We are a little spoiled here in Charleston, the biggest little city in America, so if the new music portion of Spoleto Festival USA 2017 is a little less adventuresome than last season’s 40th anniversary program (which featured a production of The Little Match Girl by Helmut Lachenmann as well as a ravishing new production of Porgy & Bess), it may be that our expectations have reached impossible limits.
Quartett May 28, 31, June 3
The US premiere of a Royal Opera House production, Quartett blends Italian composer Luca Francesconi’s score for two singers and two orchestras — one live and one pre-recorded — to German dramatist Heiner Müller’s 1982 play. Directed by John Fulljames and conducted by Spoleto USA’s own John Kennedy.
Music in Time / Tempus Fugit May 28
New musical works from a new generation of composers from around the globe come together in a program featuring members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra led by conductor Jeffrey Means. Included are Tempus Fugit by Argentina’s Jose Manuel Serrano, Abysses by Estonia’s Helena Tulve, and Encore/Da Capo by Italy’s Luca Francesconi.
. Music in Time / Sounding Peace May 31
A celebration of the centenary of American composer Lou Harrison with some of his wonderful music integrating musical traditions from around the world, as well of the the work of younger composers Ted Hearne and Jonathan Holland.
Music in Time / Lecture on the Weather June 5
John Cage composed his classic performance piece Lecture on the Weather as a celebration of the USA’s Bicentennial in 1976. Using texts by Henry David Thoreau, recordings of nature, and projections, Cage’s work is a prescient and timeless sonic rumination on environmental and social concerns. An excerpt from the work reads: “More than anything else we need communion with everyone. Struggles for power have nothing to do with communion. Communion extends beyond borders: it is with one’s enemies also. Thoreau said: ‘The best communion men have is in silence.’” Also on the program will be Canadian composer Anne Southam’s Natural Resources.
Music in Time / Dialogues with Pedja Muzijevic
Four Haydn sonatas are interspersed with three modern works by Jonathan Berger, John Cage, and Morton Feldman, to offer listeners a fresh landscape for hearing works anew.
Mahler 4 and Dreaming
John Kennedy leads the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no. 4, as well as the US-premiere performance of Dreaming by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, which won the Nordic Council Music Prize in 2012.
For those or more conventional tastes, there is Tchaikovsky’s grand opera Eugene Onegin, based on Pushkin’s classic verse novel. Soprano Natalia Pavlova sings the part of Tatyana, among the greatest of female lead roles in the repertoire. The opera will be directed by Chen Shi-Zhen; Farnace by Vivaldi, to feature countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo under the direction of festival alumna Garry Hynes, and Mozart’s Great Mass.
And, of course, there will be plenty of New Music in Geoff Nutall’s Chamber Music series, details to come.
As my old poli-sci professor used to say in class 50 years ago; “Charleston? Put that city under glass.”
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The idea for Nate Felix’s at home show, Classical Music Kegger, came to him when he saw an opera performance in a train station when he lived in Los Angeles. Felix decided to compose a show with only pianos. Despite the fact that he had never composed a piano piece, nor did he know how to play piano, when Felix returned to his hometown of Austin, he somehow snagged six free pianos off of Craigslist and got to work. Felix wants to give his community more than just the music itself. so he donated the pianos to schools.
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Elizabeth Bell Friou, award-winning composer and co-founder of New York Women Composers, Inc., died on Monday, December 19, in Tarrytown at the age of 88. Known professionally as Elizabeth Bell, she served as a member of the Board of Governors of the American Composers Alliance (ACA) and was involved in numerous other music associations.
A direct descendant of the ninth US president, William Henry Harrison, she was born in Cincinnati in 1928 to William Procter Bell and Sophie Buckner Bell. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1950 and from the Juilliard School in 1953.
