Saturday, June 24, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Harry Partch (1901-1974)
Pierre Fournier (1906-1986)
Milton Katims (1909-2006)
Denis Dowling (1910-1984)
Terry Riley (1935)


Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
John Ciardi (1916-1986)
Anita Desai (1937)
Stephen Dunn (1939)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993)
George Russell (1923-2009)
Adam Faith (1940-2003)
James Levine (1943)
Nigel Osborne (1948)
Nicholas Cleobury (1950)
Sylvia McNair (1956)


Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)
Michael Shaara (1928-1988)
David Leavitt (1961)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Manfredini (1684-1762)
Étienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817)
Frank Heino Damrosch (1859-1937)
Jennie Tourel (1900-1973)
Walter Leigh (1905-1942)
Sir Peter Pears (1910-1986)
Hans-Hubert Schönzeler (1925-1997)
Pierre Thibaud (1929-2004)
Libor Pešek (1933)
Pierre Amoyal (1949)
Christopher Norton (1953)


Harriett Mulford Stone Lothrop (1844-1924)
Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970)
Billy Wilder (1906-2002)
Joseph Papp (1921-1991)
Meryl Streep (1949)
Elizabeth Warren (1949)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pacifica Quartet shines more with Schumann than with Brahms in new recording

Guest Review by Peter Schütte

The Pacifica Quartet's newest recording on the Cedille label features the Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor (Op. 34) with Menahem Pressler and the Schumann String Quartet in A Minor (Op. 41, No. 1). The Pacifica Quartet is a great group, and they benefit by collaborating with Pressler, a man who thrives at his high age and is fully alive and full of music and grand experience.

Not very long ago I heard the Pacifica Quartet perform the same music as is on this CD with Pressler at the piano as well and had a very different experience - sitting in the audience during that live performance versus hearing the studio recording by the same superb musicians. It made me realize again that a live concert generated a warmth and thrill that did not reach me through this studio recording no matter how well it was played. Not fair, but I could not help experiencing that I missed that the thrill and tension and joy I felt in the live concert so much more.

But in listening to the recording of the Brahms Piano Quintet - right away with the first great statement the music exploded and then when Pressler joined in - I indeed did for a moment felt that rare tingle in my back. That's a good sign and I set down my cup of tea to listen what would follow. What followed was the Quintet but Brahms seemed not to be there. It is all excellent but.... would I think about this differently had I not been present at that live concert a few weeks ago? I decided to do something else for a while and then try again. But when I came back hours later I must admit that this is not the performance that took a hold of me. I have heard better I am sorry to say. One thought about is that this studio performance is perhaps lacking inspiration, drama? After all, a bare studio full with microphones can be not very inspiring!

Finally when coming into the fourth movement I felt much better with the excellent playing and the ensemble's building towards the ending of a very Brahmsian world of inner music-making. Still, the recording of this piece left me a cool bystander rather than a person listening, almost participating with passion and promise for more.

But when moving on to the Schumann Quartet, I heard the Pacifica players following Schumann in some of his swinging mood differences in a warmly and inspired performance. Frankly I was happily impressed by this performance. Not only did I feel a greater affection and musical joy in the playing, the beautiful dynamics, and general the by now well known excellence of these musicians was a welcome change. What also seems different is the acoustics. The sound is warmer, deeper and more alive. Suddenly I see each player perform like in the concert hall again and I am feeling surrounded by their music making where in the Brahms I did not have that feeling of anticipation and deep listening. A lovely Adagio third movement and an wildly and dancing presto bringing this great piece to an end. Schumann in his sharply contrasting moods but oh so full of inspiration and passion! And a finely balanced and full sounding recording probably in another venue and better acoustics as in the first Brahms piece.

I would take this Schumann alone for the fine performance and will listen again and again with pleasure. I do miss the warm applause after such inspired music-making and wished this would come more often with such a concert on a CD!

Peter Schütte is a career photographer and artist with a longstanding love of great music.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795)
Henry Holden Huss (1862-1953)
Hilding Rosenberg (1892-1985)
Harry Newstone (1921-2006)
Lalo Schifrin (1932)
Diego Masson (1935)
Philippe Hersant (1948)
Judith Bingham (1952)
Jennifer Larmore (1958)


Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1972)
Donald Peattie (1898-1964)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989)
Ian McEwan (1948)

and from the Composers Datebook

On this day in 1890. Richard Strauss's tone-poem "Death and Transfiguration" and "Burleske" for Piano and Orchestra were given their premieres in Eisenach, at a convention of the General German Music Association, with the composer conducting and Eugen d'Albert as the piano soloist in the "Burleske".

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Concert rediscovers the music of Lou Harrison

Judging from the assortment of gongs, gourds, flowerpots, coffee cans, a huge spring, bells, brake drums, marimbas, drum sets, cymbals, xylophones, wood blocks, metalophones, cymbals, and other instruments that arranged on the stage in Lincoln Recital Hall, the audience at CeLOUbration concert on Friday evening (June 16) knew that they were going to hear something unique. The program consisted of works by composer Lou Harrison, who was born in Portland a hundred years ago and new pieces inspired by Harrison. The intrepid listeners heard intoxicating sonic combinations that easily showed how much Harrison’s influence reverberates today.

The concert was the first of two that were held on the campus of Portland State University in celebration of Harrison, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 85. It was also the first chance for the general public to purchase a spanking new copy of “Lou Harrison, American Musical Maverick” (Indiana University Press) and get the autographs of co-authors Bill Alves and Brett Campbell. While Alves is on the music faculty at Harvey Mudd College, Campbell teaches journalism at PSU and was instrumental in putting together the two-day CeLOUbration. Their book, which I have just begun reading, is well-written and researched, making it an essential item for any Harrison fan.

The concert was the first of two that were held on the campus of Portland State University in celebration of Harrison, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 85. It was also the first chance for the general public to purchase a spanking new copy of “Lou Harrison, American Musical Maverick” (Indiana University Press) and get the autographs of co-authors Bill Alves and Brett Campbell. While Alves is on the music faculty at Harvey Mudd College, Campbell teaches journalism at PSU and was instrumental in putting together the two-day CeLOUbration. Their book, which I have just begun reading, is well-written and researched, making it an essential item for any Harrison fan.

Cellist Diane Chaplin and harpist Kate Petak delivered a lovely performance of Harrison’s “Suite for Cello and Harp.” Melodic threads wove back and forth between the two instruments, ending with a sequence that was totally soothing. The Portland Percussion Group played Harrison’s “Song of Quetzalcoatl” incisively, starting with a big kaboom before tiptoeing through intricate passages that transitioned into some very lively material and finishing in a more delicate space. Flutist Sydney Carlson and percussionist Florian Conzetti gave a fine interpretation of “First Concerto for Flute and Percussion,” which Harrison wrote when he was 22 years old. It had a slightly exotic feel that hinted at Harrison’s the direction he would travel.

One of the most interesting pieces of the evening was the “Double Music,” which Harrison wrote with John Cage. The Portland Percussion Group handled an oddball assortment of instruments that included a cymbal that was halfway immersed in a tub of water, a big sheet of metal (perhaps tin). When raised from the water and struck, the cymbal created a low shimmery sound. The metal sheet emitted a soft tremolo. The last couple of notes of the piece didn’t line up together, but perhaps it was meant to be that way.

The concert featured Susan Alexjander’s “Three Little Multiverses (For Lou),” which was inspired by and incorporated poetry that Harrison had written. The text, wonderfully sung by mezzo-soprano Hannah Penn, was accompanied by cor anglais (Catherine Lee), cello (Chaplin), and harp (Petak). The word painting in the music was fairly direct and the sentiment of the piece was hopeful. A quartet of percussionists gave Lisa Marsh’s “Changing Winds” a thrilling ride as the music changed from motoric to more heavily rhythmic.

Paul Safar’s “Refugium” included visual slides that were projected on a screen behind the performers: flutist Carlson, violist Sharon Eng, and percussionist Brian Gardiner, who deftly moved between several different instruments and lightly vocalized, too boot. The piece was an ode to nature that abruptly stopped after a sequence of rising notes. The Portland Percussion Group had fun with Greg Steinke’s “Diversions and Interactions” whose members got to shout “Hey Ha Ja” periodically. The rapid play of spoons on the knee was a real treat amidst a variety of interesting sound effects that the ensemble created with precision.

