Classical Music News of the Week, May 19, 2013

Twenty-nine Artists from Six Countries to Participate in Twelve-Week Intensive Merola Opera Program

Conductors Mark Morash, Kevin Murphy, Xian Zhang and John DeMain lead performances this summer including Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Schwabacher Summer Concert, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, and Merola Grand Finale.

Twenty-three singers, five apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director, representing six different countries, will participate in the 56th season of the Merola Opera Program from May 28 to August 17, 2013. More than 1000 artists vied for the 29 coveted spots in the 2013 summer festival, which is offered free of charge for all participants. Selected through an extensive world-wide audition and application process, nearly one third of this season’s artists come from countries outside the United States, representing six countries: United States, Canada, Iran, Ireland, New Zealand and Latvia. This year, the program will have four returning Merola participants: Aviva Fortunata, Jacqueline Piccolino and Joseph Lattanzi--participants in the 2012 Merola Opera Program--and Timothy Cheung who participated in the program in 2011.

The 2013 Merola summer artists will participate in an intensive 11-week training program--12 weeks for the apprentice coaches and the apprentice stage director--which will include master classes with opera luminaries such as Warren Jones, Jane Eaglen, Martin Katz, John DeMain and Neil Shicoff along with San Francisco Opera Center Director of Musical Studies Mark Morash (Merola ’87). Guest teachers such as Steven Blier, Patrick Carfizzi, Kevin Murphy and Eric Weimer provide training in voice, foreign languages, operatic repertory, diction, acting and stage movement. Merola members will enjoy the opportunity to sit in on select master classes for a behind-the-scenes look at the training process.

Performance is a key element of the program throughout the summer and participants will appear in public performances during the Merola Opera Program summer festival, which includes two staged operas and two scenes concerts. The 2013 festival will open with Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by Mark Morash. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 11 and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at Everett Auditorium. The season continues with the Schwabacher Summer Concert, conducted by Kevin Murphy and directed by Roy Rallo. The concert will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18 at Everett Auditorium and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20 in a free outdoor concert at Yerba Buena Gardens. W.A. Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, directed by Robin Guarino and conducted by Xian Zhang, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday August 3 at Everett Auditorium. The festival concludes with the annual Merola Grand Finale, conducted by John DeMain and directed by apprentice stage director George Cederquist, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 17 on the main stage in the magnificent War Memorial Opera House.

One of the world’s most prestigious young artist training programs, the Merola Opera Program was founded in 1957 and has since served as a proving ground for thousands of artists, including nine internationally acclaimed singers and one stage director appearing with the San Francisco Opera this summer and fall: Meredith Arwady (Merola ’02 & ’03), Susannah Biller (’09), William Burden (’91), Jose Maria Condemi (’99 & ‘00), Catherine Cook (’90), Daniela Mack (’07), Lucas Meachem (’03), Patricia Racette (’88), Alek Shrader (’07) and Dolora Zajick (’83).

For more information about Merola, please visit www.merola.org or phone (415) 551-6299.

--Karen Ames Communications

AOP’s Sensual Songbook Beauty Intolerable Premieres with Soprano Lauren Flanigan, An Intimate Evening of Songs and Poetry
AOP (American Opera Projects), The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, ClaverackLanding, and Symphony Space co-present a world premiere performance of Beauty Intolerable, a collection of love songs composed by Sheila Silver based on the poetry of iconoclast and libertine Edna St. Vincent Millay and performed by a trio of operatic chanteuses. The songs are accompanied with poetry recitations by actresses Tyne Daly (June 8) and Tandy Cronyn (June 13). The song cycle will be presented on June 8 at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church: 4th & Warren Streets, Hudson, NY 12534. A Manhattan premiere follows on June 13 at 7:30 PM at Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space. Tickets will be available through the venues' Web sites. A limited number of tickets to the Symphony Space performance which include VIP seating and a reception with the artists are available for $75 at AOP's website.

The concert will feature soprano Lauren Flanigan (La Scala, Santa Fe, Metropolitan and New York City Operas),  mezzo-soprano Deanne Meek (Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu, Metropolitan Opera), and soprano Risa Renae Harman (New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera), with Kelly Horsted and Christopher Cooley on piano. Each performance is accompanied with poetry recitations by guest actresses Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey and Judging Amy), and Tandy Cronyn (Once Upon a Time in America and The Story Lady).


--American Opera Projects

From May 29th on YouTube: Experience Anderson & Roe’s Breathtaking New Film of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring for Piano Duo
Boundary-breaking pianists mark the centenary of Stravinsky’s epoch-defining work with their most ambitious music video yet.