Ms. Bell served as the music critic of the Ithaca Journal and received commissions from a range of musical associations, including New York State Council on the Arts, the Bradshaw/Buono duo, the Inoue Chamber Ensemble, North/South Consonance, the Putnam Valley Orchestra, and Vienna Modern Masters. Her musical compositions have been performed world-wide in concert halls and cathedrals from New York to Eastern Europe, Russia and Armenia. A lifelong advocate for the role of women in musical composition, she was a leading proponent of the International Alliance for Women in Music, established in 1994 to unite three distinguished organizations, the International Congress on Women in Music, the American Women Composers, and the International League of Women Composers.
She married astronomer Frank Drake in 1953 and they had three sons. Following their divorce, she moved from Ithaca, NY, to Tarrytown, NY. In 1983 she married attorney Robert Friou.
She leaves three sons: Stephen David Drake of Nashville, (married to Kim Carpenter Drake), Richard Procter “Rippy” Drake of Oberlin, OH, (Alice Moore), and Paul Robert Drake of Cape Cod, MA, (Ellen Sullivan); two step-daughters, Elisabeth Friou Mote (Gary Mote) and Jane Friou Clemens (David Clemens); six grandchildren, Becky Barger Gauthier (Ronald Gauthier), David Allen Clemens, Amy Jane Clemens, Grace Cecelia Drake, Elizabeth Harrison “Harris” Drake, and Spencer Logan Drake; and two great-grandchildren, Ava and Wyatt Gauthier.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, January 16, 2017, from 4:00 – 6:00 PM at the Coffey Funeral Home, 91 North Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, tel. 914-631-0983.
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Boston Conservatory at Berklee – recognized for offering one of the best opera programs in the U.S. – is launching a summer program at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain for students from all over the world looking to pursue a career in opera. The Boston Conservatory Opera Intensive at Valencia is a comprehensive three-week program taking place June 25-July 15, 2017. This is the first program to be developed jointly between the Valencia campus since the merger between Berklee and the Conservatory in June 2016.
“This summer program is designed for students who are serious about building a career in opera and are looking for next-level training,” said Richard Ortner, president of Boston Conservatory at Berklee. “Talented young singers from around the globe will come together to hone their technical skills with unparalleled faculty, gain valuable performance experience in a variety of settings, increase their understanding of what it takes to build and maintain a career in opera, and connect with industry professionals.”
The program will feature a robust schedule of lessons, musical and dramatic coachings, classes, and rehearsals, culminating in public concerts and performances of opera excerpts. “Special classes will provide insights and strategies for managing both the business and interpersonal aspects of a sustainable career,” said Johnathon Pape, director of Opera Studies at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. “Guest clinicians like renowned Chilean soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, among others, will present master classes and seminars on pertinent information such as auditioning and working in Europe.”
One of the unique features of the Boston Conservatory Opera Intensive at Valencia is the opportunity for participants to access Berklee’s state-of-the-art recording studios. Students will be able to record some of their selections for use in applications to graduate schools or young artist programs. The selections will be coached and accompanied by program faculty members, and recorded by Berklee engineers. Each participant will leave the program with a professionally produced recording of their selections.
Located in the iconic City of Arts and Sciences, Berklee Valencia is annexed to the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, an inspiring setting with top notch facilities and home to world-class cultural events. Many luminaries of the opera world have been associated with the Palau, including Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, and, most notably, Plácido Domingo.
“The Boston Conservatory Opera Intensive at Valencia provides an exciting and supportive environment that will stretch and inspire students, and help them succeed,” said María Martínez Iturriaga, executive director of Berklee Valencia. “Valencia, with its rich cultural heritage and beautiful scenery, is a perfect setting for a program of this caliber.”
Boston Conservatory at Berklee is recognized for offering one of the best opera programs in the U.S. With a nurturing community of teachers and peers, and a forward-thinking curriculum that is continually evolving, its voice and opera programs are oriented to help students grow as professional singers and as whole artists for the 21st-century stage.
About Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Boston Conservatory at Berklee provides a progressive learning environment where students are challenged to realize their potential as artists and inspired to pursue their dreams. Long recognized for its specialized training in dance, music, and theater, the Conservatory’s recent merger with Berklee now combines this rigorous, focused instruction with unparalleled access to a broad range of academic and creative opportunities. Set in the cultural, historical, and educational hub of Boston, this extraordinary institution represents the future of performing arts education. Learn more at bostonconservatory.berklee.edu.