Overall, the festive sounds of the concert was a joy to hear and may generate more Harrison-inspired events. In the meantime, readers will enjoy the new Harrison biography that Alves and Campbell wrote.

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792)
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)
Wilfred Pelletier (1896-1982)
Chet Atkins (1924-2001)
Ingrid Haebler (1926)
Eric Dolphy (1928-1964)
Arne Nordheim (1931-2010)
Mickie Most (1938-2003)
Brian Wilson (1942)
Anne Murray (1945)
André Watts (1946)
Lionel Richie (1949)


Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)
Josephine Winslow Johnson (1910-1990)
Vikram Seth (1952)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

François Rebel (1701-1775)
Johann Wenzel Stamitz (1717-1757)
Carl Zeller (1842-1898)
Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893)
Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915)
Guy Lombardo (1902-1977)
Edwin Gerschefski (1909-1988)
Anneliese Rothenberger (1926-2010)
Elmar Oliveira (1950)
Philippe Manoury 1952)


Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pauline Kael (1919-2001)
Tobias Wolff (1945)
Salman Rushdie (1947)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pirates, maidens, cops, and the Major General cavort in Mock's Crest production of "Pirates of Penzance"

Guest review by Phillip Ayers

This summer’s Gilbert and Sullivan offering by the Mock’s Crest organization is "Pirates of Penzance" and the performance on Friday evening (June 16) at the Mago Hunt Theater was great fun. Somehow, G & S never fails to please and some would go so far as to say that an “acquired taste” really isn’t necessary to enjoy these operettas. Others would call the G & S “canon” operas but that might be cause for discussion or dispute. I won’t quibble in this review, simply because I thoroughly enjoyed it, having played “Samuel” in a performance in a local civic theater in Michigan in 1998. I fell in love with this work, having known only "Trial by Jury" and "HMS Pinafore" intimately enough to make a sound judgement.

Readers might be interested, as was I, about how the pirate-theme came to be so attractive to Gilbert and Sullivan. What I surmised is that plays and books about pirates were popular in the 19th century and that no doubt attracted them. There’s something splashy, swashbuckling, romantic, intriguing, and just plain enjoyable about piracy and its depiction. George Bernard Shaw believed, as a "Wikipedia" article states, that Gilbert drew on ideas in "Les Brigands" for his libretto, including the businesslike bandits and the bumbling police. But I was more interested to find in that same article that the work’s title is a “… multi-layered joke." On the one hand, Penzance was a docile seaside resort in 1879, and not the place where one would expect to encounter pirates. On the other hand, the title was also a jab at the theatrical ‘pirates’ who had staged unlicensed productions of "HMS Pinafore" in America.” Most of us are aware that satire played a huge role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, and it takes only a minimal amount of digging to find where the satire is aimed. It is worth mentioning that "Pirates" premiered, not in England, but in the USA, mainly to avoid any pirating of the music and libretto.

The story is simple and easy to follow. Frederick, a young pirate, is about to be out of his indentures as an apprentice, having reached his 21st birthday. Ruth, the “maid of all work,” reveals that she mistakenly apprenticed Fredrick to the group of pirates because she is hard of hearing. The music that surrounds this little bon mot is a play on “pilot,” (which Ruth thought she was getting her charge into) and “pirate.” Because he has never seen another woman, Frederick thinks Ruth is beautiful. The pirates know otherwise and suggest he take her with him. He also informs them that once released from servitude, because of his strong sense of duty, he will devote himself to their extermination. He also points out that the pirates are not very successful because of their softness for orphans. The word has got out and many ships they attack claim to be completely crewed by orphans.

The pirates, leave and Frederick spies a group of beautiful young girls approaching and realizes that Ruth has lied to him and sends her away. After initially hiding, Frederick reveals himself, to their shock and surprise. The eldest of these girls, who are sisters, Mabel, appears and chides the others for their lack of charity and offers Frederick pity. They instantly fall in love. Frederick warns them about the pirates being nearby, but before they can flee the pirates appear and capture all the girls, intending to marry them. Mabel warns the pirates that their father is Major General Stanley, who then arrives and introduces himself. He appeals to the pirates not to take his daughters who are his only comfort in his old age and then pretends to be an orphan. The softhearted pirates release the girls and make the Major General an honorary pirate.

Before giving the synopsis for Act 2, some comments on the production thus far might be in order. The playful nature of the characters is evident right at the outset with the pirates pouring sherry, funny asides, and one of the pirates heaving a barrel around the stage, generating much laughter from all corners of the hall. When the maidens appear, one in particular, played by Jack Wells, is swatting insects and desiring to get near to Frederick. Ruth, played by Rachelle Riehl, has terrific facial expressions and engaged the audience in her appearances. Her voice, a nice contralto, did have some passagio problems in higher registers. The ensemble is good, especially in relating to the audience. One could tell that there were really only one or two on stage who weren’t truly “present,” perhaps because they got lost in the patter-songs. The set is unremarkable, but adequate, so this allowed the drama and the music to hold forth without distraction. The University of Portland does these productions with professionals, semi-professionals, and university students.

The orchestra, behind a scrim which unfortunately didn’t allow them to acknowledge the applause at the end of their hard work, was very good, although the winds and brass overpowered at times the strings in the overture . There were some glitches, such as Frederick’s sash coming partially undone. And Joshua Randall’s (Frederick) eyes could be a play in themselves. It has been said that Mabel should always be played by a coloratura, and Cassi Q Kohl fulfilled that well in the quasi-Verdian passages. Kevin-Michael Moore, as the Major General, affected Robin Williams somewhat in his portrayal, with a nasal sound and wonderful little asides to the audience. Samuel Hawkins as Samuel affected an Irish accent and did it well. Swordsmanship by Bobby Winstead (The Pirate King) and others was well-executed and right in context.

In Gilbert and Sullivan, second acts often begin more “softly and quietly” than the first, and "Pirates" is no exception. This could produce somnolence in an audience, but here there was enough to keep everyone attentive. The act starts with the Major General, in a nightshirt, sitting in the ruined chapel on his estate. He is tortured by his conscience because of the lie he told about being an orphan. (And, in the first act, the play on “orphan” and “often” is hilariously done). The sergeant of the police and his corps appears and announce their readiness to arrest the pirates. The girls all express their admiration for the policemen. The choreography and comedic acumen of the actor/singers who play the policemen is superb and funny.

Frederick, left alone, encounters the Pirate King and Ruth who inform him of a paradox (another occasion for a musical word-play).They realize his apprenticeship was worded as to bind him until his 21st birthday and since he was born on February 29 he will not actually achieve that birthday until he is in his eighties. Because of his sense of duty, he tells the Pirate King about the General’s deception. Revenge will be swift and terrible. Frederick lets Mabel know of his change of fortune and she agrees to wait for him. She then steels herself to lead the police against the approaching pirate band. The police hide as the pirates appear. Major General Stanley appears, which causes the pirates to hide. The police hide as the pirates appear and when the Major General appears the pirates hide. The girls appear and the battle begins. The pirates easily subdue the police and the Pirate King urges the Major General to prepare for death. However, the Sergeant has a plan. He demands the pirates yield in Queen Victoria’s name. Here, as well as “Hail Poetry in the first act,” the chorus/ensemble shines and this is likened to a Mozart symphony in its sonority. Ruth appears and reveals that the pirates are all noblemen gone wrong. The Major General, waving the flag (always left to almost fall, but grabbed by someone), yields and love wins the day.

One skillfully written portion of the second act can easily be bungled, but these players did it flawlessly – and that is “With cat-like tread,” when the pirates and Samuel are going to burglarize the General. The police are hiding as the pirates enter, but not with cat-like tread: they’re very noisy! “Let’s vary piracee / With a little burglaree!” they sing. “Burglarious” tools are passed out among the pirates, including a “skeletonic key.”

The romantic leads are excellent in both their acting and singing. I noticed a few young boys two rows ahead of where I was seated, who at times were throwing their arms up in the air, either for exercise or in boredom in the love-scenes. Still, I was glad these kids were there and there was plenty of action for them to enjoy. They probably didn’t “get” the nuances, which are many in G & S: as in the Major General’s opening patter-song with the play on “hypotenuse,” and in the “Doctor of Divinity” portion which is really a choral patter-song and not easy to bring off.

