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2016 in retrospect — The Bard Music Festival: Giacomo Puccini and his World(Comments Off on 2016 in retrospect — The Bard Music Festival: Giacomo Puccini and his World)

December 31, 2016

If advance gossip is any indicator, this year’s Bard Festival, devoted to Giacomo Puccini and his World, was one of the most controversial. “Puccini! Controversial!” You say, “There’s not really enough in him to have a controversy about, is there? Those sappy tear-jerkers speak for themselves.” In fact there was a lot of grumbling. Some festival regulars stayed away, or dragged themselves to only one concert, the one that included pieces by Dallapiccola, Pizzetti, and Petrassi. Even with these absentees the Festival sold out, or came close to selling out. Most of the concerts and the panel discussions were packed.

Artistic Director Gili Melamed-Lev

The Concerts at Camphill Ghent 2016 – 2017: Season Opening Concert Coming Up, October 15, 3pm

A relatively new chamber music series in our area, The Concerts at Camphill Ghent, extending through the rather sparse autumn through spring months, has just recently come to my attention, and it looks well worth a season subscription. Every concert is compelling, and they all fit together as a whole. Clearly some strong consideration has gone into the selection of both the music and the musicians. The series was founded and is managed by a musician, the outstanding pianist, Gili Melamed-Lev, who oversees the programming and participates extensively herself. This is by no means exceptional in itself, but the particular stamp she has put on it stands out.






The End of Madama Butterfly at the Berkshire Opera Festival. Photo Ken Howard.

The Berkshire Opera Festival triumphs in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Musically, this summer in the Berkshires, there was one event that was truly exciting, in the sense of something important that was entirely new…or almost, as the people behind it made entirely clear. Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing the two impressive and engaging founders of the Berkshire Opera Festival, Jonathon Loy and Brian Garman, who promised to “bring fully-staged opera back to the Berkshires.” And this they have just fulfilled with a production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, that was in a way as perfect as an opera performance can get, considering that opera is the quintessence of imperfection among art forms—or perhaps that should be said of art itself. Musical and theatrical ability that was both solid and brilliant, imagination, good taste, and deep knowledge and understanding of the work and its authors flowed together with all the concentration and energy aroused by a new, make-or-break enterprise to create a performance that can only be described as an object lesson in how to perform opera—and a thrilling and moving one newcomers, casual opera-goers, and opera-makers alike can appreciate. The Berkshire Opera Festival has, within less than a week, made itself indispensible.






Alexina Jones

A Singer’s Notes 128: Alexina Jones leaves Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre; Two Gentlemen and Henry VI at Shakespeare and Company

A singular departure this year at summer’s end. Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre (of Cambridge, New York), the dream-child of Alexina Jones, has lost its creator and mentor. She goes on to a position with Saratoga Arts. This young women is an intrepid creator. She built a company from nothing, fit it into the seasonal circumstances of Hubbard Hall, and with the help of her husband, Jason Dolmetsch, plodded through hundreds of hours of planning, auditioning, fund-raising. The Company started out in a modest way—a few instruments, mostly local singers. One of the first of these singers, Kara Cornell, turned in a Carmen that was utterly believable. Watching an opera of this sort in a small hall requires detailed specific acting; the grand gestures seem absurd.







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