About Berklee College of Music’s Valencia Campus
Berklee’s campus in Valencia is the first international campus established by the renowned Berklee College of Music—and its first campus outside of Boston. Located in the iconic City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain, the magnificent 3,600 square meter campus has been designed specifically for music and is equipped with state-of-the art technology.
Berklee’s campus in Valencia aims to provide a hub to launch the careers across the globe for the most musically talented international students. Offering a unique curriculum, as well as an International Career Center to assist students in their transition from student to music professional, the campus presented Berklee College of Music’s first graduate master’s degree programs in contemporary music (Scoring for Film, Television and Video Games; Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration); and Global Entertainment and Music Business) in September 2012, and launched a fourth new graduate program: Music Production, Technology, and Innovation in September 2013.
In addition, Berklee’s campus in Valencia offers a Study Abroad Program for Berklee students from Boston to study for a term at Valencia, Summer and Special Programs, as well as a new way for musicians around the world to join the global music community – as performers, as practitioners, and as leaders.
More information can be found at valencia.berklee.edu
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Composer, conductor, and pianist Richard Carrick has been named chair of Berklee’s Composition Department. Carrick is a 2015-2016 Guggenheim Fellow and co-founder and co-artistic director of the contemporary music ensemble Either/Or. He succeeds Arnold Friedman, who had been the department’s chair since 2012. Friedman remains on the faculty.
Carrick recently moved to the Boston area after living in Kigali, Rwanda, on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Musical Composition. In Rwanda, he was commissioned to pen a new official arrangement of the country’s national anthem for the Rwandan Military Band. During this time, he premiered five works in New York, Boston, Tel Aviv, and Kigali. Carrick has taught in South Korea, Japan, the U.K., Rwanda, and Israel through the Very Young Composers program, and returned to South Korea last year as a Gugak Korean Traditional Music Fellow.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the Berklee community and especially the versatile, diverse, and talented Composition Department,” said Carrick. “I look forward to finding more professional and educational opportunities for our students in the ever-changing musical world of concert music.
His latest release, Cycles of Evolution, incorporates pieces commissioned and performed by Musicians of the New York Philharmonic, Either/Or, Sweden’s Ensemble Son, Hotel Elefant, and DZ4. Carrick conducts or performs on all works on the CD, which includes his ‘apocalyptic’ multimedia piece, Prisoner’s Cinema. His recordings also include Flow Cycle for Strings; and Stone Guitars,which garnered acclaim in both the new music and guitar worlds. American Record Guide said, “It may change your perception of electric guitar.”
Either/Or has been called “first rate” and “a trustworthy purveyor of fresh sounds” by the New York Times, and won the 2015 Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. Carrick has worked with celebrated composers including Helmut Lachenmann, Chaya Czernowin, Iancu Dumitrescu, Elliott Sharp, George Lewis, Alvin Lucier, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and Rebecca Saunders.
“Dr. Carrick brings a perspective and set of experiences that our faculty and students can connect with immediately,” said Larry Simpson, Berklee senior vice president for academic affairs/provost. “He is fluent in the language and ways of the academy and equally accomplished in the world of composing and sustaining creative enterprises that move forward an art form in competitive environments. He also has extensive international experience that will prove valuable to faculty and students.”
Carrick has taught composition at Columbia and New York Universities and has presented master classes and lectures throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He was a cornerstone of the teaching artist faculty for the New York Philharmonic, through which he has mentored hundreds of young composers internationally.
A U.S. citizen born in Paris of French-Algerian and British descent, Carrick received his B.A. from Columbia University, PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and pursued further studies at IRCAM and the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague.