The production runs five more times, so get a ticket and go see it before it ends on June 25th. You’ll be richly rewarded!

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Maria Bononcini (1677-1726)
Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831)
David Popper (1843-1913)
Sir George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987)
Edward Steuermann (1892-1964)
Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003)
Eduard Tubin (1905-1982)
Paul McCartney (1942)
Hans Vonk (1942-2004)
Anthony Halstead (1945)
Diana Ambache (1948)
Eva Marton (1948)
Peter Donohoe (1953)


Geoffrey Hill (1932)
Gail Godwin (1937)
Jean McGarry (1948)
Chris Van Allsburg (1949)
Amy Bloom (1953)
Richard Powers (1957)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

John Wesley (1703-1791)
Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Hermann Reutter (1900-1985)
Einar Englund (1916-1999)
Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
Sir Edward Downes (1924)
Christian Ferras (1933-1982)
Gérard Grisey (1946-1998)
Derek Lee Ragin (1958)


M. C. Escher (1898-1972)
John Hersey (1914-1993)
Ron Padgett (1942)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Niccolò Vito Piccinni (1728-1800)
Helen Traubel (1899-1972)
Willi Boskovsky (1909-1990)
Sergiu Comissiona (1928-2005)
Lucia Dlugoszewski (1931-2000)
Jerry Hadley (1952-2007)
David Owen Norris (1953)


Geronimo (1829-1909)
Joyce Carol Oates (1938)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Ernestine Schumann‑Heink (1861-1936)
Guy Ropartz (1864-1955)
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981)
Sir Thomas Armstrong (1898-1994)
Otto Luening (1900-1996)
Geoffrey Parsons (1929-1995)
Waylon Jennings (1937-2002)
Harry Nilsson (1941-1994)
Paul Patterson (1947)
Rafael Wallfisch (1953)
Robert Cohen (1959)


Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)
Saul Steinberg (1914-1999)
Dava Sobel (1947)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Sacchini (1730-1786)
Simon Mayr (1763-1845)
Nicolai Rubinstein (1835-1881)
John McCormack (1884-1945)
Heddle Nash (1894-1961)
Rudolf Kempe (1910-1976)
Stanley Black (1913-2002)
Theodore Bloomfield (1923-1998)
Natalia Gutman (1942)
Lang Lang (1982)


Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
John Bartlett (1820-1905)
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)
Ernesto (Che) Guevara de la Serna (1928-1967)
Jonathan Raban (1942)
Mona Simpson (1971)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Inspiring “Man of La Mancha” sallies forth in Portland Opera production

Photography by Cory Weaver/Courtesy Portland Opera
Reality versus idealism smacked head to head and word to word in Portland Opera’s production of “Man of La Mancha” on opening night (June 9) at the Keller Auditorium. Truth, beauty, and moral purpose won out in the end with the music of Mitch Leigh and his iconic “The Impossible Dream” lifting the spirits of everyone in the house. Crisp directions by Alan Paul, associate artistic director of The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., fit the cast like a custom made gauntlet, and Welsh baritone Jason Howard embodied the title role with utter conviction even when a wayward mustache got in his way.

Using the original production staged by Albert Marre and produced by Albert W. Selden and Hal James, all of the action took place on a circular stony floor that represented the bowels of a prison in 16th Century Spain. High above it, on the back wall was a huge, ominous gang-plank that became an impressive set of stairs from which soldiers of the Inquisition descended. The lighting of Robert Wierzel enhanced the production, conveying a vivid climax with a thousand points of light against a night sky while Howard sang of striving to “reach the unreachable star.”
Photography by Cory Weaver/Courtesy Portland Opera
Howard’s robust voice embraced role of Cervantes and his alter ego, Don Quixote, with depth and charm. Reggie Lee’s energetic Sancho Panza provided a delightful counterweight to the elderly knight errant. His impeccable comic timing and enthusiasm wonderfully aided and abetted Don Quixote and even charmed the hard-boiled Aldonza, who was terrifically created by Tara Venditti. Her singing of “Aldonza” was one of the many highlights of the show.
Photography by Cory Weaver/Courtesy Portland Opera

Damian Norfleet was totally in the moment as the domineering Governor and understanding Innkeeper. One of the best scenes was the humorous “I’m Only Thinking of Him” in which Kate Farrar’s Antonia and AnDee Compton’s Housekeeper confessions to Aaron Short’s Padre became a competitive squeeze. David Warner in the role of the Barber also brought a dash of levity to the story. Ryan Thorn’s Dr. Carrasco railed at Don Quixote with passion. The swaggering muleteers added a layer of danger to the story.

Photography by Cory Weaver/Courtesy Portland Opera
The choreography by David Marquez worked very well, especially the opening scenes when the prisoners ransacked all of Cervantes belongings. The abduction-rape scene in which Aldonza was tied up and dragged to the back of the stage suggested just enough. The fight scenes, choreographed by John Armour, went well enough but could have been a little tighter.

Despite amplification, some voices didn’t project well, which may have been due to an action sequence and body-mic placement. Music director George Manahan led a tight ensemble of woodwinds, brass, percussion, guitar, and one bass violin in the orchestra pit. The small number of musicians must have allowed extra space for several performers who entered and exited the stage from the orchestra pit.

Final note: the minimal staging of the production meant that scenes involving windmills and such were simply not there, which put the emphasis on the ability of the cast to inspire it all. They did that as well as anyone can imagine.

Today's Birthdays

Anton (Antonín) Wranitzky (1761-1820)
Anton Eberl (1766-1807)
Elisabeth Schumann (1888-1952)
Carlos Chavez (1899-1978)
Alan Civil (1929-1989)
Gwynne Howell (1938)
Sarah Connolly (1963)
Alain Trudel (1966)


Frances Burney (1752-1840)
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Mary Antin (1881-1949)
Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957)
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Vanni Marcoux (1877-1962)
Werner Josten (1895-1963)
Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986)
Leon Goossens (1897-1988)
Maurice Ohana (1913-1992)
Ian Partridge (1938)
Chick Corea (1941)
Oliver Knussen (1952)


Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)
Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Djuna Barnes (1892-1982)
Anne Frank (1929-1945)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Antonio Bonporti (1672-1749)
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
George Frederick McKay (1899-1970)
Shelly Manne (1920-1984)
Carlisle Floyd (1926)
Antony Rooley (1944)
Douglas Bostock (1955)
Conrad Tao (1994)


Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
William Styron (1925-2006)
Athol Fugard (1932)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900)
Frederick Loewe (1904-1988)
Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984)
Tikhon Khrennikov (1913-2007)
Bruno Bartoletti (1925-2013)
Mark-Anthony Turnage (1960)


Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
Terence Rattigan (1911-1977)
Saul Bellow (1915-2005)
James Salter (1925-2015)
Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Otto Nicolai (1810-1849)
Alberic Magnard (1865-1914)
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Cole Porter (1891-1964)
Dame Gracie Fields (1898-1979)
Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970)
Les Paul (1915-2009)
Franco Donatoni (1927-2000)
Charles Wuorinen (1938)
Ileana Cotrubas (1939)


Baroness Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914)
George Axelrod (1922-2003)
Patricia Cornwell (1956)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1840, Franz Liszt gives a solo performance at the Hanover Square Rooms in London billed as "Recitals". This was the first time the term "recital" was used to describe a public musical performance, and it caused much discussion and debate at the time. Liszt is credited with both inventing and naming the now-common solo piano "recital".

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750)
Nicolas Dalayrac (1753-1809)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
Reginald Kell (1906-1981)
Emanuel Ax (1949)


Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
John W Campbell (1910-1970)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1912, Ravel's ballet, "Daphnis et Chloé" was premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, by Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe, Pierre Monteux conducting.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Talking with Alistair Donkin and Justin Smith about the "Yeomen of the Guard"

Alistair Donkin
Marylhurst University will be presenting Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Yeomen of the Guard" this weekend at St. Anne's Chapel on the Marylhurst campus. There will be two performances: one on Saturday, June 10th at 7:30 pm followed by another on Sunday, June 11th at 4 pm.

Justin Smith
To find out more about the production, I talked with director and actor Alistair Donkin and music director Justin Smith. Donkin is well-known in England for his directing and performances of Gilbert and Sullivan's works.

