Articles by Michael Miller

Music

Bach Two Ways: the Bethlehem Christmas Concert with Handel and Bach and a WA Concert with Webern and Bach

The Bethlehem Bach Choir and their many different spheres of activity are all about J. S. Bach, but other related composers, some of whom are internationally renowned and some still in high school, are also allowed to come in. Outside of this special community, even during the time between the end of his career and the Bach renaissance of the second quarter of the 19th century, Bach was never totally forgotten. His magnetism drew in Mozart, Beethoven and others, as well as post-renaissance composers like Brahms and Bruckner...on to the 20th century in Busoni and the composers of the Second Viennese School. A little fast driving enabled me to experience both an old tradition reaching back before Mendelssohn, as well as a newer one, in which Bach could be partnered with Anton Webern—this at one of Charles Neidich and Ayako Oshima's marvelous  WA Concerts.
HHA

Bard Music Festival 2019: Korngold and his World (REVISED)

As I return to the Bard Music Festival year after year, I notice that the spaces of Olin Hall and the Fisher Center, become more crowded and sold-out notices appear ever more frequently. I also notice that I’ve seen a good many of the attendees before. There is certainly a minority who are passionately interested in one composer or his historical and cultural context and not in the others, but I am confident in saying that the core of the Bard audience consists of recidivists. Lately the choice of focal composers has shifted from the undisputed pantheon to composers who are interesting because of their cultural position in their own time. Saint-Saëns, Chávez, and Rimsky Korsakov fall into this category. The audience keeps on growing. It’s obvious that we share a broad interest in western art music, but the way in which the individual composers are presented is exploratory, and, given the presence of musicians and musicologists, bound to take a controversial course. I always leave not only knowing something I didn’t know before, but with a profound new insight, and, most important of all, questions to mull over during the months that separate us from the next Bard Festival.
Opera

Giovanni Bottesini’s Comic Opera, Alì Babà (1871), Reconstructed and Conducted by Anthony Barrese at Opera Southwest

I have not yet embarked on the inevitable voyage through Conrad L. Osborne’s 827-page Opera and Opera, a report on the dire state of an art form many of us love as dearly as life itself, but Ralph Locke’s thoughtful discussion in these pages and Joseph Horowitz’s review in the Wall Street Journal have reinforced my awareness that performances like those cited by Mr. Horowitz, the Met performances of Verdi’s Otello on February 12, 1938 or Siegfried on January 30, 1937 are rarely even approximated today. However it does still happen, as it did the evening of April 28, 2018, when Pretty Yende joined Michael Fabiano in a thrilling Lucia di Lammermoor, also at the Met. One is even less likely to hear a performance of Siegfried or Otello of that caliber today.
Theater

DruidShakespeare: Richard III, directed by Garry Hynes at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival

Garry Hynes’ concept, which balanced respect for Shakespeare’s text with its many parallels with current events in the United States, Russia, and the UK, was, well, unimpeachable. Last year I enthusiastically reviewed a compelling, if rough and ready production directed by Austin Pendleton, which arose out of a feeling that Richard III—actually The Wars of the Roses, incorporating excerpts from Henry VI, Part 3—urgently needed to be put before an American audience for them to see the evils of contemporary politics reflected in it, no matter what limitations the situation placed on production values. The niceties of scansion and rhetoric were at times compromised by a passion to get the message across. Druid’s Richard III was impeccably, beautifully spoken, and costumed with an elegance which went against the contemporary trend towards plainness and recalled the sumptuous look of early twentieth century productions. Yet the messages were brought out with adroitness and eloquence.
Coming Up and Of Note

Only a week away! Michael Miller’s Solo Play, “Transfiguration”, at the Metropolitan Playhouse and the New York International Fringe Festival, October 12th (7:30 pm) and 13th (2 pm). Buy your tickets now!

Michael Miller's solo play "Transfiguration," winner of Best One-Man Drama at the 2018 United Solo Festival, will return to New York City on October 12th (7:30 pm) and 13th (2 pm) at the Metropolitan Playhouse as part of the 2019 New York International Fringe Festival. Gary Hilborn will repeat his award-winning performance, directed by Graydon Gund.
Music

Longtime Artistic and Executive Directors of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem announce their retirement, following the 112th Bach Festival.

When I was first invited to attend the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Christmas Concert in Advent 2014, I had no idea that that and the Bach Festival in May would become annual traditions. I believe that I have missed only one year since then, and now my wife has become as attached to these events as I am. From the gusto with which the people of Bethlehem celebrate the Christmas season, the liturgy celebrated in the local Moravian Church—which includes a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II—and the spirit of the Bach Festival, now in its 112th year, one can readily grasp the vitality of tradition in this originally German city—and it’s infectious, I can attest.

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