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Tracing its roots back to 1939 and informed by the legacy of a special relationship with Johann Strauss, Jr., the New Year's Day concert by the Vienna Philharmonic features an unmatchable grace and buoyancy in music by Strauss and others.
Johann Strauss, Jr., performed with the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time in 1873, and several performances followed over the next five years. But it wasn't until 1925, during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Strauss's birth, that the Vienna Philharmonic fully embraced the composer's music.
In 1929, Clemens Krauss conducted a concert made up entirely of The Waltz King's music, and the tradition was sealed.
|Conductor Franz Welser-Möst (photo by Roger Mastroiann)|
The guest conductor for 2013 is Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst, General Music Director of the Vienna State Opera and Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Welser-Möst leads his second New Year's Day concert. He previously conducted the 2011 New Year's Day concert, and his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic was in 1998.
Here is the program for the 2013 New Year's Day concert with the Vienna Philharmonic:
Josef Strauss: The Soubrette, Fast Polka, op. 109
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Kiss Waltz, op. 400
Josef Strauss: Theater Quadrille, op. 213
Johann Strauss, Jr.: From the Mountains, Waltz, op. 292
Franz von Suppé: Overture to the Operetta "Light Cavalry"
Josef Strauss: Music of the Spheres, Waltz, op. 235
Josef Strauss: The Spinstress, Polka française, op. 192
Richard Wagner: Prelude to Act III of the Romantic Opera "Lohengrin", WWV 75
Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr.: In Confidence, Polka mazur, op. 15
Josef Strauss: Hesperus’ Paths, Waltz, op. 279
Josef Strauss: The Runners, Fast Polka, op. 237
Joseph Lanner: Styrian Dances, op. 165
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Melodies Quadrille, op.112
Giuseppe Verdi: Prestissimo from the Ballet Music in Act III of the Opera "Don Carlo"
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Where the Lemon Trees Bloom, Waltz, op. 364
Johann Strauss, Sr.: Memories of Ernst or The Carnival of Venice, Fantasy, op. 126
New Year's Day at 11am and 5pm on Classical New England.
By Brian McCreath | Tuesday, December 27, 2011
|Rick Burkhardt in Three Pianos|
There are times when the solemnity and profundity of classical music can become overwhelming. There are also times when just the right vehicle comes along to prick that balloon and remind us that, for the most part, classical music is really an art form that deals in the messy reality of human existence. The play and movie Amadeus pulled this off for millions, and say what you will about historical accuracy, I think our relationship to Mozart's music has been the better for it ever since.
Now along comes Three Pianos, which, like Amadeus, brings a composer of incredibly human dimension back from the brink of plaster bust-dom. Alec Duffy, Dave Malloy, and Rick Burkhardt tap into the spirit of Schubert through a piece of music that may have been the most difficult choice for the project, but also the one that may bring us closest to Schubert's soul.
Winterreise takes us into the mind of a character who's engulfed in the depths of despair. As a work of art, it's considered one of the pinnacles of the song cycle form. As an emotional experience, it's one of those rare pieces that listeners hold incredibly closely, almost protectively.
Three Pianos tests that protective feeling for those who hold Winterreise most closely. There's no doubt that Duffy, Malloy, and Burkhardt feel complete liberty to do what they want with Schubert's music. There's a channeling of the spirit of Schubert's work through the voices of today's experiences and realities. At times it's hilarious, and at times it's heartbreaking.
But my overall experience was that, even in light of the copious wine that was served throughout the performance, the reverence for the songs among the performers is palpaple. In fact, there are moments when it's clear that the trio felt that the most powerful experience was to simply get out of the way and let Schubert's work shine through.
That respect for Winterreise came through when I met with Alec Duffy after seeing a performance. You can hear part of that conversation and see photos from the play below.
Three Pianos runs through January 8 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge.
By Jared Bowen | Wednesday, September 14, 2011
September 14, 2011
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Earlier this week we featured the first of two stories on the American Repertory Theater's bold new adaptation of the Gershwin classic Porgy and Bess. For all the excitement surrounding the production starring Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier, there's also been a fair amount of controversy. Namely when, if ever, is it appropriate to revise a classic? Looking back on it though, the show has always been dogged by controversy.
The tortured romance between Porgy and Bess rises out of a tempest: The murder Bess's lover Crown commits. The trauma sends her drunk and drug-addled soul into the eventual arms of the crippled beggar Porgy.
It's part of life in Catfish Row, a fictionalized enclave of Charleston, South Carolina where drugs and violence are pervasive.
Actor David Alan Grier plays Sportin Life in this Broadway-bound American Repertory Theater production. He's the bad seed: A pimp and drug dealer feeding Bess's drug addiction and slithering his way through town. Dangerously, he's charming too, as when he's presiding over the regular craps game.
"Like any neighborhood, any community you know that's the spooky house, that's the bad guy. That family drinks. That family goes to church. People know. You know you have that common knowledge of each other," Grier said.
