Thursday, December 16, 2010

While I Was Gone....

....a few things did happen.

Elliott Carter turned 102! I was lucky enough to be in the same room as Mr. Carter last February, for a concert at Juilliard that included the Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for wind quartet and a great new piece for wind quintet. Happy birthday to one of our greatest composers; may he continue to write great music in good health.

The Swiss tenor Hueges Cuenod died, at the astonishing age of 108. It's not a tragedy when someone dies at such an age, after a life lived grandly; still, I was sad. Cuenod made his debut in the 1920s, debuted and Glyndebourne in 1950 or 51, going on to sing nearly 500 performances there, and finally appeared at the Met for the first time in 1987, at age 85! He gave his last public performances in his early 90s. A few years ago, when Switzerland legalized same-sex civil unions, he and his partner of many years entered into one. There's plenty of this great singer on YouTube, so get over there and listen to his exemplary style.

San Francisco Symphony announced some of the plans for their centenary season. Commissions by Adams and Bates - daring - and the return of the no-longer-very-mavericky American Mavericks. Um, try something new? Aaron Copland: not a maverick, now or ever.

More positively, the season brings concerts by the orchestras from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, each of which will evidently bring along some of their recent commissions. That is, at least part of the new music side of the centenary is being outsourced to other orchestras. It'll be good to hear those orchestras in Davies, though; a way to calibrate the hall and SFS while hearing some great organizations. Full details to come in early March.

San Francisco Opera announced more details of the September 11 opera, Christopher Theofanidis's Heart of a Soldier. It's about Rick Rescorla, Morgan Stanley's head of security, who warned the NYC Port of Authority in the 1990s that the next attack on the WTC would come by air. Morgan Stanley had few fatalities because Rescorla put into place an evacuation plan, and drilled the heck out of the employees. He died that day because he went back into the WTC to help others and was still inside when the second building collapsed.

The opera is based on a book of the same name. It'll be interesting to hear how this all plays out as an opera; I myself am skeptical about headline opera, especially opera that revolves around an event that propelled the U.S. into two disastrous wars. The cast is impressive, though: Thomas Hampson, Melody Moore, and William Burden. Patrick Summers conducts; Francesca Zambello directs.

San Francisco Opera updated their web site (again). Not sure if it's any better or more usable.


Anonymous said...

"If a young man in his twenties can compose a piece like that, by the time he is thirty he should be ready to commit murder."

That's not maverick enough credentials for you?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Considering the source....

Joe Barron said...

Welcome back. We - meaning I - missed you. Copland might not be very daring, but at least you'll get to hear the BSO play Carter's Flute Concerto, which will not travel on the East Coast south of Southie. (The new wind piece was Nine by Five, in case you've forgotten the title.)

I gather your use of the word "daring" to describe the Adams and Bates commissions was well-chosen sarcasm. And I'm skeptical about any new American opera, especially those write on commission from mainstream companies. As a group, they are deathly dull — endless, unimaginative recit over muddy orchestral accompaniment, like Wagner without the leitmotifs. Did you hear "The Fly"? God save us all.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh, man, I would be SO HAPPY if the Carter Flute Concerto came here with the BSO. And thanks for the memory prod. If only I'd managed to blog that program contemporaneously!

Sarcasm indeed. I've heard several excellent new American operas: Adamo's Lysistrata, Adams's Doctor Atomic (deeply flawed, great music), and Moravec's The Letter, but your description is all too true. I call that style "ostinatoitis."

Lisa Hirsch said...

(All too true of other operas, like Dead Man Walking.)

Joe Barron said...

Sarcasm indeed. I've heard several excellent new American operas

Of course, there's Carter's "What Next?" which I like much better than some Carter hands do. I saw the production at the Miller Theater a couple years ago and had a great time. I include the music in Dr. Atomic in my original critque, though the build up just before the bomb goes off was pretty exciting. Don't know Moravec's opera, but I like other music I've heard by him, so I guess I should give it a try.

Oh, man, I would be SO HAPPY if the Carter Flute Concerto came here with the BSO.

I thought it was going to. At least, that's what I recall from the press release.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I heard part of "What's Next?" on the radio, I think. Is there a European production on DVD, though? I vaguely think I might have seen photos or clips or something. Would love to see the whole.

Joe Barron said...

The Berlin production is available on DVD. There's also a v. good rendition on CD.

Henry Holland said...

The SFO doing Copland's Connotations, a 12-tone piece, would be kind of Maverick-y.

Dear Cleveland Orchestra:

Please please please play one of Matthias Pintscher's pieces during your residency at Davies.

Thank you.

Ever since I heard about Mr. Theofanidis' commission, I keep wondering "Where's the plot?". Plane crashes in to buildings > he warns people > goes in to building and dies when it collapses.

There's obviously got to be flashbacks so they can get a love interest in --the old Hollywood "Put a woman in the plot even though she's superfluous, we don't want the audience to think The Hero might be gay" tactic-- but it just seems like a thin idea.

The SFO website, which looks OK to me, has a picture of a grunt carrying a rifle next to a picture of a sweaty, barihunk-y Thomas Hampson, are they going to play up his role in Rhodesia for the British (he was born in Cornwall) > his service in Vietnam and try to link the service and his actions on 9/11?

Any bets on how soon after the premiere that if anyone criticizes it, they'll be set upon because they hate America?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Haha, yeah, I'm with you about Pintscher, whom I've never heard.

My bet about "Heart of a Soldier" is that the plot is about everything before September 11.

That last question (they hate American if they don't like it): nobody pays enough attention to opera and concert music for that to happen, is my bet.