There is a sound you sometimes feel after midnight, high up in Manhattan. It comes from maybe thirty blocks away. Very faint. In the stillness of your mind, you know it is a lonely taxi horn dancing with the doppler effect. But in the small hours of the city, you wonder who might be riding home amongst sleeping millions, and how boozily, and what love affairs or personal dramas might now begin or end. New York is like that. In its darkness, taxis are crickets, and you listen.
The perfect word to describe Andris Nelsons’ conducting is “exciting.” He elicits spectacular playing from the Boston Symphony and knows how to mold the sound of the orchestra to his taste. The strings now sound rich, deep, and solid rather than airy, transparent and elegant, as was their traditional, French–flavored style. This works well in a German-Russian program; I am curious to hear what they (Nelsons and the orchestra) will do with canonical French material such as the orchestral works of Ravel.
Lucking into one of the first few nice days of a late spring, I attended the annual Glimmerglass Festival kickoff, hosted at Midwood, the secluded Germantown home of philanthropist Joan K. Davidson. This beautiful Sunday afternoon offered the enticements of the summer opera fare in Cooperstown along with hors d'oeuvres and wine. Francesca Zambello, the transformational Artistic & General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, invited several young artists, veteran performers, and composers to further the cause.
Is a puzzlement – why Barlett Sher and Michael Yeargan, the Tony award winning director and set designer of South Pacific, respectively, would create such a sparse scenic design for The King and I. The stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre is over 3,500 square feet – and much of the time (in the palace and in the forest) all we see on the large portion that thrusts out into the audience is a black floor with a lonely actor or two singing upon it.
Concerts this good have become our norm and good fortune in twenty-first century America—especially in San Francisco. We are used to charismatic conducting, to fine piano debuts, to engaged orchestral playing and the rediscovery of great neglected symphonies. What differs from time to time is the realization that a performer may not only be accomplished, or even inspiring, but one of a kind. I begin to think Vasily Petrenko is such an artist.
Even if the performances of the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group were half as good as they are, we'd have to be grateful to them for even attempting to perfom ancient theater in the original language as something more than an academic exercise. For quite a few years now, the Matthew Alan Kramer Fund has enabled Barnard and Columbia students to offer these productions with some resources for costumes, sets, etc., but the essential ingredient in their success (Tthey usually sell out) is the passionate dedication and hard work of all involved—above all the student actors, who often rise to a level far beyond what we normally expect from even the most serious efforts of colleges and universities. Beyond youthful energy and enthusiasm, an impressive concentration of solid Greek, close, intelligent study of Euripides and his text, and, above all, theatrical talent brought this rarely performed—rarely even read—masterpiece to life.
It’s not what you would expect of a Broadway musical. No dancing-singing chorus. No chorus, actually, and barely any real dancing. But singing? Oh yes. Wonderful singing that projects Alison Bechdel’s story with moving honesty, deep-felt emotion and palpable joy. We alternate among three stages of Alison’s life, her pre-teen years, her college years and her adulthood looking back on her childhood and family.
As everyone in New England knows, this winter was one long slog. But significant musical events actually got to take place, and some of these have been exceptional. But many have been frustrating and disappointing.