Mar 12, 2014 Updated: 3:56 AM
By Brian McCreath | Thursday, October 20, 2011
Opera Boston's first production of the season is Béatrice et Bénédict, an opera by Hector Berlioz based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Another step in forging its reputation as a presenter of rarely performed works, Opera Boston turned to director David Kneuss for this production, and he chose to set the opera in an idealized Italy of the 1950's.
To learn more about the production, I met with David Kneuss and tenor Sean Panikkar at the Majestic Theatre in Boston. Below, you'll find the interview, a slideshow of images from the production, and a preview video. Also, visit ArtSceNE for Five Questions For Sean Panikkar.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
In early September, the University’s radio station, WJMF 88.7FM, began re-transmitting the signal from WGBH’s Classical New England, returning round-the-clock classical broadcasts to the Providence area.
“We are delighted that we can celebrate this collaboration in bringing classical music back to Rhode Island,” said Benjamin K. Roe, Managing Director of WGBH’s Classical New England. “Having the ability to broadcast live from Bryant University and celebrate this technology and education initiative is a proud moment for us and our listeners.”
Bryant’s student-run radio station now runs on several new technology platforms, including WJMF HD-2, smartphone applications, and uses one of WGBH’s mobile DTV channels. Bryant’s WJMF is the first student-run station in the region to be available on the groundbreaking new mobile service. Additionally, Bryant students now have the opportunity to learn from the best digital and broadcast technology experts in the business working alongside WGBH technicians.
“Our students could not be more excited over this technological overhaul of the station,” said Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley. “This collaboration not only brings WGBH’s Classical New England to Rhode Island, but affirms Bryant University as a media technology leader in the region.”
“This ground-breaking collaboration gives us the unique opportunity to become pioneers in digital broadcasting by enabling a multiplatform approach,” said WJMF General Manager Ricky McLaughlin '12 of Hudson, N.H. “Although it moves WJMF’s traditional open-format student programming off of the analog FM dial, this phenomenal opportunity allows us to reach an increasingly national audience, especially as the technology continues to develop.”
On October 6, Classical New England will broadcast two live programs from the WJMF studios with classical hosts Laura Carlo (6-10am), and Cathy Fuller (2-6pm). At noon, WGBH and Bryant University leaders will gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on campus, followed by an evening reception in Providence marking the historic collaboration.
By Brian McCreath | Tuesday, September 20, 2011
2011 has proven to be a good year for cellists with Boston connections, with a Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medal for Narek Hakhnazaryan. The trend continued today when the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that Alisa Weilerstein is one of 22 people chosen to receive so-called "genius grants." The awards of $500,000, paid over five years, are given on the basis of "creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future,” according to a New York Times interview with Robert Gallucci, the president of the MacArthur Foundation.
Weilerstein, whose parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, are on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, has rocketed to the front rank of concert soloists in the last few years, appearing with many major orchestras, including last month's appearance at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
She visited our Fraser Performance Studio in 2008, and you can hear that performance in the Live From Fraser archive, and there is more on the story at NPR Music.
In 2010, she was invited to perform Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. Significantly, the conductor was Daniel Barenboim, whose late wife, Jacqueline DuPré, was closely identified with that piece. Here is an interview from that week:
By James David Jacobs | Sunday, September 11, 2011
I was ten years old when I first experienced Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. I was living in Berkeley, California, and my older brother was playing bassoon in the Berkeley High School orchestra, where the work was performed in the spring of 1972, just blocks from where Vietnam war protesters were being tear gassed and clubbed by the police. The performance was remarkable; above the stage there were supertitles and slides of war images, paintings by Otto Dix, Picasso's Guernica, and the like. The soloists were hired professionals, but the soprano didn't show up for the dress rehearsal, so the 17-year-old Lorraine Hunt was told to put down her viola and sing the solo, which she did flawlessly and much more powerfully than the singer who sang the public performances.
The work was just ten years old at that time. The War Requiem was written for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral (left), and was first performed there May 30, 1962. The millennium-old Coventry Cathedral had been destroyed during World War II and Britten was commissioned to write a piece for the ceremony marking the completion of its reconstruction. For the text, Britten interspersed the Latin Mass for the Dead with nine poems written by Wilfred Owen, a World War I footsoldier who was killed a week before the Armistice at the age of 25. Owen left behind a powerful body of work consisting of some of the most powerful war poetry ever written:
"I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense conciliatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful." - Wilfred Owen
Like Bach's St. Matthew Passion, the work is structured as a dialogue between discrete groups. The large orchestra, chorus and soprano soloist perform the settings of the Latin text, while the Owen poems are the provenance of the tenor and bass soloists and a 12-piece chamber orchestra. There is also a children's choir, always accompanied by organ, that can be heard in the distance periodically throughout the work.
