Classical Music, Opera, Theatre, Photography, Art, Books, Travel, Food & Drink – the View from Western New England

Archive for November, 2009

A Singer’s Notes, 7: Three mezzos (and three more)

Our area is the best in the country for hearing young singers. If you go regularly to Tanglewood, Marlboro, and Glimmerglass, you have the absolute cream of operatic talent pre-selected for you each summer. Better yet, you hear these marvellous young ones singing a role, not an audition. During just one summer in the ’90s at Glimmerglass you might have heard Charlotte Hellekant as the Composer in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, and Michelle DeYoung and Theodora Hanslowe as young apprentice artists. Ms. Hellekant and Ms. DeYoung are now international stars, and Ms. Hanslowe is a Metropolitan Opera regular. This past summer James Levine’s Tanglewood Music Center fielded a tremendous array of young talent.



Superior Donuts, The Music Box Theater, Broadway, NYC

There’s charm and easy laughs to be had in this story of regulars who patronize a modest donut shop. Because the play is so slight, the results are amiable but uninspired, despite being enlivened by a handful of terrific performances.



Radio City—A Great Escape?

Why do we go to the theater? To learn? To be inspired? To infuse our eyes and our minds with culture and history? Yes. Yes. And yes. Nevertheless, deep down, beyond the pretension, the academia, and the commentary, what is at the essence of why we attend a performance? To escape. To have, for an hour or two, the divine pleasure of slipping into another world, another life—one where your problems, your hopes, your daily duties are null and void, and for one small moment, it is acceptable, and expected, to abdicate your own life for the sake of immersing yourself in someone else’s. When have we needed an escape—a fantasy—more than now?



Acis as Genius of Cannons

In the summer of 1717, after the highly successful performance of his Water Music for the King of England, Handel left busy London and went to take up residence at rural Cannons, a few miles from the English capital. The composer, temporarily unable to have his operas produced, was answering the invitation of one of his patrons: James Brydges, the Earl of Carnarvon, who would in 1719 be elevated to the title by which he is best known: the Duke of Chandos.





Music for Civility and Civil Defense: Crescendo Performs Georg Philipp Telemann

G. P. Telemann has never escaped his fate of being on the longer side of compositional quantity over quality. A genius in all musical genres, Telemann produced over three thousand works for every imaginable combination of instruments and voices. While many of his works are lost, what remains has been the core of a Baroque revival since the 1960s, spurred, in part, by many amateur Baroque musicians and ensembles.





Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic play Brahms and Schoenberg at Carnegie Hall

By opening the Berlin Philharmonic’s three-concert series at Carnegie Hall with Schoenberg’s arrangement of Brahms’ G minor Piano Quartet Sir Simon Rattle made a definite statement about what was to come and how we should listen to it, but just what this meant was not clear until we heard the performance. Since the arrangement has found a place in the repertory, conductors have succumbed all too easily to the temptation to take advantage of its powers as a crowd-pleaser, but it is far more than that, as Rattle and the BPO brilliantly demonstrated. Schoenberg wrote it as an illustration of his thesis that Brahms, regarded widely as a conservative composer in the early twentieth century, was in fact a modernist, but in doing this Schoenberg accomplished something devilishly clever, as this performance made clear…





Angela Gheorghiu at the Royal Festival Hall – Introducing our new London correspondent, Gabriel Kellett

The recent news of Angela Gheorghiu’s impending divorce from Roberto Alagna may give some clue as to why this performance, part of the South Bank’s second ‘International Voices’ season, was postponed from its planned date of 2nd October. In the interim she has also, in the role of her accompanying tenor, swapped the American up-and-comer James Valenti, due to co-star with her in next year’s Covent Garden La Traviata, for her compatriot Marius Manea, who she has performed with several times already this year. The conductor Ion Marin made it three out of three for Romanians in the principal roles of the evening, here conducting the Philharmonia.



Ensemble Rebel’s Concert: “Kingdoms and Viceroys: Music of Spain and its Dominions”

A beautiful, warm, late-autumn Sunday afternoon in the peaceful village of Bedford, New York was disrupted by some cracklingly energetic performances of Hispanic vocal and instrumental music performed on period instruments by Ensemble Rebel and guests. The title of the program was misleading; there was nothing that referred to the political powers that shaped the cultures from which this music came. This raises the question: how should such a program be billed? As “Spanish and Latin-American Music from the Baroque Era” or “Baroque Music from Spain and the New World?” The difference has to do with the way you like to categorize such unruly experiences.