Classical Music News of the Week, May 31, 2013

Soprano Kristine Opolais Follows Tanglewood, Proms debuts with Packed 2013-14 Opera Season

The Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais, who has won unanimous critical and popular praise for her lush voice and stirring performances at opera houses worldwide, sets out to conquer new audiences this summer with a pair of concert debuts at Tanglewood and the BBC Proms.

Kristine then kicks off a jam-packed 2013-14 opera season with one of Verdi’s most demanding heroines--Desdemona in Otello at the Hamburg Staatsoper--before reprising several of her signature roles (Rusalka, Jenufa, Madama Butterfly) and shining as the titular heroine of a highly-anticipated new Covent Garden production of Manon Lescaut.  

“An affectingly natural actress,” possessing a “plush voice with a throbbing richness that lends a touch of poignancy to every phrase she sings” (The New York Times) that is also “lithe and precise” (Classics Today) and “filled with colors and shadings” (Associated Press), the sensational soprano Kristi-ne Opolais’s upcoming season will delight dedicated fans and produce a bevy of new converts.

Tanglewood audiences will get a chance to hear Kristine intone the passionate swells of Verdi’s Requiem on July 27 in a performance conducted by the celebrated conductor Andris Nelsons, who has the unique distinction of being both her longtime artistic accomplice and husband. Verdi is also on the menu at Kristine’s August 17 BBC Proms debut, where she will perform arias from Otello (“Willow Song,” “Ave Maria”), as well as from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (“Polonaise,” “Letter Song”), with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, also conducted by Nelsons. She’ll perform Wagner lieder on a program also featuring Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture and Dvorák’s joyous Symphony No. 8 for a tantalizing trio of festival concerts with the same orchestra on August 29 (Locarno), August 31 (Menuhin Festival in Gstaad) and September 1 (Bremen Festival - Glocke Veranstaltungs). The dynamic duo of Opolais and Nelsons teams up again for an all-Wagner program performed with the NDR Sinfonieorchester at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival on August 24 and 25.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Opera Parallele Presents First Workshop Reading of Dante De Silva’s Gesualdo, Prince of Madness June 7 at San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Concept Designer Brian Staufenbiel debuts new “GraphicOpera” genre.

Opera Parallèle presents the first workshop reading of Dante De Silva’s Gesualdo, Prince of Madness, at 7 p.m. June 7 in the Sol Joseph Recital Hall at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During the reading, the company will also debut the concept of “GraphicOpera,” melding the graphic novel with operatic performance. The two-act opera examines the sometimes flexible nature of justice through the figure of Carlo Gesualdo, a 16th century composer who is accused of murder but escapes prosecution because of his noble status. Los Angeles composer Dante De Silva incorporates renaissance colors in homage to the title character by including a theorbo, a plucked instrument of the Baroque period.

Concept designer Brian Staufenbiel, illustrator Mark Simmons and animator Sony Green explore a new idea in bringing the music and text of Gesualdo, Prince of Madness to life by using a series of illustrations and animations, done in a traditional graphic novel style, projected onto a large, central screen. This workshop will be the first phase in Opera Parallèle's development of GraphicOpera as a new genre with the hope that this art form will embrace the spectrum of animated imagery that new technology enables.

For the June 7 reading, Artistic Director Nicole Paiement conducts a musical ensemble featuring lutenist Adam Cockerham on theorbo, percussionist McKenzie Camp, pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi and Eva-Maria Zimmerman on electronic keyboard.

Bay Area baritone Daniel Cilli leads the cast as the heartbroken Carlo Gesualdo alongside Chris Filipowicz as his servant Orazio. Michelle Rice plays Maria Gesualdo and Andres Ramirez, recently in Opera Parallèle’s production of Trouble in Tahiti, plays Maria’s secret lover Fabrizio. Maya Kherani, Nuria in Opera Parallèle’s production of Ainadamar, portrays Leonora, Carlo’s second wife. Nikola Printz will play the servants, Anna and Patrizia, as well as the herbalist, Artemisia. Rounding out the cast is a female trio sung by Sarah Eve Brand, Lora Libby and Rachel Rush.