Does this production involve students only?

Smith: The orchestra is a mixture of students and hired professionals. The entire cast consists of singers from Marylhurst. The production Gilbert and Sullivan operas started when I came here five years ago and has grown significantly since then. It’s basically the spring project for our choral and vocal area.

Gilbert and Sullivan is particularly good for young , emerging voices. It’s just challenging enough and not too straining. It is even better when you have a resource like Alistair from England to bring in every year to direct it because he knows and loves the material so well and does such a wonderful job teaching our students.

How did you find out about Alistair?

Smith: Before I came to Portland, I was getting my doctorate from the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. The Houston Gilbert and Sullivan Society is one of the big three or four in the US, and I served as their chorus master for three summers. Alistair has directed them for 36 years now. He is so awesome, brilliant, and funny and he comes directly from the D’Oyly Carte Company, which is the one that Gilbert and Sullivan started to produce their own shows. It tell my students that this is the next best thing to resurrecting Gilbert from the grave!

So after I got the job at Marylhurst I invited Alistair to come direct here and do a show before he goes to Houston. We started with a production of “Pinafore” and it’s been uphill from there!

Donkin: After “Pinafore,” we did “Pirates,” and “Iolanthe.” Last year we off the rails and did “Candide.”

“Yeomen of the Guard” is different than the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas. While the other operas are two-dimensional, “Yeomen of the Guard” is a fully staged drama that happens to have music attached to it. It has elements of grand opera – for example, at the last chord of the production, my character, Jack Point, drops dead of a broken heart, and it’s still supposed to be a comedy. The music is glorious. I just love it!

I have an odd link with this opera. It was premiered on the third of October, 1888. I was born on the third of October, 1947. The plot revolves around two people trying to rescue one man but without telling the other conspirators what is going on. Things get tangled and there are a lot of twists and turns.

Because of my link with Houston, we’ve had the costumes shipped up from the Houston company. My jesters costume just arrived yesterday, and it is fitted, which was quite surprising since it was made for me in 1983. The middle-age spread has not hit yet.

Since Jack Point is a jester, can you give us one of his jokes?

Donkin: Yes, ‘the lieutenant says, "Suppose I sat me down hurriedly on something sharp, and the response is "I would say that you sat down on the spur of the moment!”

How do you find working with the students?

Donkin: I love working with the students. I never intended to be a teacher, but working with the students in the rehearsals, explaining the interpretation of dialogue, explaining the text –even what some of the words mean. Read that line a different way and see what different meanings that you can bring out. The students are like blotting paper. They soak up whatever I tell them. Then they make it their own and create a wonderful performance. The way they are working is an absolute joy.

Today's Birthdays

Leopold Auer (1845-1930)
George Szell (1897-1970)
Ilse Wolf (1921-1999)
Philippe Entremont (1934)
Neeme Järvi (1937)
Sir Tom Jones (1940)
Jaime Laredo (1941)
Prince (1958-2015)
Roberto Alagna (1963)
Olli Mustonen (1967)


Paul Gaugin (1848-1903)
Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Nikki Giovanni (1943)
Orham Pamuk (1952)
Louise Erdrich (1954)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Brotons and forces wow audience with Khachaturian's Second Symphony

The Vancouver Symphony closed out its season with a sonic wallop by giving an exciting performance of Aram Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 2 (“The Bell”). That sprawling, emotional roller-coaster of a work left an indelible impression with the audience at SkyView Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon (June 3). Its massive qualities balanced very well with Richard Strauss’s “Burleske,” which received a sparkling interpretation by pianist Sofya Melikyan. Underscoring the program was Armenia, the homeland of both the composer and the pianist, and Melikyan nicely connected it all with a scintillating encore of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.”

The Second Symphony was almost an hour-long excursion into the madness of war and its aftermath. Khachaturian wrote the piece during the Second World War, and much of the thematic material shifted between elegiac melodies and propulsive, stormy passages. The melancholic sections of the symphony were flavored with short descending lines that suggested an oriental or perhaps Armenian flair. An Armenian folk song was clearly expressed in the third movement and blended smoothly with the “Dies irae” to create a hushed, somber effect. The brass chorale in the fourth movement swelled majestically and the symphony ended with a stirring, triumphal crescendo.

Even though Brotons had not conducted this piece before, he chose to do so from memory, impressing the heck out of this reviewer because of his commanding repertoire of gestures that coaxed, urged, and inspired an outstanding performance from the orchestra, which also played the music for the first time. Perhaps because Brotons is a composer, has an inside track to the center of the music, and then he gets the music to flow through him and the musicians. Well, whatever he did on the podium was pretty incredible, especially considering that the Khachaturian symphony is rarely played in the United States.

Kudos were in order for many of the orchestra’s musicians, especially principal bassoonist Margaret McShea. The performance wasn’t flawless – there were patches when some sections of the orchestra didn’t quite play together and it was difficult to hear the bell tones at the beginning and at the end – but overall the musicians hit a home run.

In the first half of the program, the orchestra teamed up with Melikyan to clear the bases with a fine performance of Strauss’s “Burleske.” Melikyan, who learned the piece for this concert, dove into its mercurial and brilliant waters with panache. Her exchanges with the orchestra went smoothly, and she made the many quick and splashy passages look easy and natural. Her interactions with principal timpanist Florian Conzetti were spot on and a highlight of the afternoon.

The audience responded to Melikyan’s playing with a standing ovation, and she warmly reciprocated with an electrifying piano rendition of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.” Hopefully, she will be back again someday in the near future to perform with the orchestra.

The concert began with a piece that the audience selected earlier in the year, Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5.” The orchestra played it with vim and vigor and brought out the dynamic contrasts, which made it a good opener for the concert.

Today's Birthdays

Sir John Stainer (1840-1901)
Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930)
Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978)
Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)
Iain Hamilton (1922-2000)
Serge Nigg (1924-2008)
Klaus Tennstedt (1926-1998)
Louis Andriessen (1939)


Pierre Corneille (1606-1684)
Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)
Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
Maxine Kumin (1925-2014)
Robert Pirsig (1928-2017)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1931, Henry Cowell's "Synchrony" received its premiere in Paris, at the first of two concerts of modern American music with the Orchestre Straram conducted by Nicholas Slonimsky and funded anonymously by Charles Ives. On the same program, Slonimsky also conducted the Orchestre Straram in the European premieres of works by Adolph Weiss ("American Life"), Ives ("Three Places in England"), Carl Ruggles ("Men and Mountains"), and the Cuban composer Amadeo Roldan ("La Rehambatamba").

Monday, June 5, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Somervell (1863-1937)
Robert Mayer (1879-1985)
Eduard Tubin (1905-1982)
Daniel Pinkham (1923-2006)
Peter Schat (1935-2003)
Martha Argerich (1941)
Bill Hopkins (1943-1981)


John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)
Alfred Kazin (1915-1998)
David Wagoner (1926)
Margaret Drabble (1939)
David Hare (1947)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Today's Birthdays

James Hewitt (1770-1827)
Evgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988)
Alan Shulman (1915-2002)
Robert Merrill (1917-2004)
Irwin Bazelon (1922-1995)
Oliver Nelson (1932-1975)
Anthony Braxton (1945)
Cecilia Bartoli (1966)


Josef Sittard (1846-1903)
Karl Valentin (1882-1948)
Robert Anderson (1917-2009)
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
Larry McMurtry (1936)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Today's Birthdays

František Jan Škroup (1801-1862)
Charles Lecocq (1832-1918)
Jan Peerce (1904-1984)
Valerie Masterson (1937)
Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999)
Greg Sandow (1943)
Lynne Dawson (1956)


Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
Ruth Westheimer (1928)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Preview of orchestra's season finale in The Columbian newspaper

Today's issue of the Columbian newspaper features my preview of the Vancouver Symphony's final concert of the season. The performance will take place on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening.

Today's Birthdays

James Cutler Dunn Parker (1828-1916)
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942)
Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Jozef Cleber (1916-1999)
Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012)
Mark Elder (1947)
Neil Shicoff (1949)
Michel Dalberto (1955)


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

and from The New Music Box:

On June 2, 1938, Amy Beach began work on her Piano Trio while in residence at the MacDowell Colony. She finished the composition fifteen days later (June 18th) and published it as her Op. 150. It was to be her last major work.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Georg Muffat (1653-1704)
Ferdinando Paër (1771-1839)
Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
Werner Janssen (1899-1990)
Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
Nelson Riddle (1921-1985)
Yehudi Wyner (1929)
Edo de Waart (1941)
Richard Goode (1943)
Frederica von Stade (1945)
Arlene Sierra (1970)


John Masefield (1878- 1967)
Charles Kay Ogden (1889–1957)
Naguib Surur (1932-1978)
Colleen McCullough (1937-2015)
Sheri Holman (1966)
Amy Schumer (1981)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Marin Marais (1656-1728)
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)
Billy Mayerl (1902-1959)
Alfred Deller (1912-1979)
Akira Ifukube (1914-2006)
Shirley Verrett (1931-2010)
Peter Yarrow (1938)
Bruce Adolphe (1955)
Marty Ehrlich (1955)


Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853)
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Clint Eastwood (1930)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 31, 1921, emigre composer Edgard Varèse founded the International Composer's Guild in New York City to perform and promote music by contemporary composers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Recommended classical performance for this summer in The Oregonian

The Oregonian's website has published my list of recommended performances for this summer. You can access the article here.The printed version will appear this weekend.

Today's Birthdays

Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944)
Benny Goodman (1909-1986)
George London (1920-1985)
Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012)
Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)
Zoltan Kocsis (1952)
Anne LeBaron (1953)

Howard Hawks (1896-1977)
Colm Toibin (1955)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 30, 1923, 26-year-old composer and conductor Howard Hanson, who would later be one of the founders of the American Music Center, led the world premiere performance of his Nordic Symphony, the first of his seven symphonies and still one of his best-known works, in Rome during his residence as first holder of the American Rome Prize.

and from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1723,Bach's first cantata performance in Leipzig (Cantata No. 75, "Die Elenden sollen essen") was presented at St. Nicolai Church, the day before his official induction as Cantor in that city.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Astoria Music Festival to embark on 15th season

Festival dates: June 11 – 25, 2017, Astoria or 503-325-9896

From the press release:

SUNDAY, JUNE 11, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
Gala reception with Ms. Meade follows recital (premium tickets)

Metropolitan Opera superstar Angela Meade returns to Astoria for her Oregon Debut Recital make her Oregon debut recital accompanied by highly acclaimed pianist Danielle Orlando. Prog ram includes art songs and arias by Handel, Liszt, Bellini, Verdi, and Strauss.

Ms. Meade joins us after a whirlwind spring and winter of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera (New York), Verdi (Bilbao, Spain), and Donizetti (Sevilla, Spain).

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 7:30 pm, Grace Episcopal Church
Astoria Music Festival Baroque Soloists Period Instrument Ensemble
An evening of magical Baroque music. Acclaimed Baroque trumpeter Kris Kwapis and soprano Arwen Myers join the Festival period instrument ensemble for Purcell’s Sound the Trumpet and music from King Arthur, featuring Noah Strick and Hannah Leland, Baroque Violins, Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, Baroque Cello and Julia Brown, harpsichord. Concert is at Astoria's gorgeous historic landmark Grace Episcopal Church.

THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
3 LEG TORSO with post-concert Tango Party
Back by popular demand, Oregon’s hip band brings their special blend of fun and flair in an eclectic night of Tango, Klezmer, Latin, and Roma (Gypsy) music. Equal parts ravishing melodies and toe-tapping rhythms played on violin, accordion, percussion, and cello.
Special guest vocalist Minntah Haefker, Astoria’s own 12 year-old singing sensation.

FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
Pianist and Director of Chamber Music, Cary Lewis leads a exquisite evening featuring Ukrainian violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv, prizewinning cellist Sergey Antonov, with prizewinning pianist Ilya Kazantsev, and Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Mayer.  Program of chamber music including Xaver Scharwenka’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Franz Schubert’s Duo for Violin and Piano, Robert Schumann’s monumental Piano Trio in D minor, and vocal music by Richard Strauss.

SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
Come early for a concert preview, 6:30 pm 
Michael Foster Memorial Concert
With the Portland Symphonic Choir and North Coast Chorale
Two choirs, international soloists and enlarged orchestra join conductor Keith Clark in memory of lifelong Astoria arts advocate Michael Foster. Program includes the Festival Debut of Italian violin virtuoso Roberto Cani, prizewinner in the Genoa International Paganini Competition.
PAGANINI  Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.9 in D minor “Choral Symphony” 

SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
Symphonic Sunday Matinee
Oregon Premiere
What a concert! Three conductors 
lead Russian masterpieces by Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, plus the Oregon Premiere of Philip Glass’ Icarus At The Edge Of Time, a multi-media extravaganza combining large orchestra, film, and narrator that transforms ancient myth into a sci-fi spectacular.
Icarus at the Edge of Time is a stunning orchestral work with animated film and live narration that tells a mesmerizing musical tale of space, time and a journey to the very edge of understanding—composed by Philip Glass, based on the award-winning book by physicist Brian Greene, adapted by Greene and David Henry Hwang, film created and directed by Al + Al.

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 7:30 pm, Grace Episcopal Church
with Sergey Antonov & Festival Baroque Soloists
An evening of Bach in the lovely setting of the Pacific Northwest’s second-oldest church. Sergey Antonov continues his survey of Bach unaccompanied Cello Suites. Festival period instrument ensemble features violinist Noah Strick, viola da gambist Adaiha MacAdam-Somer and Julia Brown, harpsichord in Solo and Trio Sonata

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater 
FESTIVAL CHAMBER PLAYERS: Wagner as Others Heard Him
Cary Lewis, Director of Chamber Music
Debussy giggles at Tristan and Isolde’s overwrought love-death with a Cakewalk. Liszt probes the depths of Das Rheingold. Program includes Wagner’s beautiful Wesendonck Lieder sung by Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Mayer, plus music by Faure, Chabrier, and a chamber transcription of the Tristan Prelude by Portland composer Jeff Winslow.

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 7:30 pm, Performing Arts Center
Meet the artists at post-concert onstage reception 
An intimate recital by Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Zeller and international classical guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan
A rare recital by one of America’s foremost baritones, Richard Zeller and one of the leading classical guitarists of his generation, Aaron Larget-Caplan in the intimate setting of Astoria’s Performing Arts Center. Program includes Art Songs and guitar solos by Franz Schubert, Manuel De Falla, J.S. Bach, John Cage.
Baritone Richard Zeller is internationally acclaimed for his sonorous dramatic voice, compelling stage presence and outstanding musicianship. His career has included 12 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera.
Noted for his “astounding technical proficiency and artistic delicacy” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), classical world guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan is an international touring and recording artist. He has performed solo and chamber music in Russia, Europe and across the United States.

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
A French comedy by Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais, 1775
In anticipation of Sunday’s Grand Finale operatic concert -- Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Sen Incavo introduces scenes from the comedy that launched the French Revolution and inspired Rossini’s opera. Plus the Oregon premiere of Tchaikovsky’s little known Couplets for Beaumarchais’ play, and even the Looney Tunes classic The Rabbit of Seville. What’s up, Doc? Find out in this entertaining afternoon.

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Sarah Kwak returns for a night of virtuosity, Spanish flair, Hungarian Gypsy fire, and a monumental Brahms masterpiece.

SUNDAY, JUNE 25, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
Come early for a free opera preview, 3:00 pm
Semi-staged concert. Sung in Italian with English supertext.  

Sensational Mexican baritone Luis Ledesma as Figaro heads a world-class cast in the funniest opera of them all!  Filled with soaring Bel Canto melodies, goofy jokes, and brilliant orchestral virtuosity.



