match the deified heights of his career. The production was Jeremy Sams’s pasticcio This Enchanted Island — a mash-up of The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream plus bits of Handel and Vivaldi. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. Which god did Domingo play?Apollo NeptuneCupidDionysus Where and when was the first UK performance of Berlioz’s 1862 opera comique Béatrice et Bénédict?London, 1863London, 1963Glasgow, 1936Cardiff, 2001Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains just one line of text that doesn’t come directly from the Shakespeare play. Is it: Lysander to Hermia: “Compelling thee to marry with Demetrius”Hippolyta to Theseus: “Thou art foxier than all our subjects put together” Tytania to Puck: “more of thy trippy herb, good sir”Bottom to nobody in particular: “methinks this wall must fall”“No one but a barbarian or a Frenchman would have dared to make such a lamentable burlesque of so tragic a theme”. The words of a London critic for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1890 — but to which opera did he refer? Béatrice et Bénédict by Hector BerliozHamlet by Ambroise ThomasLe Marchand de Venise by Reynaldo HahnRoméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod Among the cast of Jonathan Kent’s 2009 production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne was a corps de ballet of: Bonking rabbits Humping voles Rutting hedgehogsBanging badgers 10 and above. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” (Twelfth Night, Act II, v)0 and above."Lord what fools these mortals be" (Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, iii)5 and above."Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt.” (Measure for Measure, Act I, iv) Continue reading...

Classical iconoclast

June 29

English Baroque Opera, St John's Smith Square

English Baroque opera at St Jiohn's , Smith Square, ready for booking now.  The English baroque style is unique, more "classical" than mor exuberant, southern forms, yet connected to contemporary theatrical values.  St John's, Smith Square is a gem of British baroque architecture, an ideal place in which to enjoy English baroque music. Bampton Classical Opera starts the new season with "Diviner Comedies"| on 13/9, pairing Thomas Arne's The Judgement of Paris,  "a  witty account of a celestial beauty contest"  with "the supremely lyrical  Gluck Philemon and Baucis, continuing  Bampton's, enterprising exploration of Gluck's lesser known operas. Paul Wingfield will conduct CHROMA Henry Purcell Dido and Aeneas on 29/9 with the celebrated La Nuova Musica, led by David Peter Bates. Major headliners - Dame Ann Murray will sing Dido and George Humphreys will sing Aneas.  Again, a very good cast. What's more, with typical adventurous La Nuova Musica flair,  this performance will be illustrated with dancers, choreographed by Zack Winokur. This should be one of the highlights of the season - book early ! Thomas Linley's Lyric Ode: on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare  features in Bampton Classical Opera's second concert on 15/11. A glorious piuece,, vivisly dramatic.  It's being paired with excerpts from Georg Benda's Singspeil Romeo and Juliet,which Bampton Opera did in 2007.  Gilly French conducts the Bampton Classical Players and  cast that includes Rosemary Coad, Caroline kennedy, Thomas Hereford and James Harrison. Anothernhighlight ! The Early Opera Company, conducted by Christopher Curnyn malkes a werlcome return to St Jihns Smith Square on 18/11 with Handel's Serse HWV40 , this time with Anna Stépany, Rupert Enticknap, Callum Thorpe and Claire booth, among others. Lots more, too. La Nuova Musica is doing Bach Mozart and Haydn in December.  And don't foirget the famus SJSS Christmas season, which sells out fast because it's so much fun. For more details visit the SJSS . website HERE>

Henry Purcell
(1659 – 1695)

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659 - 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music.

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