Berklee’s Composition Department provides a thorough course of study in all areas of traditional and contemporary musical composition, including writing techniques, orchestration, and score preparation; and advanced training in instrumental, choral, and musical theater conducting. A faculty of 40 active composers and conductors, many with national and international reputations, prepare students for careers as professional writers and conductors. Although sharing similar methods with departments such as Jazz Composition, Songwriting, Film Scoring, and Contemporary Writing and Production, the Composition Department is mostly concerned with concert music. The department also works with creative multimedia, from traditional opera and theater to contemporary electronic and mixed media
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The brilliant Argentinian composer Osvald Golijov returns to Charleston, SC this year as composer-in-residence of SpoletoUSA’s wildly popular chamber music series. Golijov has been part of the festival’s chamber music series for 20 years through numerous performances of his compositions, including well-loved pieces and world premieres, and through several residencies, most recently in 2011. The 2016 series will feature world premieres of two of his new works–Anniversary Bagatelles (June 3) and Agamemnon’s Aria (June 5), as well as three of his well-known older works, Tenebrae (May 30 and 31), Lullaby and Doina (June 1 and 2), and Last Round (June 2 and 3).
Golijov’s seductive and haunting compositions defy easy categorization. The first couple of sentences in his online biography best describe their roots: “Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. Born to a piano teacher mother and physician father, Golijov was raised surrounded by classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the new tango of Astor Piazzolla.” Imagine a mixture of all those influences and styles in a single superbly-crafted work and you’ll get the gist.
Or better yet, listen to this prelude to The Dreams and Prayers of Issac the Blind, one of his early masterpieces. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
The St. Lawrence String Quartet, whose violinist Greg Nuttall, is the program director of the annual chamber music series, has had a rewarding musical partnership with Golijiv since 1992. The quartet (Nuttall, Owen Dalby, Lesley Robertson, and Christopher Costanza) has performed and recorded many of Golijov‘s compositions, including Lullaby and Doina for its celebrated recording Yiddishbbuk in 2002. (My favorite recording of contemporary chamber music, for whatever that’s worth.)
Nuttall, whose official title is the not at all cumbersome “The Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director for Chamber Music for the Bank of America Chamber Music series,” is a perfect program director and host–knowledgeable, entertaining, funny, sartorially splendid–for the series. All told, 11 programs for the 33 concerts will be performed at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA from Friday, May 27 through Sunday, June 12.
Each of the 11 chamber programs in the 2016 series features Nuttall’s signature eclectic taste with compositions spanning more than 300 years, and his skill in assembling distinguished musicians from around the world. Returning artists include pianist Inon Barnatan, violinist Benjamin Beilman, baritone Tyler Duncan, bassoonist Peter Kolkay, double bassist Anthony Manzo, pianist Pedja Muzijevic, flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, clarinetist Todd Palmer, violinist/violist Daniel Phillips, pianist Stephen Prutsman, oboist James Austin Smith, violinist Livia Sohn, the St. Lawrence String Quartet (Nuttall, Dalby, Robertson, and Costanza), and cellist Alisa Weilerstein.In celebration of Spoleto Festival USA’s 40th season, the St. Lawrence String Quartet —the Arthur and Holly Magill Quartet in Residence—will be part of the Bank of America Chamber Music series for the entirety of the Festival.
Each of the 11 programs will be performed three times with two performances daily at 11:00am and 1:00pm in the 463-seat Dock Street Theatre at 135 Church Street. The series is also recorded and broadcast by South Carolina ETV Radio and syndicated nationally and internationally by the WFMT Radio Network. Check out the schedule, order some tickets, and get on down here.
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Helmut Lachemann, 80, this November, is one of the most important, original and influential living composers. To hundreds of younger composers whose ambition is to push the boundaries of music and sound beyond its presumed limits, he is a God-like figure, the reigning king of musical post-modernism. Think Stockhausen or Cage, tripled down. Extreme, thrilling, unexpected, visionary, painful, edgy. If he were a Zen master, his mantra would be “Who knows the sound of a beetle lying on its back?”
For listeners who prefer their “classical” music with a touch of consonance, he is one of those composers whose work is more fun to talk about than to actually listen to.