Classical pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe are different. A piano duo who have attracted legions of new fans with their virtuosic and acclaimed arrangements of popular hits (such as their “Billie Jean” cover or their Star Wars Fantasy), they are musicians who bring the care and stunning imagination of brilliant indie filmmakers to their YouTube music videos, pushing the form forward. Case in point: their Schubert Lied-turned-horror-film Der Erlkönig – which, as we go to press, has just been nominated for an Emmy Award.

If they attract full houses across the U.S. and internationally with their live shows, they have made an art of presenting classical music on YouTube, producing and directing videos that have been viewed by millions. “We cater our performances to the venue, whether it be a concert hall or online, and as such, we design our YouTube videos to potently deliver the spirit of the music in a bustling graphic environment,” says Anderson. But even they have never previously attempted anything on the scale of The Rite Of Spring.

To be released in segments (as it is composed), one every two weeks starting from the date of the work’s centenary, Anderson and Roe’s Rite takes the viewer on an epic journey but one that finally mirrors the primeval nature of the work itself. Starting in traditional concert trappings, the performers become gradually sucked into a ritualistic spiral that sets them immersed in a troupe of dancers, crawled on by insects, lost in a hallucinatory world, naked in the ocean, or alongside an antique instrument ablaze in the desert. What is real? What is imaginary? One thing is for sure - theirs is a striking, strident view of music that ripped apart the culture of its time, and this film proves it can still unsettle and thrill us today. In this year of the Rite’s centenary, this interpretation will leave a mark--a scar?--and, perhaps, help to redefine it.

The Rite of Spring will be free to view on YouTube at Anderson & Roe’s channel from May 2. Watch Anderson & Roe’s Emmy-nominated video Der Erlkönig here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xH4uKPDAEE

--Inverne Price Music

Berkeley Symphony Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant to Support Music in the Schools Program
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that Berkeley Symphony is one of 817 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. Berkeley Symphony is recommended for a $12,500 grant to support their 2013-2014 Music in the Schools program.

Since 1992, Berkeley Symphony’s Music in the Schools program, in partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District, has provided a comprehensive, hands-on and age-appropriate music curriculum to elementary school students in Berkeley. This award-winning program includes more than 20 interactive in-school concerts and hundreds of classroom musician visits. In addition, Berkeley Symphony will continue to present its Family Concerts: “Meet the Symphony” on Saturday, November 2, 2013, and “I’m a Performer” on Saturday, April 12, 2014. The latter concert is a community collaboration in which both adults and children are invited to perform with the Orchestra under the baton of Education Director and Conductor Ming Luke.

Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, "The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States. Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable opportunities for the public to engage with the arts."

“I am delighted that our Music in the Schools program has been recognized for its importance and benefit to the local arts community,” said Berkeley Symphony Executive Director René Mandel . “I want to thank the National Endowment for the Arts for their generous support which enables us to continue our commitment to providing the highest quality of musical education and exposure to thousands of children and their families.”

In August 2012, the NEA received 1,547 eligible applications for Art Works grants requesting more than $80 million in funding. Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. The 817 recommended NEA grants total $26.3 million and span 13 artistic disciplines and fields. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA Web site at arts.gov.

--Karen Ames Communications

Seattle Symphony Board of Directors and Musicians Approve New Contract
Balanced Budget for 2011–2012 Financial Year, Including Record Fundraising Results
The Seattle Symphony announced today that its Board of Directors and its Musicians have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement through August 31, 2015. The agreement, reached after 15 months of negotiations, will enable the organization to continue its journey of artistic growth under Music Director Ludovic Morlot, expand its engagement with young people and communities, increase the size of its digital footprint, and set a path for long-term financial stability.

The financial terms include concessions in musicians’ salaries for the remainder of the 2012–2013 season, a move to a more economical healthcare plan, and a temporary reduction in the size of the orchestra. This will be followed by salary and pension increases in subsequent years and the gradual restoration of vacant positions. The new contract includes a significant new electronic media agreement that will allow the launch of a new series of live recordings online and on CD, and provide unprecedented audio and audio visual access, via the Internet, to rehearsals and concerts for public engagement, promotional, educational and community purposes. Additionally, the new contract provides for flexibility in operating procedures that will aid in scheduling rehearsals and performances as the Symphony continues to experiment with concert formats and times of day. It will also enable the organization to reach increased numbers of students for next season’s launch of the major new education program Link Up: Seattle Symphony, in which students play and sing along with the Symphony from their seats in Benaroya Hall, following preparatory in-school sessions led by teaching artists and based on a specifically developed curriculum from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

Seattle Symphony Board of Directors Chair Leslie Jackson Chihuly stated, “We express our deep gratitude to the entire orchestra for its willingness to work creatively with us on this agreement, and for again agreeing to make concessions. Settling the contract is a great step forward and allows the entire organization to move toward our shared goals, both artistically and financially. I want to acknowledge and share our deep appreciation for the hard work on the part of so many involved in the negotiations over many months. This agreement provides the strength and impetus needed for us to advance toward ever greater achievements.”