Complete Text for Britten's War Requiem
After the Britten, we will hear On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams, written for the New York Philharmonic on the occasion of the first anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. It is scored for orchestra, adult and children's choruses, and pre-recorded tape, and won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Music. About the work, the composer states: “Transmigration means ‘the movement from one place to another’ or ‘the transition from one state of being to another.’ But in this case I meant it to imply the movement of the soul from one state to another. And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience...I want to avoid words like 'requiem' or 'memorial' when describing this piece because they too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn't share. If pressed, I'd probably call the piece a 'memory space.' It's a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions. The link to a particular historical event - in this case to 9/11 - is there if you want to contemplate it. But I hope that the piece will summon human experience that goes beyond this particular event."
By James David Jacobs | Thursday, September 8, 2011
On Friday, September 14, 2001, I was one of around two thousand people who gathered in New York City’s Union Square to hold a vigil for the victims of the preceding Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. Many of the people were standing in a semi-circle on the low steps facing 14th Street, looking as if they could be members of a choir.
They were all singing different songs, however, and it seemed as if about half of them were holding candles singing "Give Peace a Chance" while the other half were waving flags and singing "God Bless America". Seeing and hearing these people all passionately holding their respective melodies as they tried to out-sing each other, I had a startling revelation: So THIS is what Charles Ives was getting at.
|Public responses to 9/11 at Union Square, New York, Sept. 22, 2001 (source: AP)|
As a child, Ives’s father, a marching band director, would amuse young Charles by dividing his band in two and having them enter the field from opposite directions, playing two different tunes in two different keys. Ives later incorporated this kind of juxtaposition into his compositions, frequently for the purpose of illustrating a scene from a New England village during a holiday. In one work, however, he uses the technique to illustrate a scene that eerily foreshadows the atmosphere in New York ten years ago.
On Friday, May 7, 1915, at 9:30 AM EST, German U-boats torpedoed the ocean liner Lusitania, killing some 1,200 people and pulling the United States into World War I. Thanks to radio and wire services, most Americans knew about the tragedy by the time of their evening commute home from work. Charles Ives was one of them. His insurance firm, Ives & Myrick, had its offices at 38 Nassau Street (just a few blocks from what would become the World Trade Center site).
The full title of third movement of Ives’s Second Orchestral Set is "From Hanover Square North, at the End of a Tragic Day, the Voice of the People Again Arose." Ives considered this one of his best works, and wrote the following about it:
We were living in an apartment at 27 West 11th Street. The morning paper on the breakfast table gave the news of the sinking of the Lusitania. I remember, going downtown to business, the people on the streets and on the elevated train had something in their faces that was not the usual something. Everybody who came into the office, whether they spoke about the disaster or not, showed a realization of seriously experiencing something. (That it meant war is what the faces said, if the tongues didn't.) Leaving the office and going uptown about 6 o'clock, I took the Third Avenue "L" at the Hanover Square Station [Stone and Pearl Streets, just south of Wall Street]. As I came on the platform, there was quite a crowd waiting for the trains, which had been blocked lower down, and while waiting there, a hand-organ, or hurdy gurdy was playing on a street below. Some workmen sitting on the side of the tracks began to whistle the tune, and others began to sing or hum the refrain. A workman with a shovel over his shoulder came on the platform and joined in the chorus, and the next man, a Wall Street banker with white spats and a cane, joined in it, and finally it seemed to me that everybody was singing this tune, and they didn't seem to be singing for fun, but as a natural outlet for what their feelings had been going through all day long. There was a feeling of dignity all through this. The hand-organ man seemed to sense this and wheeled the organ nearer the platform and kept it up fortissimo (and the chorus sounded out as though every man in New York must be joining in it). Then the first train came and everybody crowded in, and the song eventually died out, but the effect on the crowd still showed. Almost nobody talked-the people acted as though they might be coming out of a church service. In going uptown, occasionally little groups of would start singing or humming the tune.
Now what was the tune? It wasn't a Broadway hit, it wasn't a musical comedy air, it wasn't a waltz tune or a dance tune or an opera tune or a classical tune, or a tune that all of them probably knew. It was(only)the refrain of an old Gospel Hymn that had stirred many people of past generations. It was nothing but -'In the Sweet Bye and Bye.' It wasn't a tune written to be sold, or written by a professor of music - but by a man who was but giving out an experience.
This third movement is based on this, fundamentally, and comes from that ‘L’ station. It has secondary themes and rhythms, but widely related, and its general makeup would reflect the sense of many people living, working, and occasionally going through the same deep experience, together.
It's a piece of music that speaks to the human spirit as we remember the tragic events of ten years ago.