“Opera Parallèle is fearlessly committed to expanding appreciation for contemporary opera,” said Artistic Director Nicole Paiement. “I’ve long admired Dante De Silva and the company is thrilled to offer the public a first glimpse at our workshop. Not only will audiences get a chance to preview the music, but we will also be ‘previewing’ a new way of bringing the music to life visually with the debut of GraphicOpera. This will be a sort of laboratory experiment in the music and visual arts—another step in our process of encouraging dialogue and opening minds to contemporary opera.”

Dante De Silva’s Gesualdo, Prince of Madness is free and open to the public. Pre-reserved seating is available for donors and, given the intimate nature of the venue, tickets for the general public may be limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The world premiere workshop reading will be followed by a question and answer session with Nicole Paiement, Brian Staufenbiel and Dante De Silva.

For further information, please call (415) 503-6279 or email

--Karen Ames Communications

Britain's Favourite Film Critic Celebrates His 50th Birthday with a Full Orchestra and Some Surprise Guests
Mark Kermode will join the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to celebrate his 50th birthday with four unique concerts: Cheltenham Festival; Barbican, London; The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester; and Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

The UK’s best known and most authorative film critic, Mark Kermode, will celebrate his 50th birthday with a top UK orchestra as they perform music from the films that have inspired him. From The Exorcist to Mary Poppins expect a riot of music, plus stories from his life and career, in concerts across the UK.

This summer, Mark, the co-host of BBC Radio 5 Live's Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, will team up with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Cheltenham Festival (3 July); Barbican, London (6 July); The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (8 July); and Symphony Hall, Birmingham (9 July) to celebrate a life spent in the movie theatre and how particular films have affected him so deeply.

The concerts will reflect Mark's unique and eclectic tastes: after all, how often will you hear music from Twin Peaks and Mary Poppins in the same evening. Taking us through the films that mean most to him, Mark Kermode will bring us a tender theme from Silent Running, a violent hunt from Planet of the Apes (a film Kermode credits with teaching him everything he knows about politics), Jonny Greenwood's hugely influential music from There Will Be Blood,  the infernal strains of Peter Maxwell Davies’s hell-raising score from The Devils, the fandango of North By Northwest, the sleazy cityscape of Taxi Driver, Angelo Badalamenti's dreamy score for David Lynch's Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me and the joyous overture to the Disney classic, Mary Poppins (one of Kermode's all-time favourites). And a Kermode concert would not be complete without The Exorcist, which famously lifted a spine-tingling theme from the opening of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Be afraid.

All the music will be conducted by maestro Robert Ziegler, who has a worldwide reputation as a conductor of film music and has worked regularly in the studio with film composers such as Howard Shore (Hugo, The Hobbit) Patrick Doyle (Hamlet, Sense and Sensibility) and Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood, Norwegian Wood).

Also joining Kermode will be a surprise guest who will talk about their own career in the movies, and discuss the film music which has inspired them – a selection of which will be played live by the orchestra.

For further information go to or join in the conversation #CBSOMovie.

--Ruth Green, CBSO

Other Minds Presents the West Coast Premiere of Rhys Chatham’s Awe-Inspiring Work for 100 Guitars, A Secret Rose, November 17 at Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA, June 7 and 8
Composer/guistarist Rhys Chatham will be in San Francisco for two kick-off events: The performance of 1977 Guitar Trio (G3) at The Lab and and the G100 Roundup.

Other Minds will present the West Coast Premiere of Rhys Chatham’s awe-inspiring work for 100 electric guitars, A Secret Rose, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 17 at Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, California. Led by composer/guitarist Rhys Chatham, credited with creating a new type of urban music by fusing early 1960s minimalism with the relentless, elemental fury of punk rock, this large-scale performance features an international team of section leaders working in concert with amateur and professional guitarists from all over the Bay Area and beyond. With an almost cult-like following akin to those who travel to hear The Grateful Dead, Rhys Chatham is a formally trained composer whose music combines “the drone-based minimalism of La Monte Young and Tony Conrad with the raw energy and amplified instrumentation of punk bands like the Ramones.” (Steve Smith, The New York Times). A Secret Rose is sponsored by a lead grant from the Exploring Engagement Fund of the James Irvine Foundation.