--Ashlyn Damm

Washington National Opera Premieres D.J. Sparr’s Vibrant New Opera, Approaching Ali, Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 9 at 2:00 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater
Eclectic composer D.J. Sparr teams up with celebrated sportswriter and memoirist Davis Miller, crackerjack librettist Mark Campbell and the Washington National Opera for this compelling new one-hour opera that tells the true story of how Muhammad Ali inspires one young man to turn his life around. The two premiere performances will take place at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on Saturday, June 8 at 7:30pm and Sunday, June 9 at 2pm. Tickets are $30.

This June, Washington National Opera presents the first fully-staged opera commission created for its American Opera Initiative: Approaching Ali from the composer D.J. Sparr, whose mellifluous music “spouts streams of color” (San Jose Mercury News) and embodies “the boundary-erasing spirit of today’s new-music world” (New York Times).

When WNO announced this ambitious new program to build a repertoire of original American-themed operas, Sparr didn’t hesitate to contact the man that had sublet his Richmond home the previous summer. That man was Davis Miller, author of the famous memoir The Tao of Muhammad Ali, which recounts how Miller transcended his past traumas with the help of Ali, his childhood hero and one of our most revered athletes.

The pair won the inaugural WNO commission and hooked up with superlative librettist Mark Campbell (whose credits include Kevin Puts’s 2012 Pulitzer-winning opera Silent Night) to create the hour-long opera, Approaching Ali. Cutting from the transformative meeting between Ali and Miller, then a wayward adult, to difficult memories of Miller’s boyhood in North Carolina, the story explores the themes of parents and children, loss, bullying, hero-worship, friendship and redemption.

Musically, Approaching Ali draws on myriad influences, with Sparr citing works as wide-ranging as Orff’s Der Mond, Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Britten, Tom Petty, dharma drumming, and Appalachian fiddle music. Clearly, Sparr’s pop-Romantic aesthetic, shaped as much by his rock roots as his conservatory rigor, is in full bloom. His iconoclastic style, in which a vital, shimmering quality propels his undeniable lyricism from the tangible to the magical, is a perfect match for this uplifting story.

For more information, click here: http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=ONOMA

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Andris Nelsons Appointed Music Director Designate of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons has been appointed as Music Director Designate for the Boston Symphony Orchestra from the start of the 2013/14 season and will officially take up the position of Music Director in 2014/15.

Andris Nelsons is currently Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where he was appointed in 2008 as a relatively unknown young conductor. Since then he has delighted audiences in Birmingham and built a global reputation as one of the world’s most exciting conductors.

Stephen Maddock, Chief Executive of the CBSO, said: “This appointment to one of the world’s most distinguished orchestras is a real accolade for Andris, and we are delighted for him. During his time at the CBSO, he has proved himself to be amongst the very best conductors in the world, and it is testament to his extraordinary talent that he has secured this major role at such a young age. Of course, we also believe this is a reflection of Birmingham’s continued excellent taste in Music Directors!

“Andris’s rolling contract with the CBSO is currently in place until the end of the 2014/15 season, and there will be no change to his commitment to Birmingham during this time. It is not unusual for a conductor of Andris’s stature to hold more than one position, and we will make an announcement about future seasons beyond 2015 later this year. In the meantime, we all congratulate him on his success and look forward to our next concerts with him in May and June, including an eight-concert European tour.”
Andris Nelsons said: “I am very proud to be appointed to this great orchestra, and I also look forward to lots more wonderful concerts with my beloved CBSO.”

--Ruth Green, CBSO

Application Deadline Extended for Composers & the Voice 2013-2014
Due to overwhelming demand, the deadline for applications to AOP's Composers & the Voice program has been extended.
New Application Deadline: May 24, 2013 (postmarked)
Composers Notified of Acceptance: June 28, 2013
Workshop Sessions: September 2013 through April 2014


C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood w composer Hannah Lash The Composers & the Voice Workshop Series is a competitive biannual fellowship offered to composers & composer/librettist teams. Created and led by Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood, six composers or composer/librettist teams will be selected for a year-long fellowship, working with the company's Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team. The primary focus of Composers & the Voice is to give composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and opera stage.

C&V fellows
  Compose solo works and opera scenes in closed workshop sessions with the AOP Resident Ensemble of Singers
  Participate in "Skill-Building Sessions" in acting, improv games, and libretto development
  Gain in-depth and firsthand knowledge of how singers build characters, act in scenes and sing text.
  Have their compositions featured in two public performances: First Glimpse, a concert of songs in spring 2014, and Six Scenes, an evening of short opera scenes in Fall 2014.

--AOP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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