Power Play. The New Yorker, Aug. 21, 2017.
The first is a visit by the National Opera Company, during its troubled nationwide tour, with an array of operas that included Lohengrin; the second is Walter Damrosch, the New York Symphony, a distinguished retinue of singers, including Johanna Gadski and Max Alvary, in performances of Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Die Walküre. Click to enlarge.
The indomitable Flux Quartet, who gave the first complete performance of Morton Feldman’s gigantic Second Quartet in 1999, repeat the feat at Espace Louis Vuitton in Tokyo on Aug. 8…. ICE will give the American première of Liza Lim’s How Forests Think at Mostly Mozart on Aug. 14. Pauline Oliveros’s Earth Ears and Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Aequilibria are also on the program…. A hitherto unreleased Julius Eastman work, Joy Boy, is available from Frozen Reeds. More Eastman online: a ferocious Crazy Nigger from Monday Evening Concerts last January … Anne Midgette, in The Washington Post, made a good stab at creating a list of leading female composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The list has inevitably proved controversial — Chaya Czernowin, Liza Lim, Rebecca Saunders, Isabel Mundry, and Éliane Radigue are a few of the significant names omitted — but the difficulty of the exercise only shows how stupid it is that female composers still struggle for exposure in many places…. I’ve been sampling the BBC Proms on Radio 3, whose audio stream is greatly improved in quality. An Esa-Pekka Salonen / Philharmonia Prom with Adams’s Naive and Sentimental Music and Marianne Crebassa singing Ravel’s Shéhérazade is totally superb…. The Rest/Noise ensemble, whose name I was pleased to inspire, is touring Michael Gordon’s Timber this fall.
Photos courtesy of longtime Noise friend Ara Guzelimian.
On a visit to Salzburg, I had time for one composer-grave day trip: Bruckner in St. Florian or Webern in Mittersill. I polled the collective sagacity of Twitter, which voted decisively for Bruckner. Indeed, St. Florian is a most remarkable place: not only the famous crypt, where the late symphonist lies beneath his beloved organ and opposite a wall of skulls, but also the basilica itself, the Albrecht Altdorfer Passion altar, and the astonishingly atmospheric monastery library. Alas, the Hörerlebnis Brucknerorgel (Bruckner organ listening experience) that ordinarily occurs on Tuesdays was postponed. I offer my apologies to Dr. Webern and pledge to visit him another time.
Previously: Georg Trakl, Thomas Mann, Nietzsche, Monteverdi, Koussevitzky, Michael Furey, Luranah Aldridge, Ligeti, Frescobaldi, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Baudelaire and Beckett, Nadia and Lili Boulanger, Stravinsky and Nono, Zemlinsky, Schnittke, Fibich, Xavier Scharwenka, Elliott Carter, Enescu, Rachmaninov, Mahler and many others, Russ.
Innsbruck. The great Austrian poet is on the lower right.
Meyrianne Héglon as Omphale in Xavier Leroux’s Astarté.
For the New Yorker website I’ve written a Cultural Comment on the recent wave of gay-themed operas, with particular attention to productions of Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar at the L.A. Philharmonic and Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America at New York City Opera. At the close I also praise Gregory Spears’s Fellow Travelers, which had its première at the Cincinnati Opera last year. It will appear at the Prototpye Festival in New York in January and at the Chicago Lyric Opera in March.
I mention the predominance of gay-male stories and the relative neglect of lesbian subjects. I’d like to single out a few projects in the latter category. One is Carla Lucero’s 2001 opera Wuornos, about the serial killer Aileen Wuornos, which had its première at the Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco in 2001. This project had difficulty attracting funding, as a San Francisco Chronicle article recounted. Among LGBT donors there were concerns about whether the story provided a “good role model” — a tricky question to raise in the field of opera. Of course, gay activists had long been campaigning against vicious portrayals of gay killers in movies and on television. (Back in 1991, shortly after I came out of the closet, I participated in a Queer Nation San Francisco protest against Basic Instinct.) The opera audience is, however, probably sophisticated enough to see negative or ambiguous depictions of gay people without generalizing from them. Kristin Norderval, who portrayed Wuornos in that 2001 production, has long given voice to her queer identity as singer and composer. The central character of her 2016 opera The Trials of Patricia Isasa, about the Argentinian architect and activist who survived torture in the junta’s detention camps, sings of a youthful lesbian affair. (The work can be seen on YouTube.) I should also note that Eve Beglarian and Phil Kline are working on Descent, a musical inspired by the ersatz Sapphic poetry of Pierre Louÿs.
The Earle Brown Foundation is bringing its Time Spans Festival to New York Aug. 1-5. It’s a fantastic lineup both of ensembles — Talea, Bozzini Quartet, JACK Quartet — and of repertory: recent works of Chaya Czernowin, Steven Takasugi, Jürg Frey, John Luther Adams, Georg Friedrich Haas, and several composers I don’t know but intend to explore. The one unmissable event, I feel, will be the Bozzini’s renditions of quartets by Frey…. Starting tomorrow in San Francisco, a major festival of works by the happily inescapable JLA, at SF Jazz. In August, Adams will also oversee the inauguration of The Wind Garden, an installation at the Stuart Collection in San Diego…. On Aug 4, the adventurous pianist Adam Tendler, who toured all fifty states for his 88×50 project, will perform a Cage program at the Rubin Museum in NYC: the prepared-piano pieces 31’57.9864″ and 34’46.776” will be heard alongside Cage’s recording of 45’ for a speaker…. The program for the 2018 Prototype Festival has been announced. Of particular interest: the New York première of Gregory Spears’s gorgeous, haunting Fellow Travelers, which was a finalist for the Music Critics Association of North America’s freshly inaugurated Best New Opera award. Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves was the winner; David Lang’s anatomy theater was the other finalist…. David Allen profiles the brilliant Yuval Sharon, mastermind of Hopscotch, in the New York Times. Sharon’s eagerly anticipated beachside production of Brecht’s Galileo has been postponed until next spring, but his theatricalization of Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds, with music by Annie Gosfield, comes to the LA Phil in the fall, and next summer he will become, amazingly, the first American ever to direct at the Bayreuth Festival, in a new production of Lohengrin…. For NewMusicBox, Donna Arnold has written a remarkable account of the remarkable life of Dika Newlin, teenaged Schoenberg pupil turned punk-rock grande dame.
Tank Music. The New Yorker, July 24, 2017.