Today's Birthdays

Francesco Fanciulli (1853-1915)
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)
Helmuth Rilling (1933)
Michael Berkley (1948)
Linda Esther Gray (1948)
Melissa Etheridge (1961)


G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Steven Levitt (1967)


from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1913, Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps" (The Rite of Spring) received its premiere performance in Paris, by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, Pierre Monteux conducting.


from the New Music Box:
On May 29, 1954, the Louisville Orchestra, under the direction of Robert S. Whitney, premiered the Eleventh Symphony of Henry Cowell. The seven-movement work, subtitled "Seven Rituals," was one of the most successful of Cowell's 21 symphonies.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1788)
Josiah Flagg (1737-1795)
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914)
Sir George Dyson(1883-1964)
T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)
Nicola Rescigno (1916-2008)
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
John Culshaw (1924-1980)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)
Richard Van Allan (1935-2008)
Maki Ishii (1936-2003)
Elena Souliotis (1943-2004)
Levon Chilingirian (1948)


Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
Ian Flemming (1908-1964)
May Swenson (1913-1989)
Walker Percy (1916-1990)

and from the New Music Box:

On May 28, 1957, after several discussions, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NARAS) was born at a meeting at Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby Restaurant.

[NARAS sponsors the Grammys.]

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Halévy (1799-1862)
Joseph Joachim Raff (1822-1882)
Louis Durey (1888-1979)
Claude Champagne (1891-1965)
Ernst Wallfisch (1920-1979)
Margaret Buechner (1922-1998)
Thea Musgrave (1928)
Donald Keats (1929)
Elizabeth Harwood (1938-1990)
James Wood (1953)


Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876)
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
John Cheever (1912-1982)
John Barth (1930)
Linda Pastan (1932)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Al Jolson (1886-1950)
Eugene Goossens (1893-1962)
Ernst Bacon (1898-1990)
Vlado Perlemuter (1904-2002)
Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) (1916-1999)
François‑Louis Deschamps (1919-2004)
Peggy Lee (1920-2002)
Joseph Horovitz (1926)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Teresa Stratas (1938)
William Bolcom (1938)
Howard Goodall (1958)
Armando Bayolo (1973)


Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837)
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Frankie Manning (1914-2009)
Alan Hollinghurst (1954)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 26, 1953, Aaron Copland appeared before the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) of the U.S. House of Representatives

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Thomas "Blind Tom" Bethune (1849-1908)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Beverly Sills (1929-2007)
Franco Bonisolli (1937-2003)


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)
Raymond Carver (1938-1988)
Jamaica Kincaid (1949)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1944, Arturo Toscanini conducts the combined NBC Symphony and New York Philharmonic in a benefit concert of music by Wagner, Verdi, and Sousa at the old Madison Square Garden. The concert raised $100,000 for the Red Cross. During an intermission auction, New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia auctioned off Toscanini's baton for $10,000.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

OSO takes Portland audiences on a journey with the Mahler 2 'Resurrection' Symphony.

Elizabeth DeShong.
Photo by Dario Acosta
Saturday night, May 20, the Oregon Symphony began the weekend that wrapped up its 2016-17 season at the Schnitz with Mahler's grandiose Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, the 'Resurrection' Symphony. It featured soloists Tamara Wilson, soprano, and Elizabeth DeShong, mezzo-soprano, as well as the Portland State University Choirs.

With Maestro Kalmar conducting, this was an amazing journey. The orchestra was on fire, suitably sensitive to the incredible range of dynamic contrasts and varying timbres required to make this work a success.

Right from the start, the orchestra exuded a feeling of intense focus, one that drew the listener immediately. There was a peripatetic feel to the movement, with the extended crescendo that built from the lower strings wringing every bit of tension possible. The whispering tremolando from the strings was exciting to hear.

The group handled the emotional displacement to more pastoral themes deftly, and the almost hypnotic shift into a dreamy brass-world was beautifully organic and completely convincing. The orchestra consistently displayed clarity and succinctness in the multiple and vital pianissimos. The more folksy portions were engaging and somewhat disjointed from the weightiness of the overall work--exactly as felt right.
There were many gradual and protracted crescendi throughout the work that ended in a titanic fortissmo, and these the orchestra played well by and large. The only sour spot was in the high woodwinds, flutes and piccolos, that often did not agree on a pitch when the ultimate dynamic was reached, and these moments stood out a number of times.

The vocal portions of the symphony were all spectacular. DeShong displayed a magnificent, show-stopping low alto register, and the Portland State University choirs (PSU Chamber Choir, PSU Man Choir and PSU Vox Vemina) were dignified and solemn, singing with reverence and clear diction. All in all, despite the seriousness of the work, the performers were clearly having fun, and with this composition, how could they not?

Today's Birthdays

Paul Paray (1886-1979)
Joan Hammond (1912-1986)
Hans‑Martin Linde (1930)
Maurice André (1933-2012)
Harold Budd (1936)
Bob Dylan (1941)
Konrad Boehmer (1941-2014)
Fiona Kimm (1952)
Paul McCreesh (1960)


William Trevor (1928)
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Declan Kiberd (1951)
Michael Chabon (1963)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 24, 1939, then 30-year-old composer Elliott Carter (b. 1908) had his first major performance of his music in New York. The work was the ballet Pocahontas composed in a populist style far different from the music for which Carter would later become internationally known and revered.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Andrea Luchesi (1741-1801)
Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870)
Louis Glass (1864-1936)
Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
Alicia de Larrocha (1923)
Robert Moog (1934-2005)
Joel Feigin (1951)


Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)
Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Johann Schrammel (1850-1893)
Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Sun Ra (1914-1993)
George Tintner (1917-1999)
Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008)
Claude Ballif (1924-2004)
John Browning (1933-2003)
Peter Nero (1934)


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 21, 1893, in an lengthy article published in the New York Herald titled "Real Value of Negro Melodies," Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak, during his three-year sojourn in the United States, prognosticated that the future of American music should be based on "negro melodies" and announced that the National Conservatory of Music, where he was serving as Director at the time, would be "thrown open free of charge to the negro race." It was to be the first of a total of seven articles in the Herald in which Dvorak expounded these ideas which provoked comments ranging from incredulity to denunciation by composers and performers around the world including Anton Bruckner, Anton Rubinstein and John Knowles Paine.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Thomas "Fats" Waller (1904-1943)
Gina Bachauer (1913-1976)
Heinz Holliger (1939)
Rosalind Plowright (1949)
Linda Bouchard (1957)


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989)
Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981)
George Hurst (1926-2012)
Karl Anton Rikenbacher (1940-2014)
Tison Street (1943)
Joe Cocker (1944-2014)
Cher (1946)
Sue Knussen (1949-2003)
Jane Parker-Smith (1950)
Emma Johnson (1966)


Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stunning production by Michael Curry breathes new life into "Persephone"

Photo credit: Oregon Symphony/Brud Giles
The Oregon Symphony and puppeteer-production designer Michael Curry blew away a standing-room-only audience with a breathtaking, magical performance of Stravinsky’s “Persephone.” This rarely performed melodrama came to life via sophisticated lighting, puppetry, and evocative sets not to mention the dance, spoken monologue, and music created by the orchestra, adult chorus, children’s chorus, and tenor soloist. Curry’s visual imagery and skillful direction of twelve black-clad puppeteers absolutely enhanced the story-telling and the music to make “Persephone” a very memorable event.

Curry has been acclaimed for his work with Disney’s “The Lion King” as well as for his collaborations with Cirque du Soleil , The Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal National Theatre, the International Olympic Committee. The production of “Persephone” marked his first collaboration with a symphony orchestra, and it became the third installment in the Oregon Symphony’s unique “Sight and Sound” series. The audience knew right away that it was in for something special, because a specially-built stage behind the orchestra featured a very large moon-like disc centered between two large gnarly trees with intertwined roots.

André Gide, the Nobel Prize winning poet wrote the libretto for “Persephone,” which retells an ancient Greek myth that explains the seasons of the year. However, Gide changed the story to give Persephone a Christ-like character. In the original, Persephone is abducted by Pluto and brought to Hades, but in Gide’s retelling, Persephone has compassion for the people of the underworld and goes there to provide some sense of happiness. She can do this because she is the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and agriculture. Unfortunately, Demeter really misses her daughter. This causes the earth to be dominated by the cold, harsh winter so that no crops can grow and everyone above ground is miserable. So Persephone returns to the earth and accepts Triptolemus, the tiller of soil, as her husband, but because of her obligations to Pluto, she returns to hades for half of the year.

Although "Persephone" dominated the evening, the concert began with an impeccable performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 ("Little Russian"). The woody sound of the clarinets, the immaculate exchange of pizzicato lines between the strings, the big brass chorale, and the lovely melodic passages were augmented by the sensitive playing of Joseph Berger on the French horn and Carin Miller Packwood on the bassoon.