All of which makes John Kennedy, director of contemporary music for SpoletoUSA, a brave man, indeed, for making the American premiere of Lachemann’s opera Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern (The Little Match Girl) the centerpiece of this year’s Spoleto Music in Time Series. Conceived on a grand scale, Lachemann’s retelling of the tragic Hans Christian Andersen tale of the little girl who measures out her final hours by striking matches for a moment of warmth on the freezing street, employs 106 musicians and various other theater performers.
Lachenmann refers to his compositions as musique concrète instrumentale, basically a musical language that embraces the entire sound-world made accessible through unconventional playing techniques. According to the composer, this is music
“in which the sound events are chosen and organized so that the manner in which they are generated is at least as important as the resultant acoustic qualities themselves. Consequently those qualities, such as timbre, volume, etc., do not produce sounds for their own sake, but describe or denote the concrete situation: listening, you hear the conditions under which a sound- or noise-action is carried out, you hear what materials and energies are involved and what resistance is encountered.”
To take a simple example, guitarists generally try to limit the sound of nails clacking on strings or accidental glissandos produced by sliding their fingers up and down the strings between chords. Their goal is play as faithfully as possible only the notated sounds. In Lachemann’s musique concrete world, these scratches, squeaks and sighs are all part of the music. Through amplification and a plethora of techniques that he has invented for wind, brass and string instruments, Lachemann creates difficult, uncompromising works that are, like their creator, wholly original. His scores place enormous demands on performers. They may be only works in the modern repertory in which players may need a shower after the piece is finished.
Coming as it does in the 40th Anniversary Year of Spoleto with all the attendant “feel good” celebrations, the programming of such a controversial composer as Lachenmann is a welcome sign that SpoletoUSA that the nation’s best—and probably most financially successful–arts festival is still not afraid to take risks and push the boundaries of original performance. Founder Gian Carlo Menotti would be proud.
To appreciate Lachemann requires listeners and performers to forget whatever inherited notions they may have about beauty in music. “Try to like it,” he often tells audiences about to hear his work for the first time. For those willing to suspend their preconceptions, his music offers great listening experiences and, yes, even a strange kind of beauty.
Lachenman will be in attendance at the Festival and will participate in a conversation between Kennedy on May 27 (including a performance of Lachenmann’s piece Got Lost); a performance of Lachenmann’s Ein Kinderspiel and Kenndy’s Spoletudes on June 4, and a performance by Stephen Drury of Lachenmann’s monumental piano solo Serynade, plus Oscar Bettison’s 2014 work for small ensemble An Automated Sunrise (for Joseph Cornell).
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LSO Live is (are, if you’re English) releasing Sir Peter Maxwell Davies Symphony No 10 and Panufnik Symphony No 10, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra on August 28. You can get a 10% discount by pre-ordering before the release.
Here’s an interview with Maxwell Davis about his tenth symphony.
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JenniferHigdon’s first opera, Cold Mountain, premieres at The Santa Fe Opera on August 1, 2015 and runs until August 24. The August 24 performance was added due to interest leading to a sold-out run. Opera Philadelphia will give the East Coast premiere of Cold Mountain and a recording on Pentatone will be released in the 2015-16 season.
Cold Mountain takes an American story as its subject—the desertion of Confederate soldier W.P. Inman to return to his love in the mountains of North Carolina during the Civil War. Based on Charles Frazier’s best-selling novel, which was turned into an award-winning movie, it features a libretto by Gene Scheer (Moby-Dick; An American Tragedy), recounting Inman’s dangerous odyssey, trekking across North Carolina back to Cold Mountain. This Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Minnesota Opera co-commission stars Nathan Gunn as the soldier Inman, Isabel Leonard as his lover, Ada, and Jay Hunter Morris as the villainous Teague in both Santa Fe and Philadelphia.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto and one of America’s most-performed composers, JenniferHigdon taught herself the flute at the age of 15 and began to compose at 21. Of the 50 recordings of her work, Percussion Concerto, Higdon: Concerto for Orchestra/City Scape, Strange Imaginary Animals, and Transmigrationhave all won Grammy Awards. Her work blue cathedral has been performed more than 500 times since its premiere in 2000. Higdon also teaches composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
“I didn’t realize that I would be carrying these characters in my head and heart for about two and a half years,” Higdon told NPR Music. “But in many ways, living inside the opera, which it felt like I did, was not like anything I’ve ever experienced before. The entire group stayed with me day and night. I’ve been pretty absent from the present-day world for quite some time. That type of concentrated creativity has been amazing to experience.”
