The Bard Summer Music Festival 2012: Saint-Saëns and his World

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See also: “Orientalism in France: Leon Botstein and the ASO play Saint-Saëns, Franck, Ravel, Delage, and Bizet’s one-act opera, Djamileh at Carnegie Hall”

Camille Saint Saëns arrives in the United States

Camille Saint Saëns arrives in the United States

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is, like his friend Franz Liszt, an exemplary subject for the Bard Summer Music Festival: his world was large, and he was vitally connected with it. He was recognized as an important composer—the most important French composer—through most of his maturity. He studied with important teachers. He had many friends, many enemies, and many students. His musical output was encyclopaedic. Uncharacteristically for a French composer, he wrote in virtually every form there was to write in. His compositions are in many cases linked to prominent contemporary issues in politics, the arts, and science. He prepared an historical edition of the works of Rameau and revived works by Lully and Charpentier.

His interests were equally encyclopaedic. A brilliant “all-rounder” as a student, he excelled in the Greek, Latin, and French classics, archaeology and philosophy, and the natural sciences, especially astronomy—the very model of a modern French education. He was knowledgeable about and had well-defined views on the visual arts and was friends with some of the most prominent academic artists of his time, above all Henri Regnault. He wrote essays for the general educated public on many of these topics and made a serious effort at poetry. His views on the French state and the place of France as an imperial power in the world are typical of many contemporary Frenchmen. He was a passionate traveller and took full advantage of the railways and steamships, which, as the nineteenth century progressed, made travelling great distances increasingly easy. His many awards and prestigious positions made him a representative of France, a function he performed on visits to Argentina and the United States.

Above all, the Bard Music Festival flourishes on the kind of historical sweep provided by his very long life. In his youth Saint-Saëns participated in the controversies over Schumann and Wagner. He lived to be able to attend the notorious première of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in 1913. He walked out of it, but he returned the following year to hear another performance of it—and walked out again. The famous story of the bassoon and Saint-Saëns’ outrage is apocryphal, according to Stravinsky, but it is clear that the two great champions of objectivity in music did not see or hear things the same way. Saint-Saëns also outlived Debussy, whose music he actively hated.

Yet, it comes as a bit of a surprise for people today when they learn that Saint-Saëns was considered the greatest French composer of his time. An unfortunate corollary of his longevity was that, while he died a great figure in France, honored with a state burial, he outlived his welcome among musicians and critics by a good many years. While his reputation lived on in the Western Hemisphere, in France his music was already considered old-fashioned in the 1890s. Never a friend of overt emotion in music and gifted with a facility which earned him comparison with Mozart, he was often criticized as an “algébriste.” After his death, his music fell into desuetude in the concert hall, although the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (not Saint-Saëns’ own Société National de Musique) continued to play his Symphony No. 3, “The Organ” as one of the jewels of their crown, and its former director, Charles Munch, (as well as Munch’s rival Paul Paray) took the Organ Symphony to America with them—much to the disgust of the more snobbish American critics by the late 1950’s. His oratorio-turned-opera, Samson et Dalila, has remained his most enduring work in France and abroad. It has enjoyed a healthy career at the Metropolitan Opera since the 1930’s. Occasional signs of interest in Saint-Saëns have showed themselves over the years, but nothing substantial until a string of biographies and editions beginning in the late 1990’s. Nonetheless, as far as performances go, a Saint-Saëns renaissance is yet to come. Various chamber works occasionally appear on programs, but none have quite caught on yet.

Meyriane Héglon in Samson et Dalila

Meyriane Héglon in Samson et Dalila

It is interesting to note how certain composers who gained a reputation as national composers—Elgar and Sibelius among them—suffered a similar eclipse, while Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms continued to interest listeners and composers without interruption, even being regarded as “challenging” a generation or more later. Composers continued to emulate Mendelssohn for more than a generation after his early death. Unlike Elgar and Sibelius, Saint-Saëns was consistently conservative and proud of it. During the earlier part of his life, Hector Berlioz presented a polar opposite. While respected as a critic and even to some degree as a composer, Berlioz had much greater difficulty in getting his work before audiences, and was never fully appreciated until the mid-twentieth century. In fact there were several, each one a little fuller and more enlightened than the previous one, and it was only truly accomplished with the entry of his great opera Les Troyens into the repertory, beginning in the 1950’s. It has been said that Berlioz needed a renaissance every generation. In a way this is true. The great achievements of Monteux and Munch culminated when I was a small child, and it was Sir Colin Davis, who began only a few years later, who gave me and others of my generation access to Berlioz. Today we can participate in the earlier renaissance—and delight in it—through recordings. At this year’s Bard Festival, we’ll have a chance to hear—in Saint-Saëns’ arrangement—Lélio, Berlioz’ ambitious sequel to his Symphonie Fantastique, a work which remains a historical curiosity today.

Berlioz and Saint-Saëns, who impressed with his knowledge early on, shared a common love of the classics. Over half of Saint-Saëns eleven operas are on classical subjects, and in 1896 he became involved in a curious, hugely ambitious project which eventually led to the creation of one of his operas. That year, one Castelbon de Beauxhostes, taking advantage of the prosperity of the local vineyards, began the reconstruction of the Roman arena at Béziers. Today this enormous structure, the Arènes de Béziers, is used primarily for bullfights and pop concerts. Saint-Saëns was asked to provide music and ideas for lavish productions involving huge casts and orchestras in modern works intended to recreate Greek tragedy. The result was Louis Gallet’s tragédie antique Déjanire, after Sophocles’ Trachiniae, staged in 1898 before an audience of over 10,000 people. Saint-Saëns reworked the incidental music for this play as an opera for Monte Carlo. This was followed by other, even vaster productions, until the collapse of the wine industry put an end to the high-minded entertainments.

Both composers were deeply patriotic and gave expression to the imperial destiny of France in their work. A fundamental theme in Berlioz’ great Virgilian opera, Le Troyens, concerns the duties of empire and the state. Saint-Saëns wrote numerous patriotic works, some specifically composed for state occasions. In Orient et Occident, Op. 69, a work of seemingly prescient Elgarian character, originally written for military band, Saint-Saëns used his favorite exoticist devices to contrast the sensual, passion-driven Easterner with the rational, active European. The ASO and Leon Botstein played the work last spring in a concert that was something of a preparation for the festival, at which they will offer a chamber arrangement of a later, more refined concert work for orchestra and piano, Africa (1891: note the Latin spelling) which shows a similar handling of rhythmic gestures, chromaticism, and other melodic devices, to conjure up the color and mystery of Africa. The musical elements composers have used to create a sense of other peoples and places, especially those viewed as exotic or primitive, is extremely complex, ranging from genuine tunes, harmonies, and instruments experienced at first or second hand from these countries to stereotypical formulae native to Western music, commonly accepted as signifiers of the exotic.

Henri Regnault (1843 – 1871), African Woman, oil on canvas. Cleveland Museum of Art.

Henri Regnault (1843 – 1871), African Woman, oil on canvas. Cleveland Museum of Art.

This is only one of many musical and cultural strands that pass through Saint-Saëns’ music and tie him to his time and place. Along with others, it appears in a variety of programs designed to illustrate yet other aspects of the composer’s personality and music. Africa, for example, is included in the all-Saint-Saëns chamber concert which opens the festival, focusing on the cultivation of taste. Further examples of exoticism, including the “Carmen Fantasies” by Sarasate, which I so unkindly abused in my review of the Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Celebration. In contrast with this, there will be concerts focusing on the specifically French character in music, in Saint-Saëns’ writing for the organ, an instrument with especially strong French associations, and on his reputation as the French Beethoven, so pure and classical were the foundations of his art. A panel discussion will treat the exportation of Western music. One of the origins of Saint-Saëns’ music lies in Viennese and German music, since, more than most French composers, he worked with the forms, chiefly sonata form, that were cultivated east of the Danube. He maintained a strong interest in and liking for the music of Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner for much of his career, yet he was patriotically, even chauvinistically French, supporting a ban on German music during the Franco-Prussian War, and taking part in the founding the Société National de Musique in 1871, specifically for the promotion of French music in “serious” forms, comparable to those of German music, as opposed to the mélodies and operas previously favored in France—Ars Gallica, as they called it. Other members were Saint-Saëns’ friend and protégé, Gabriel Fauré, Massenet, Duparc, Taffanel, and the liégeois, Franck. He resigned from the Society, when Franck and D’Indy opened it to foreign composers.

There will be a concert devoted to the nineteenth century’s renascent interest in French music of the Grand Siècle and to Saint-Saëns’ work as an editor. It will offer works in the style ancien by d’Indy, Chaminade, Dukas, and Pauline Viardot. Church music has remained strong in France through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and there will be a program on that, including Saint-Saëns’ cantata, Le Déluge, Gounod’s Stabat Mater, but also Fauré’s own setting of Victor Hugo’s ubiquitous poem, “Les Djinns,” to bring in the exotic and the supernatural as well. Saint-Saëns was the first major composer to write film music—for the 1908 historical epic, “L’assassinat du duc de Guise,” an early effort by the Société “Le Film d’Art,” an organization instigated by the Comédie Française to promote films of better quality for educated audiences. The work will be very cleverly paired with Berlioz’ mélodrame, Lélio. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see the film with the music. If not, here it is, at a convincing projection speed, synched to Saint-Saëns’ music, or watch it fullscreen on the Musiekinstituut site (recommended):

This is an impressive piece of work, from Saint-Saëns as well as the makers, Charles Le Bargy and André Calmettes. Le Bargy, a member of the Comédie Française like all the other members of the cast, masterfully plays a villainous Henri III. (Admirers of La Voix Humaine will be delighted with the brief appearance of Berthe Bovy, for whom Jean Cocteau wrote the original play.)

Saint-Saëns, Caricature as composer of Henry VIII

Saint-Saëns, Caricature as composer of Henry VIII

Another program will confront Saint-Saëns with modernism in the persons of Stravinsky and Debussy. Composer Richard Wilson’s dry wit should make his introduction a memorable occasion, not to mention the superb musicians who will be on hand to play sonatas for solo instruments and piano by the three composers.

The great event of the festival will be a concert performance of one of the master’s little-performed operas, Henry VIII, after Shakespeare and Calderón (1883), which, unlike Samson et Dalila, was extremely successful in its time. This will give us an opportunity to decide whether Saint-Saëns actually lacked the dramatic gift, as some have said, or whether more of his operatic work should be explored. For my part, I’m extremely curious about his operas on classical subjects, since Saint-Saëns is one of the few composers likely to have read his Greek models in the original language. Perhaps one of his less-well-known symphonies should have been included. Let me say that I am most disappointed not to hear Le feu céleste (1900), his cantata celebrating the glories of electricity. Bard could even have managed to wire the seats of Sosnoff Auditorium to deliver an electric shock to the fesses of the audience, as Saint-Saëns wished, non sans ironie, bien sûr.

from Albert Robida, La Vie Électrique  (1890)

from Albert Robida, La Vie Électrique (1890)

Familiar works will not be lacking: the Organ Symphony, the Fifth Piano Concerto (“Egyptian”), Le rouet d’Omphale, and the Carnival of the Animals. (Yes, he was interested in zoology, as well as in making fun of his colleagues. It is not surprising that he suppressed most of the work in his lifetime.) At the very least, Saint-Saëns’ music is pleasurable and entertaining; at its best it is intellectually rigorous and even exalting. Maestro Botstein’s flair for French music is well-known, and some outstanding musicians will  be playing: to name a few, Danny Driver, Anna Polonsky, Orion Weiss, Gilles Vonsattel, Edward Arron, Kent Tritle, Sophie Shao, and Daniel del Pino, who made everyone’s hair stand on end last year with his playing in Sibelius’ challenging Piano Quintet as a last-minute stand-in.

The festival would not be complete without a reflection back on the particular aesthetic embodied in Saint-Saëns’ music, and festival regulars know that Marcel Proust is a frequent visitor. An especially rich program will combine a panel discussion including such estimable Proustians as Larry Bensky and André Aciman with chamber music by Franck, Fauré, Hahn, Debussy, Debussy, and, of course, le Maître lui-même. The complexity of Saint-Saëns’ nature was recognized by many who knew him. His sarcastic tongue made him many enemies, but he often showed selflessness and generosity to colleagues and friends. He established a presence in his natal region by donating memorabilia to the Musée-chateau at Dieppe, freeing himself to divide his time between Paris, Cairo, and Algiers, which he especially loved. His broad education and range of interests belies the general cliché about the composer as a kind of idiot savant. As a man, an intellectual, and a composer he was an encyclopaedic representative of France in the later nineteenth century. We can’t understand it without him.

Bard Music Festival presents Saint-Saëns and His World
August 10-12 and August 17-19, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

BMF Program One
Saint-Saëns and the Cultivation of Taste
Friday, August 10, 2012 at 8 pm
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
7:30 pm Preconcert Talk: Leon Botstein
8 pm Performance: John Hancock, baritone; Horszowski Trio; Miranda Cuckson, viola; Anna Polonsky, piano; Gilles Vonsattel, piano; Orion Weiss, piano; Bard Festival Chamber Players

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Trio No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18 (1864)
From Mélodies persanes, Op. 26 (1870)
Danse macabre, for baritone and piano (1872)
Variations on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 35 (1874)
Wedding Cake Waltz, Op. 76 (1885)
Quartet, for piano and strings, Op. 41 (1875)
Africa, Op. 89 (1891; arr.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012
BMF Panel One
Prodigy, Polymath, Globetrotter, and Reactionary
Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 10 am – noon
Olin Hall
Christopher H. Gibbs, moderator; Leon Botstein; Yves Gérard; Jann Pasler

BMF Program Two
Performing, Composing, and Arranging for Concert Life
Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk: Geoffrey Burleson
1:30 pm Performance: Rieko Aizawa, piano; Edward Arron, cello; Geoffrey Burleson, piano; Lori Guilbeau, soprano; Jesse Mills, violin; Giora Schmidt, violin; Gilles Vonsattel, piano; Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo-soprano; Pei-Yao Wang, piano
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano in C Minor, Op. 32 (1872)
Arrangements and transcriptions of works by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714–87); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91); Fryderyk Chopin (1810–49); and Georges Bizet (1838–75)
Pablo de Sarasate (1844–1908)
Concert Fantasies on Carmen, for violin and piano, Op. 25 (1883)
Franz Liszt (1811–86)
From Two Legends, for piano, S175 (1862–63)
Louis-Moreau Gottschalk (1829–69)
Bamboula, Op. 2 (1844–45)
Songs and arias by Charles Gounod (1818–93); Anton Rubinstein (1829–94); Leo Delibes (1836–91); and Jules Massenet (1842–1912)å

BMF Program Three
Saint-Saëns, a French Beethoven?
Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 8 pm
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
7 pm Preconcert Talk: Christopher H. Gibbs
8 pm Performance: Miranda Cuckson, violin; Danny Driver, piano; Sophie Shao, cello; Kent Tritle, organ; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Symphony in A Major (ca. 1850)
Le rouet d’Omphale, symphonic poem, Op. 31 (1872)
Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, “Organ,” Op. 78 (1886)
Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, “Egyptian,” Op. 103 (1896)
La muse et le poète
, for violin, cello, and orchestra, Op. 132 (1910)

Sunday, August 12, 2012
BMF Program Four
The Organ, King of Instruments
Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 10 am
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
10 am Performance with Commentary; with Kent Tritle, organ; Yulia Van Doren, soprano; Jonathan Spitz, cello
Works for organ by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921); Adolphe Adam (1803–56); Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817–69); Charles Gounod (1818–93); César Franck (1822–90); Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937); Leon Boëllmann (1862–97)

BMF Program Five
Ars Gallica and French National Sentiment
Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk: Karen Henson
1:30 pm Performance: Paul Appleby, tenor; Zuill Bailey, cello; Teresa Buchholz, mezzo-soprano; Lucille Chung, piano; Nicholas Cords, viola; Min-Young Kim, violin; Blair McMillen, piano; Anna Polonsky, piano; Giora Schmidt, violin; Bard Festival Chamber Players
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Piano Quintet, Op. 14 (1855)
Edouard Lalo (1823–92)
Two Aubades (1872)
Marie Jaëll (1846–1925)
Valses mélancoliques and Valses mignonnes (1888)
Ernest Chausson (1855–99)
Chanson perpétuelle, Op. 37, for soprano and piano quintet (1898)
Albéric Magnard (1865–1914)
Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 20 (1908–10)
Songs by Augusta Holmès (1847–1903) and Henri Duparc (1848–1933)

BMF Program Six
Zoological Fantasies: Carnival of the Animals Revisited
Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
5 pm Preconcert Talk: Mitchell Morris
5:30 pm Performance: Randolph Bowman, flute; Lucille Chung, piano; Diana Cohen, violin; Miranda Cuckson, violin; Laura Flax, clarinet; Jordan Frazier, double bass; Lori Guilbeau, soprano; John Hancock, baritone; Anna Polonsky, piano; Sophie Shao, cello; Pei-Yao Wang, piano; Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo-soprano; Orion Weiss, piano; and others
Tickets $25, 35, 45, 55
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Le carnaval des animaux (1886)
Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
Dolly Suite, Op. 56 (1894–96)
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
Histoires naturelles, for baritone and piano (1907)
Songs by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841–94);
Erik Satie (1866–1925); Jacques Ibert (1890–1962);
Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)

Works by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764); Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91); Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47); Jacques Offenbach (1819–80); and others

Friday, August 17, 2012
BMF Program Seven
Proust and Music
Friday, August 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
7 pm Preconcert Panel: Larry Bensky, moderator; André Aciman; Mary Davis; William C. Carter
8:30 pm Performance: Daniel del Pino, piano; Danny Driver, piano; Eugene Drucker, violin; Min-Young Kim, violin; Priscilla Lee, cello; Daniel Panner, viola; Anna Polonsky, piano; Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo-soprano; Bard Festival Chamber Players, Lucille Chung, piano, Geoffrey McDonald, conductor

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 75 (1885)
César Franck (1822–90)
Prelude, chorale et fugue, M21 (1884)
Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 15 (1876–79; rev. 1883)
Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Chansons de Bilitis (1897–98)
Reynaldo Hahn (1874–1947)
Le bal de Beatrice d’Este
, suite (1909)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

BMF Panel Two
Exporting Western Music Past and Present
Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 10 am – noon
Olin Hall
Richard Aldous, moderator; Brigid Cohen; Tamara Levitz; Jann Pasler

BMF Program Eight
La musique ancienne et moderne
Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 1:30 pm
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk: Jann Pasler
1:30 pm Performance: Carl Albach, trumpet; Alessio Bax, piano; Bradley Brookshire, harpsichord; Jordan Frazier, double bass; Marka Gustavsson, viola; Katie Lansdale, violin; Robert Martin, cello; Andrea Schultz, violin; Nathan Stark, bass; Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo-soprano; Orion Weiss, piano; and others
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Septet, for trumpet, piano, and string quintet, Op. 65 (1880)
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764)
From Pièces de clavecin en concerts, quatriéme concert (1741)
Pauline Viardot (1821–1910)
Vincent d’Indy (1851–1931)
Suite dans le style ancien, Op. 24 (1886)
Cécile Chaminade (1857–1944)
Gavotte, Op. 162, No. 5 (ca. 1921)
Paul Dukas (1865–1935)
Variations, Interlude and Finale on a Theme by Rameau (1899–1902)

BMF Program Nine
The Spiritual Sensibility
Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 8 pm
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
7 pm Preconcert Talk: Byron Adams
8 pm Performance: Paul Appleby, tenor; Andrew Garland, baritone; Lori Guilbeau, soprano; Rebecca Ringle, mezzo-soprano; Bard Festival Chorale, James Bagwell, choral director; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Le déluge, poème biblique, Op. 45 (1875)
Charles Gounod (1818–93)
Stabat mater (1867)
Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
Les djinns, Op. 12 (c. 1875)
Florent Schmitt (1870–1958)
Psalm 47, “Gloire du Seigneur,” Op. 38 (1904)
Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)
Psalm 130, “Du fond de l’abîme” (1910–17)

Sunday, August 19, 2012
BMF Program Ten
From Melodrama to Film
Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 10 am
Olin Hall
10 am Performance with Commentary by Daniel Goldmark; with David Strathairn, narrator; Paul Appleby, tenor; Jon-Michael Ball, tenor; Andrew Garland, baritone; Blair McMillen, piano; Bard Festival Chamber Players and Bard Festival Chorale, conducted by James Bagwell
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
L’assassinat du Duc de Guise, Op. 128 (1908)
Hector Berlioz (1803–69)
Lélio ou Le retour à la vie, Op. 14b (1831/32; arr. Saint-Saëns 1855)

BMF Program Eleven
Unexpected Correspondences:
Saint-Saëns and the New Generation
Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk: Richard Wilson
1:30 pm Performance: Daniel del Pino, piano; Danny Driver, piano; Min-Young Kim, violin; Alexandra Knoll, oboe; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello; Richard Ranti, bassoon
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Sonatas for Oboe and Piano, Op. 166 (1921) and Bassoon and Piano, Op. 168 (1921)
Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1916–17)
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
Suite Italienne, for cello and piano (1932)

BMF Program Twelve
Out of the Shadow of Samson and Delilah:
Saint-Saëns’s Other Grand Opera
Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
3:30 pm Preconcert Talk: Hugh Macdonald
4:30 pm Performance: Jon-Michael Ball, tenor; Ellie Dehn, soprano; Branch Fields, bass; Jennifer Holloway, mezzo-soprano; Jason Howard, baritone; Nathan Stark, bass; John Tessier, tenor; Jeffrey Tucker, bass; Bard Festival Chorale, James Bagwell, choral director; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director; and others

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Henry VIII (1881–82)
Click here for the principal cast.

About the author

Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Hi Michael,
    Many thanks for this terrific overview of the festival and for posting the film for which Saint-Saens wrote the music. What fun to watch it!

    Also you’re right to note that Saint-Saens titled his piano fantasy Africa using the Latin–I hadn’t thought of that, but his relationship to the Mediterranean world fully supports this choice. Thanks so much for pointing it out.

    Looking forward to meeting you,

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