In Curry’s production, the character of Persephone was split three-ways: as a life-size marionette, a dancer (Anna Marra), and as an actress (Pauline Cheviller). This may have caused some confusion initially, but it became clear as the story progressed. Marra’s graceful aerial dance at the end of a large boom was spectacular, doing cartwheels in slow motion above the stage and over the orchestra – briefly dangled above the timpani and trumpets. At times, her movements were accompanied by the ghostly spirits of the underworld and she also dallied with Pluto, which was represented by a fibrous 14-foot tall puppet.

Cheviller deftly conveyed the text with emotion, reaching a high point when Persephone became distraught as her mother search fruitlessly for her. In the role of the priest Eumolpus, tenor Paul Groves narrated each scene with a stentorian recitative. The Portland State Chamber Choir (expertly prepared by Ethan Sperry) and the Pacific Youth Choir (expertly prepared by Mia Hall) conquered the challenging music with panache.

Cheviller, Groves, and all of the singers were amplified, which was a necessity due to the Schnitz’s poor acoustic. Stravinsky’s music sounded ancient and modern at the same time, and the orchestra, guided by Carlos Kalmar, handled all of it terrifically. The musicians were positioned on a stage that extended over the first few rows of the hall.

Among the many wonderful moments of Curry’s production was a stag that transported Persephone to the underworld and later brought in a pomegranate that she ate and made her long to return home. A group of women whose braided hair extended from the roots of the tree was also very striking as were the images projected on the moon-like disc.

Representatives from other orchestras were in attendance to watch the show. Seattle Symphony has Curry’s production of “Persephone” already scheduled for next April. The magical vision of Curry makes me wonder what he would do with Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” Hmmm…..

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)
Nellie Melba (1859-1931)
Kerstin Thorborg (1896-1970)
Sandy Wilson (1924-2014)
Pete Townshend (1945)
Stephen Varcoe (1949)


Malcom X (1925-1965)
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)
Nora Ephron (1941-2012)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1886, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (11 selections) was given during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The next documented performance (12 sections) was given in Boston on February 27, 1887, by the Handel and Haydn Society, with Carl Zerrahn conducting a chorus of 432 and an orchestra of 50. In both the 1886 Cincinnati and 1887 Boston performances, the famous 19-century German soprano Lilli Lehmann appeared as one of the soprano soloists. The first complete performance of the work was apparently given either at the Moravian Church in Bethlehem on Mar 17, 1900, by the Bach Choir under J. Fred Wolf, or at Carnegie Hall in new York on April 5, 1900, by the Oratorio Society, Frank Damrosch conducting.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667)
Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876)
Karl Goldmark (1830-1915)
Ezio Pinza (1892-1947)
Henri Sauguet (1901-1989)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Sir Clifford Curzon (1907-1982)
Perry Como (1912-2001)
Boris Christoff (1914-1993)
Mikko Heiniö (1948)


Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Walter Gropius (1883-1969)
Frank Capra (1897-1991)
Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991)
Tina Fey (1970)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 18, 1981, the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies premiered Joan Tower's very first composition conceived for symphony orchestra, Sequoia. Since then, Sequoia, has been performed by more than 40 orchestras around the world. The recording by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony, which was part of the Meet The Composers Orchestra Residency Series CDs for Nonesuch Records, has recently been reissued on First Edition Music.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Werner Egk (1901-1983)
Sandor Vegh (1905-1997)
Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005)
Dennis Brain (1921-1957)
Peter Mennin (1932-1983)
Taj Mahal (1942)
Paul Crossley (1944)
Brian Rayner Cook (1945)
Bill Bruford (1949)
Ivor Bolton (1958)


Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957)
Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959)
Gary Paulsen (1939)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 17, 1846, Belgian-born instrument builder and clarinetist Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone, an instrument that would have a profound impact on American jazz. Over a century later, on May 17, 1957, a computer was used to make music for the first time.

and from the Writer's Almanac:
Beethoven’s famous Kreutzer Sonata was first performed on this day in 1803 at Augarten-Halle in Vienna, Austria. Beethoven had been asked to write a sonata by George Bridgetower, a handsome and ambitious half-West Indian violin virtuoso who wished to perform the piece with the great composer. But Beethoven hated writing custom pieces, and so he put off writing it until the last minute, leaving the pianoforte copy almost entirely blank. For the finale, a resentful Beethoven simply tacked on a finale from an earlier work.

But when Beethoven and Bridgetower began to play at the 8:00 a.m. concert, both performed beautifully, and Beethoven was so impressed with Bridgetower’s performance — Bridgetower improvising much of it — that he jumped up and hugged the violinist midway through the performance.

Later, however, Bridgetower and Beethoven quarreled (scholarly opinion differs on the nature of the argument — some say it was about a man they both knew, some say it was about Beethoven doing such a last-minute job on the original composition) and Beethoven angrily undedicated the sonata to Bridgetower and rededicated it to Rudolph Kreutzer, a prominent Parisian violinist who had recently traveled to Vienna. It is rumored that when Kreutzer first saw the composition, he proclaimed the part written for violin too difficult to play. He is believed to have never played the sonata that now carries his name.

What became of Bridgetower after the Augarten concert is lost to history.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Richard Tauber (1891-1948)
Ivan Vishnegradsy (1893-1979)
Jan Kiepura (1902-1966)
Woody Herman (1913-1987)
Liberace (1919-1987)
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000)
Betty Carter (1930-1998)
Donald Martino (1931-2005)
Robert Fripp (1946)
Monica Huggett (1953)
Andrew Litton (1959)


Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)
Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)
Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912-2008)
Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 16, 1907, Miller Reese Hutchison filed an application at the U.S. Patent Office for his invention, the motor-driven Diaphragm Actuated Horn and Resonator, for use in automobiles. The patent was granted on May 3, 1910. The carhorn would later be used as a musical instrument by numerous composers ranging from George Gershwin in An American in Paris (1928) to Wendy Mae Chambers who developed a Car Horn Organ in 1983.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Michael William Balfe (1808-1870)
Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986)
Arthur Berger (1912-2003)
John Lanchbery (1923-2003)
Ted Perry (1931-2003)
Richard Wilson (1941)
Brian Eno (1948)


L. Frank Baum (1856-1919)
Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931)
Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980)
Peter Shaffer (1926-2016)
Jasper Johns (1930)
Laura Hillenbrand (1967)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 15, 1972, the Concord Quartet premiered George Rochberg's String Quartet No. 3 at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. Rochberg, an established serialist composer, shocked the compositional scene by returning to tonality in this composition. Many cite this premiere as the birth of neo-romanticism.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

PYP and cellist Zhang shine in season finale

Photo by Brian Clark
The Portland Youth Philharmonic concluded its 93rd season with a concert that more than demonstrated the orchestra’s continuing high level of achievement. The colorful and meaty program featured Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a symphony by Antonín Dvořák, and the world premiere of an electro-acoustic piece by American composer Debra Kaye. Each selection was performed outstandingly with incisive commitment by the orchestra under the baton of its music director David Hattner.

Elgar’s Cello Concerto put the spotlight on Annie Zhang, who won the orchestra’s annual concerto contest. Although only a high school freshman, Zhang showed stellar technique and artistic talent that made music sing from her cello. She fearlessly dug into the very exposed opening statement, quickly establishing the melancholic and soulful mood of piece. Whether plunging into the lowest register of her instrument or the highest, she held nothing back throughout each of the four movments. Her passionate playing, wonderfully accompanied by her orchestral colleagues, gave Elgar’s music depth and an immediacy that resonated throughout the hall.

The orchestra gave a scintillating performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, excelling with dynamic phrasing yet never losing sight of the music’s Slavic nature. Particularly rich and strong were the melodic passages delivered by the cello section, which had 16 members. Exchanges by woodwinds and brass went smoothly and the trumpet fanfare in the fourth movement was executed exceptionally well. The violins played impeccably, including some solos by concertmaster Fumika Mizuno. Several principals played their solo passages and duets very well, and the entire ensemble put a polished and glorious stamp on the finale.

The concert began “Ikarus Among the Stars,” a new work by American composer Debra Kaye in honor of Benjamin Klatchko, a PYP violist whose life was cut short at the age of 17. Inspired by the music and life of Klatchko , Kaye, who teaches at the Mannes School of Music, created a one-movement piece that blended recorded segments of Klatcho’s techno-pop music into the orchestral fabric.