To build excitement for the November 17 performance of A Secret Rose, Other Minds presents two preview events June 7 and 8 in San Francisco. Rhys Chatham joins an all-star cast of local Bay Area musicians on June 7 at The Lab in a performance of his groundbreaking 1977 Guitar Trio (G3). The participating performers will be guitarists Ava Mendoza, John Schott, George Chen and John Krausbauer, along with Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums). On June 8, Charles Amirkhanian will join Rhys Chatham for the “G100 Roundup,” an exclusive event in a private Mission District art studio. This intimate evening event will feature an in-depth interview covering his early days as the first music director at The Kitchen in New York to his recent large-scale guitar works and will be accompanied by rare films and audio footage from Rhys’ extensive career, including footage from his compositions for electric guitar orchestras. The G100 Roundup event will also be an opportunity for fans to find out how they can get involved in A Secret Rose.

Tickets for the June kick-off events are now on sale at for June 7 and for June 8. Those interested in participating as one of the 100 guitarists in November should visit to apply online. Applications and specific information on instrument requirements will be open June 15.

--Karen Ames Communications

American Composers Orchestra Names Derek Bermel New Artistic Director and Renews George Manahan’s Music Directorship
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announced last night at its Spring Benefit at Tribeca Rooftop that composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel will be the orchestra’s new Artistic Director, commencing with the 2013-14 season. Bermel has been ACO’s Creative Advisor since 2009, and succeeds composer Robert Beaser who has been ACO’s Artistic Director since 2000 and was ACO’s Artistic Advisor from 1993. Bermel joins Music Director George Manahan, who has just renewed his contract with ACO for an unprecedented five years, in leading the ensemble in its mission to be a catalyst for the creation of new orchestral music. 

ACO Board Co-Chair Astrid Baumgardner said of Bermel’s appointment, “Multi-talented composer, clarinetist, and artistic leader Derek Bermel is one of the beacons of today's music scene. With his creativity, intelligence and charm, the orchestra is poised to scale new heights and make an important contribution to the contemporary music scene.” Board Co-Chair Annette McEvoy added, “Derek has the talent, know-how, and creativity to present compelling contemporary music for our dynamic audience, and I am thrilled that he will be leading us into the future.”

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. In addition to his new appointment with ACO, he will continue to serve as Director of Copland House's Cultivate! Program for emerging composers. Bermel, an “eclectic with wide open ears” (Toronto Star), is recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series that spotlight the composer as performer. Alongside his international studies of ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with other musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language.

Bermel first came to ACO's attention in 1994 as a participant in the Whitaker Emerging Composers Readings (now the Underwood New Music Readings) with his piece Dust Dances. ACO has since commissioned and premiered Bermel’s work on numerous occasions, including his first professional orchestral commission and Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with Voices, a clarinet concerto. ACO also commissioned and premiered A Shout, A Whisper, and a Trace (2009); Elixir (2006); and The Migration Series with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which premiered to sold-out audiences in 2006. Bermel was ACO’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence from 2006-2009, joining ACO's board and becoming the orchestra's Creative Advisor in 2009. In his role as Creative Advisor, Bermel excelled at programming ACO’s Orchestra Underground series at Carnegie Hall and ACO’s citywide new music festival SONiC, Sounds of a New Century, in 2011, which featured 21st century music by 120 emerging composers. Bermel has also been active in several of ACO's composer development initiatives including serving as a mentor for the Underwood New Music Readings and EarShot programs, and serving as an artist-faculty member for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute.

--Christina Jensen PR

Young People’s Chorus of New York City Spring Concert Tickets
Two Performances For YPC Families and Friends Spring Family Concert - Saturday, June 8, 2013.
3:30 p.m. matinee tickets -$15, $25, and $50.
7:00 p.m. evening tickets - $20, $30, and $60.
All tickets are available at the 92nd Street Y box office or by calling 212-415-5500.

Don't miss the renowned showmanship, poise, and professionalism of all of the YPC choristers in music ranging from classical, pop, and jazz to folk, gospel, and world music. The 3:30 matinee will include a cameo performance by the young singers in YPC's new after-school program, Young People's Chorus at Washington Heights (YPCWH)

The 7 p.m. evening performance comes to a poignant close with YPC's annual celebratory send-off to its graduating seniors as they leave the chorus to embark on their college careers and a new chapter in their young lives.

--K. Gibson, Young People’s Chorus of New York

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first 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 use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa