Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thomas Adès

I first heard Thomas Adès's Living Toys a few years ago. I borrowed the CD it's on from a friend and gave it a couple of listens. I liked the music on it, but didn't buy the CD or investigate Adès's other works.

This year, I've heard two of his pieces live, the astonishing Chamber Symphony, Op. 1, and, this past weekend at Cabrillo, Concentric Paths, his violin concerto. I also bought the CD America: A Prophecy.

My, oh, my. Here we have one of the great living composers, and he seems always to have been that way. He wrote the Chamber Symphony at 19, and it is as assured and brilliant as anything Mozart and Mendelssohn were doing at that age. I am more sorry than ever that family issues kept me from Santa Fe Opera last year, where his opera The Tempest was performed.

Well down in the program notes from Cabrillo I found that the world premiere of Concentric Paths was conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. I hope he'll bring it to the San Francisco Symphony, but his big musical event of the coming year is a Brahms festival. The interesting premieres are mostly in the hands of guest or associate conductors.


Steve said...

During the coming season, Carnegie Hall is partnering with the Metropolitan Opera in presenting Prokofiev's The Gambler and War and Peace, both billed as part of Gergiev's Carnegie Hall "Perspectives" series. Very admirable... but another artist being fêted with a "Perspectives" series at Carnegie is Thomas Adès. That's why for me, the biggest missed opportunity of the season will likely be the omission of The Tempest from the season ahead at the Met.

Sure, the two Prokofiev operas had already been successfully staged at the Met. But could it really have been that difficult to envision adapting an existing production of the Adès, in order to tap the potential curiosity and support of two different clienteles/subscriber bases?

Marcus said...

Have you heard Asyla? I found it pretty disappointing (as I did America - I was at the premiere). I like his earlier works, in general, which is odd to say since he's still rather young. I did like the broadcast of The Tempest I heard though...

Lisa Hirsch said...

I understand the frustration over the Met not performing The Tempest, but it's very new, his style can be astringent, and the Met didn't commission it. They also do their season planning years in advance. I would expect that opera to turn up around 2012 or 2015 (sigh).

Marcus, I haven't heard Asyla, but I like America.

Steve said...

Lisa, that's all true. But the Met can move very, very quickly when it wants to. The ENO production of Satyagraha, for instance, was inserted into the current season in what seemed like no time at all. Granted, Glass does have some small history in that house, but Gelb jumped on that production as a way to "jump-start" (his term) the Met's new commitment to important contemporary works. Satyagraha hadn't previously appeared on Met Futures, nor had it been rumored elsewhere.

My real point is that the Met has made a lot of noise about that intention to take up some of the more important contemporary pieces that have yet to appear in New York City, regardless of whether they were Met commissions. The Tempest surely qualifies (along with Nixon in China, L'amour de loin and Le Grand Macabre), and the notion that it could have been "co-branded" with Carnegie Hall and sold to a non-Met audience would have made it just that much more compelling.

As it stands, City Opera is almost definitely going to beat the Met to Messiaen's Saint Francois d'Assise, and Mortier might well intend other such coups.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It would be a very good thing if the Met were to produce those operas. I completely missed the late addition of Satyagraha - if the Met can move that fast, The Tempest could still certainly be put on the schedule, if not for this season, then soon.

Serious questions: Can City Opera afford to put on Saint Francois? And do they have room for it? SFO had to build out platforms to accommodate the three ondes and the extra percussion.

Steve said...

The question of whether City Opera can afford Saint Francois is a good one. As for the location, that's a more interesting prospect. Despite the fact that Mortier has committed to keeping the company in the New York State Theater, he has also stated the intention to present special productions elsewhere -- a staged concert of Winterreise with a prominent African-American singer has been mentioned as a possibility for the Apollo Theater, for instance.

In the specific case of Saint Francois, the venue that has been mentioned is the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue -- the same place where Lincoln Center originally intended to present The Tristan Project, and which has been discussed as a potential home for the NY Phil when Avery Fisher Hall is eventually gutted and rebuilt.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hearing Saint Francois in the Armory would be really cool, I have to say.

I meant to ask about L'amour de loin. I'd love to hear it, anywhere. I know it has only two characters and was wondering how effective it would be in the vastness of most American opera houses. How big is the orchestra?

cedichou said...

You can listen to a symphonic "Powdered her face" at the proms/bbc 3 web site. It's pretty fun piece.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you! I will check for that, though I have the fear of Real Player.