It's a view of African American life in the 1930s from Porgy and Bess's white creators, George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward.
From the moment George Gershwin chose to adapt DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy into an opera, there has been controversy. Controversy that he'd dare to create anything but popular music. That he'd dare write music solely for African American performers at a time when much of the country was segregated. And that he'd presume to be able to tell the story of a black community. Audra McDonald plays Bess.
"When people say P&B is racist I say no, just because I really feel that he had the best intentions when he wrote it. He wanted to get in and be inside of a community, this African American community; and show their wants, their desires, their hopes, their dreams, their fears as opposed to just the mammy coming in here," McDonald said.
When it debuted at Boston's Colonial Theatre in September 1935 and premiered on Broadway shortly after, Porgy and Bess was punctuated with pointed stereotypes and grossly derogatory terms. Adapting the opera today for the A.R.T. musical is Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.
"I'm not a politically correct writer. I didn't approach it like, 'it's a racist show so I have to make it politically correct.' Not at all! It's a show with some dramatic holes, some missteps dramatically. I have to make it right. I have to flesh out the characters. All those things. I didn't go through it to sanitize the language at all," Parks said.
For decades the racist overtones in Porgy and Bess have given actors starring in the show pause.
"From the very beginning we were setting out to make sure that this is about these people. And their struggles and their story and really focusing on the dramatic story as opposed to look at all those black people up there," said McDonald. "Boy they sing well and oh they get passionate and you know and then they kill and they drink the whiskey and smoke the whatever — so I don't feel like I've had to stress about that in any way."
There is a scene where Sportin' Life is publicly shamed by Catfish Row matriarch Mariah, which troubled Parks when she reviewed the original opera.
"It's a what I call a Mammy moment, which is effective if the characters adhere to certain stereotypes. The Mammy, a large woman with the hand on the hip doing that Aunt Jemima type kind of thing," Parks said. "And then the cowering well-dressed dandy. 'Oooh, I'm scared.' I don't know any street character like Sportin' Life who would take this kind of crap from anybody. And in real life, in reality, if someone were to talk to him like that they'd be dead the next day."
"So we're fleshing out all the characters and so instead of a Mammy moment, I made a Mamma moment or a mommy moment in which I said, 'well, how could this moment work in the real world? What would Mariah have on Sportin Life that would really make him scared?' I thought, oh she knows his mother. And any tough guy we know, all tough guys, if you start saying hey I know your mother and I'm going to tell on you. Then they're like, 'oh come on don't be telling my mama what I'm up to,'" Parks said.
Then there's the controversy over changing a classic. The A.R.T. says it was the Gershwin Estate that invited changes to the show when it handpicked the theater's Artistic Director Diane Paulus to create a musical from the original opera.
"To make Porgy and Bess into more of a musical, it's about breathing, stopping, letting silence play a role. And also letting there be dialogue. Sometimes I need to add words, sometimes whole new scenes, sometimes take a new scene and turn it inside out, and make it new. Recycle it. Very green," Paulus said.
But it's these types of changes that have riled purists of the original opera who find it abhorrent that the A.R.T. would tinker with a sacred cow. Stephen Sondheim delivered the most thunderous criticism in August when, without having seen the show he wrote The New York Times "…there is a difference between reinterpretation and wholesale rewriting…Advertise it honestly as "Diane Paulus's Porgy and Bess. And the hell with the real one." [Read Sondheim's piece in The New York Times].
"The purists have the right if that's how they want to spend their energy. It's such a great opera and if they want to see it in its purist state, if they want to see Shakespeare done in the Globe, with bear-baiting and people who haven't bathed recently and all men on stage, I'm sure there are places that will provide that opportunity for them. Great! No sweat!" Susan-Lori Parks said.
"I've never done Shakespeare in 30 years where they didn't cut, snip, change this, get rid of that, Hamlet's speech is too long. Let's do this. That's just Ibsen, Chekov, everybody. That's what is done. Opera too," said actor David Alan Grier.
In its 76-year-history, Porgy and Bess has evolved from DuBose Heyward's novel, to a play, to the opera, to film, to the musical. After the Boston opening night, back in 1935, Gershwin immediately cut 45 minutes from the show. And two years later, after George's untimely death, Ira Gershwin also began changing the opera.
"Maybe Gershwin wasn't done with this piece when he died. Maybe like all great composers, Mozart had three endings to Don Giovanni up his sleeve and there were things that were still in motion," said Paulus. "Not to say that the work we have by Gershwin isn't a masterpiece. It is. But then there was potential in there that was being wrestled with."
"People have been trying to put it in a box for all these years, I don't mean put it away, but shove it into you know: It's an opera, it's a musical, it's — I think, it just continues to defy. It's this sort of big large squid that just plopping out (gesturing madly) that's like NO! I'm all of these things," said actor Audra McDonald.
Most notably, an American story that continues to resonate…and provoke.
By Bridgit Brown | Friday, July 29, 2011