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Amanda Forsythe, Douglas Williams, and Carlos Fittante in Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona. Photo Kathy Wittman.

A Singer’s Notes 134: BEMF intertwines two Pergolesi farces and sublime singing from Dominique Labelle at Aston Magna.

This performance was a frolic. It displayed a combination of two quite different buffo operas, and yes, it worked. Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona and Livietta e Tracollo combined, found a zany success. I had my doubts at first, but was laughing my head off soon enough. The better-known of the two, La Serva Padrona, revolves around the character Uberto, a pomposo, energetically sung by Douglas Williams. Sad Tracollo was sung winningly by Jesse Blumberg.





A Room with Two Views: Campra and Handel at the Boston Early Music Festival

Two large-scale vocal works were presented at BEMF on successive nights (Wednesday and Thursday, June 14 and 15), one a work of music theater, merging opera and ballet; the other devotional but in the musical language of opera absent the staging. Composed within nine years of each other, they offer contrasting perspectives of Italian music and culture from the points of view of a French and a German composer. Both were clearly besotted with Italy, one responding to the carnival spirit of Venice with its light-hearted approach to life, love, and entertainment; and the other situated at the center of the sober religious and devotional culture of Rome. Experiencing these two works back-to-back and interpreted by many of the same performers provided a wonderfully condensed testament to the multidimensional attractions and influences that Italian opera radiated at the turn of the 18th century.





Gunther Schuller

The Year that Was: Boston Classical Music in 2015

The major news from Boston was the ascendancy of Andris Nelsons, firming up his place as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which included a quickly agreed upon three-year extension of his contract into the 2020-2021 season. This announcement was soon followed by the less happy surprise for Bostonians of Nelsons also accepting an offer from the eminent Leipzig Gewandhaus, the orchestra whose music director was once no less than Felix Mendelssohn, to take on that very position, beginning in the 2017-2018 season, thus dividing the loyalties of the young maestro (who just turned 37), though evidently with the possibility of collaborations between the two orchestras. (Remember when some people were complaining about James Levine dividing his time between the BSO and the Metropolitan Opera?)





David Hansen, Amanda Forsythe, and Nell Snaidas in Boston Early Music Festival’s production of Monteverdi’€™s ”L€’incoronazione di Poppea.” Photo Frank Siteman.

A Singer’s Notes 117: A Lion in Winter at Oldcastle, Tom Sawyer at Dorset, and BEMF’s Monteverdi Trilogy Online

Another outing for this rambling, aging play, this time a good one, expertly cast. The play itself leaves little to the imagination, the acting is all. Nigel Gore’s King Henry was a real tour-de-force. Unflagging energy, powerful and detailed at the same time, one of the best things I have seen him do. Let me say,at the outset,that I admire the whole troupe. They had done this over the top play in the afternoon, came back a few hours later, and gave it all they had. Christine Dekker made the role of Queen Eleanor her own. She gave a super detailed performance that only now and then turned sharp.





Colin Balzer as Ulisse in BEMF's production of Monteverdi's "Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria." Photo Frank Siteman.

Opera Boom: Lots of opera in Boston, but how much was really good?

I need more than two hands to count the number of operas I’ve attended in Boston so far this year. Two productions by the Boston Lyric Opera, our leading company; nine (four fully staged) by our newest company, Odyssey Opera; a brilliant concert version by the BSO of Szymanowski’s disturbing and mesmerizing King Rogerall three of Monteverdi’s surviving operas presented by the Boston Early Music Festival, performed in repertory for possibly the very first time; a rarely produced Mozart masterpiece, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, in a solid and often eloquently sung concert version by Emmanuel Music; the world premiere of Crossing25-year-old Matthew Aucoin’s one-act opera about Whitman in the Civil War, presented by A.R.T.; and the first local production of Hulak-Artemovsky’s Cossack Beyond the Danube, the Ukrainian national opera, by Commonwealth Lyric Theatre (imaginatively staged and magnificently sung). Not to mention several smaller production I couldn’t actually get to—including an adventurous new work, Per Bloland’s Pedr Solis, by the heroic Guerrilla Opera, which I got to watch only on-line, and Boston Opera Collaborative’s Ned Rorem Our Town (music I’m not crazy about, but friends I trust liked the production).

A lot of opera! But how full is the cup?





Marco Bussi (Shepherd), Aaron Sheehan (Orfeo), and Nathan Medley (Shepherd). Photos Kathy Wittman.

Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and L’Orfeo by BEMF at Jordan Hall

The recent biennial weeklong Boston Early Music Festival (June 14-21) drew unusual attention for presenting full stagings of all three of Monteverdi’s surviving operas (OrfeoThe Return of UlyssesThe Coronation of Poppea) plus the Vespers of 1610. This in addition to the Festival’s usual 9 a.m. to midnight concerts of a great variety of music from the Middle Ages to Bach, featuring noted performers from all over the world. Enthusiasm ran high all week and audiences were large, especially for the Monteverdi events.





Claudio Monteverdi, engraving, from "Fiori_poetici," 1644

A Singer’s Notes 110: A Blessed Weekend — Immersion in Monteverdi

Hours and hours of the composer’s music in a 24-hour span. I’ve heard a lot of bad Monteverdi—valiant efforts, not enough skill. The style is fundamentally performer-dependent. In Aston Magna’s Monteverdi concert on Saturday at Simon’s Rock and the Boston Early Music Festival’s performances of the Vespers and Orfeo Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, we were able to hear these works with first-rate artists who have the right voices and the style under their belts. Half of the time, I was listening to duets by two tenors, a hallmark of Monteverdi’s larger works. These were brilliantly undertaken by Frank Kelley and William Hite in the Aston Magna concert.





Bernardo Strozzi, Portrait of Claudio Monteverdi (c.1630). Oil on canvas. Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum.

A weekend of Monteverdi will conclude the Boston Early Music Festival and launch Aston Magna in Great Barrington

This spring has been teeming with a dizzying profusion of riches for the lover of early music in the Northeast. In April Carnegie Hall launched “Before Bach,” a month-long festival of Renaissance and Baroque music performed by the the most admired international groups and soloists in the field. Since this was an “on” year for The Boston Early Music Festival, an equally distinguished group of regulars and visitors just now packed about the same amount of musical activity into a week, supplemented by hosts of mostly outstanding comprimarii in its Fringe. This coming weekend BEMF’s western coda, consisting of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and his Orfeo, both performed in the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, will overlap with the first weekend of one of the oldest festivals of early music, Aston Magna.