“I think Cold Mountain is going to be the great American operatic work,” said Gunn. “The music is beautiful and amazingly dramatic in scope.”
“Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is a beautiful story filled with history, love, fear, and courage,” said Leonard. “JenniferHigdon and Gene Scheer have now turned that story into an incredible musical journey and I cannot wait to share it with the people of Santa Fe and Philadelphia.”
“The greatest moments, for me, are when I get to sing new music,” said Hunter Morris. “I love stepping into the character and stepping into the voice for the first time.”
It is a trusim that opera is a collaborative endeavor but it is also true that the lion’s share of the credit, or blame, for its success usually goes to the composer. We may choose to see an opera because we like a particular singer, or director, or librettist, but, for better or worse, the composer is the ultimate “owner” of the work. Nobody says John Adams and Alice Goodman’s Nixon in China, although Goodman’s libretto is essential to the piece. Few people say Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein at the Beach. The Cave is described by Wikipedia as a multimedia opera in three acts by Steve Reich to an English libretto by his wife Beryl Korot when, in fact, it is at least as much her work as his.
It seem inevitable then that Paradise Interrupted, the installation one-act opera that is headlining Spoleto this year, will become known to future generations as Huang Ruo’s Paradise Interrupted. And he deserves lots of credit.The young Chinese-born composer’s composition masterfully blends 600-year-old Kunqu, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, with contemporary Western music to create a sound landscape that is mesmerizing and ethereal, capturing perfectly the hope, longing and ultimate resignation of The Woman (sung gloriously by Chinese opera star Qian Yi).
But, the truth is, Paradise Interrupted is mostly Jennifer Wen Ma’s opera. Wen Ma, a Chinese-born interdisciplinary visual artist conceived, directed and designed the work, as well as co-wrote the libretto. The idea came to her, she says, while she was standing beneath her own art installation called Hanging Garden in Ink, a 60-foot-long, 6-ton suspended garden made of live trees dipped in black ink , in Beijing. Suddenly she imagined the black garden as an arresting and beautiful setting for an opera.
Set against an ever changing backdrop of abstract digital images that reflect the singer’s mood shifts, the garden that greets the audience of Paradise Interrupted is an assemblage of laser-cut paper painted with black ink that is unfolded, accordian-like, and closed up again by the performers throughout the drama. The effect is that the garden appears to move in response to the singers’ voices. The effect is stunning. Eight feet in height, the garden’s stark presence creates a looming landscape that takes on a life of its own. With some many moving parts and such seemingly fragile material, the potential for a staging disaster seemed so ominous that I found myself holding my breath as if watching a tightrope walker.
The chances are good that you’ve seen Ma’s work before even if you’re not an opera goer. In 2008, she was one of the seven members on the core creative team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, and the chief designer for visual and special effects. She won an Emmy for the US broadcast of the ceremony.
The story is drawn from Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and and Du Liniang from the famous 1598 Ming Dynasty opera The Peony Pavilion. In a dream, a woman meets her lover and searches for an unattainable ideal–a return to paradise–as a vast interactive garden grows from an empty stage in response to her voice, only to disappear as her dream ends. With few movements and gestures, Qian’s lyrical, ethereal voice carried the story, ably abetted by bass-baritone Ao Li, baritone Joo Won Kang, tenor Joseph Dennis and countertenor John Holiday, whose singing especially stood out. Conductor John Kennedy has become an important go-to guy for New Music.
If you missed it at Spoleto, you’ll have to wait for it to come to the Lincoln Center Festival next year..
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