The piece began with a somber viola solo that transitioned to a lighter segment involving the entire orchestra. The brass, woodwind, and string sections exchanged the leading line deftly and all was merged with electronic music that had a pronounced rhythmic drive. The combo seemed to launch the orchestra into a more energetic gear, which was then interrupted by another recording, this time with vocals. Two more exchanges between the orchestra and recorded passages seemed suggest that one inspired the other until it all ended at a higher, grander elevation –alluding to the ancient legend of Ikarus.

It seemed like the graduating class of musicians – marked by wearing a rose boutonniere – was very large. It looked as if almost all of the woodwinds will be leaving. Fortunately, the PYP organization will have a new crop of talented young musicians rising through its ranks. With Hattner in charge, the orchestra is in excellent hands going forward.

Today's Birthdays

Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)
Lou Harrison (1917-2003)
Aloys Kontarsky (1931)
Peter Skellern (1947)
Maria de La Pau (1950)
Helen Field (1951)
David Byrne (1952)


Hal Borland (1900-1978)
Mary Morris (1947)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Northwest Art Song presents Monteverdi 450

Monteverdi 450, Wednesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Church Concert Hall
From the press release:

The musicians of Northwest Art Song may usually -- appropriately, given their name and stated mission -- stick to the chamber song repertoire, but this year, they'll be closing their season with something a little different. May 2017 marks the 450th birthday of Claudio Monteverdi, who is arguably one of the most innovative composers in all music history, and these stellar singers will be marking the occasion with a birthday celebration!

So how did this concert come about? Northwest Art Song co-Artistic Director Arwen Myers, along with a collection of some of Portland's finest vocalists, sang a handful of Monteverdi's Book IV madrigals on 45th Parallel's Voice of Innovation this spring, and the need to present more of Monteverdi's music in Portland became obvious. After hearing an enormous amount of positive feedback about the madrigals from the both the audience and her fellow singers following that concert, she decided to mount an extra project this season to celebrate his incredible work.

And how does Monteverdi's music fit into the art song world? Although it's certainly not "art song," Myers doesn't think it's too much of a stretch. "While Monteverdi's madrigals are certainly not art song in the traditional sense," she says, "it's quite a natural fit for us. His text setting, or the way he expresses the meaning of the text in the music, is second to none, and the emotional content of both the words and the music is incredibly poignant. These pieces may not technically be art songs, but they exhibit so many of the things that make art song the incredible genre it is."

The concert will feature a collection of some of the finest vocalists in the Portland scene -- Arwen Myers, along with her fellow NWAS Artistic Director Laura Beckel Thoreson, will join with soprano Catherine van der Salm, mezzo soprano Emily Lay, tenor Chris Engbretson, and bass Aaron Cain. They will be joined by Seattle theorist John Lenti, who is a consummate musician often heard with Portland Baroque Orchestra and other early music ensembles in Portland and around the world. The program will focus on Monteverdi's madrigals from Book IV onward; we these mid- to late-career pieces best showcase his wholly unique compositional voice, in their sheer brilliance, are sure to excite and energize a wide Portland audience. The audience is invited to join the performers for a reception following the concert... and rumor has it that there may be birthday cake.

Northwest Art Song performs Monteverdi 450, Wednesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Church Concert Hall. $5-20 advance, $5-$25 door. Available at http://www. 2903940.

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Constantin Silverstri (1913-1969)
William Schwann (1913-1998)
Gareth Morris (1920-2007)
Ritchie Valens (1941-1959)
Jane Glover (1949)
Stevie Wonder (1950)
David Hill (1957)
Tasmin Little (1965)


Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)
Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989)
Kathleen Jamie (1962)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1875, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's "Magnificat" took place during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The Cincinnati Commercial review of May 14 was not favorable: "The work is difficult in the extreme and most of the chorus abounds with rambling sub-divisions. We considering the ‘Magnifcat' the weakest thing the chorus has undertaken . . . possessing no dramatic character and incapable of conveying the magnitude of the labor that has been expended upon its inconsequential intricacies. If mediocrity is a mistake, the ‘Magnifcat' is the one error of the Festival". Thomas also conducted the next documented performance in Boston on Mar. 1, 1876 (for which composer John Knowles Paine performed as organ accompanist to a chorus of 300).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Baptist Wanha (Vanhal) (1739-1813)
Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812)
Giovanni Viotti (1755-1824)
Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
Burt Bacharach (1928)
Anthony Newman (1941)
Dalmacio Gonzalez (1945)
Doris Soffel (1948)


Edward Lear (1812-1888)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Rosellen Brown (1939)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jan Václav (1791-1825)
Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914)
Alma Gluck (1884-1938)
Irving Berlin (1888-1939)
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
Ross Pople (1945)
Judith Weir (1954)
Cecile Licad (1961)


Martha Graham (1894-1991)
Mari Sandoz (1896-1966)
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Francisco "Paco" Umbral (1932-2007)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Portland Opera's La Bohème gets lively and solid treatment by young cast

Liverman, Lucà, Isiguen, Zaremba, and Thorn | photo credit Cory Weaver
There’s nothing like young artists portraying young artists and that was one of the most appealing aspects of Portland Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” on opening night (May 5) at Keller Auditorium. The cast of young professionals thoroughly embraced their roles as impoverished yet carefree denizens of the Latin Quarter of early Nineteenth Century Paris. That included impressive singing by Italian tenor Giordano Lucà, who made his American operatic debut as the poet Rodolfo, and American soprano Vanessa Isiguen as the seamstress Mimi. Directed by Kathleen Belcher, a longtime member of the directing staff at the Metropolitan Opera, the entire ensemble worked well together to create a straightforward and lively retelling of one of the most popular operas in the repertoire.
Isiguen and Lucà | photo credit Cory Weaver
Lucà filled the house with his refulgent voice. His singing of “Che gelida manima” was a highlight of the evening and elicited thunderous applause. Isiguen poured out the soul of Mimi with a warm, rich soprano. Her “Si, Mi chiamano Mimi” was touching and heartfelt and also drew ecstatic applause. Yet, in spite of their delicious voices, Lucà and Isiguen didn’t quite mesh convincingly as passionate lovers.
Zaremba, Lucà, Thorn , Guidi, and Liverman | photo credit Cory Weaver
Will Liverman was thoroughly convincing as the hot-headed painter Marcello and Jennifer Forni had a field day as Marcell’s impulsive, mercurial lover Musetta. Forni’s enticing, show-stopping performance of “Musetta’s Waltz” was another highlight of the production.
Forni | photo credit Cory Weaver
Rodolfo and his roommates had a great time with the light-hearted scenes, clowning around with an excellent sense of comic timing. Ryan Thorn’s animated Schaunard added an extra level of energy that was athletic at times. Christian Zaremba fashioned a good-natured Colline, and his somber farewell to his old coat (“Vecchia zimmarra”) elicited a warm response from the audience.

Deac Guidi excelled in the role of the Benoit, turning him from a crotchety landlord into a lovable and laughable buffoon. Damien Geter created a clueless and infatuated Alcindoro. Aaron Short spread a bright layer of joy as Parpignol, the toy vendor. Gregory Brumfield as the Custom House Officer and Anders Tobiason as the Sergeant showed the requisite gruffness for their characters.

Effective lighting by York Kennedy accented the huge painted backdrops provided by Seattle Opera evoked the Paris of the Nineteenth Century. They were complimented well by traditional costumes that were designed by Susan Memmott Allred for the Utah Symphony and Opera.

The street scene in front of Café Momus offered a swirl of colorful activity with the Portland Opera Chorus, a charming children’s chorus, and a small marching band taking turns in the spotlight.

Conductor George Manahan chose to keep the tempos brisk but was very attentive to any singer who wanted linger over a phrase. Here and there the orchestra got a tad too loud for the singers – with the exception of Liverman whose expressive and resilient baritone was stellar throughout the performance.

Attendance at the Keller seemed to be a little down, which was dismaying since “La Bohème” is one of the best-loved operas ever written. Perhaps word about the fine singing will inspire more to come hear the final two performances on May 11 and 13.
Photo credit Cory Weaver