Pearl Fishing

Well, I’m back from Vancouver, but on one of my last days there I saw a work-in-progress dance performance by local company 605 Collective at the Vancouver International Dance Festival. which I enjoyed, but after a mostly electronic soundtrack, I was surprised that the piece ended to the tune of Enrico Caruso singing this aria from Bizet‘s 1863 Pearl Fishers opera:

Probably the best known piece from this opera, but if you want to see the full picture, it’ll be receiving its first Met Opera production in 100 years in the forthcoming 2015-2016 season:

To Know to Know to Love Her So

A saint is one to be for two when three and you make five and two and cover.  Source

Four Saints in Three Acts premiere performance with sets by Florine Stettheimer

Four Saints in Three Acts premiere performance with sets by Florine Stettheimer

The other night I had a chance to speak to Gertrude Stein at a party at Pablo Picasso’s home (I’ll explain…), and I regret not asking her about her collaboration with American composer Virgil Thomson, for whom she wrote two opera librettos in the last two decades of her life.  They were classic Stein, meaning they didn’t make any logical “sense”, but as the introduction to the 1947 CBS radio broadcast of their first collaboration, Four Saints in Three Acts, says…

Gertrude Stein’s words made no sense to anyone. …  Afterwards however, people went away with an embarrassed feeling that the thing made more sense than they thought.  They began to see that the authors wanted them to understand not illogical words, but a fine symbolism of the gaiety and strength of spiritual and consecrated lives.  Source

Four Saints in Three Acts premiered in Connecticut in 1934 and went on to Broadway later that same year.  The thought that a modernist, non-linear opera ran on Broadway is confounding enough, but to add to that, the opera was also performed by an all-black cast.

At any rate, you can judge the opera for yourself thanks to a digitized 1947 CBS Radio broadcast, conducted by Thomson a year after Stein’s death.  Reading the libretto may not make sense, but hearing it sung, it certainly has a good rhythm to it…

Set design for 27 at Opera Theater of Saint Louis by Allen Moyer

Set design for 27 at Opera Theater of Saint Louis by Allen Moyer

From writer of librettos, to the subject of a libretto herself, Gertrude Stein‘s 27 Rue de Fleurs Paris apartment, the site of her celebrated salon, is the setting and namesake of the forthcoming opera 27, by Ricky Ian Gordon, another American composer, to be given its premiere by the Opera Theater of Saint Louis this summer.  Here’s an article in Opera News in anticipation of this premiere.

And most importantly!

If you want to meet Gertrude Stein in person, then don’t miss the last few performances of A Serious Banquet, a Cubist dinner party featuring such luminaries as Stein, Picasso, Braque, and Rousseau among others, hosted by This is Not a Theater Company.  The Rave reviews are in, the company is legendary, and dinner is included!  What’s not to love!

I don’t know enough about football to pun…

Operavore, the Opera-dedicated division of WQXR, New York’s public classical music radio station, will be celebrating March Madness in its own way this week, with a full streaming opera each weekday at 2pm, each having some notable “mad scene”.  The week’s full schedule, from Mozart’s Idomeneo to Bernstein’s Candide, is available here; the Operavore stream can be listened to on the WQXR website.

In keeping with the sports theme, a new opera about Bum Phillips, American football coach, premiered in New York at La MaMa last week, and is up through the end of the month.  Commissioned by the collective Monk Parrots, with music by Peter Stopschinski and libretto by Kirk Lynn, it was apparently live-streamed earlier today  : P  How did I miss that!?

Sleepwalk with the Met Tonight

La Sonnambula Illustration

La Sonnambula Act 2, by William de Leftwich Dodge

Tonight’s the season premiere of Bellini‘s La Sonnambula at the Met Opera, and it’ll be live-streamed starting at 7:30.

The illustration at left, by American painter and muralist William de Leftwich Dodge, shows the climactic moment when the protagonist, Amina, sleep walks atop a rickety old mill bridge, very dramatic.

That’s sort of the defining moment in the opera, and apparently sopranos known for their Aminas would be painted with mills in the background as a shorthand…

Anyway, lots of lovely music in the opera, so enjoy the live-stream!

Two Boys Live Stream

(Not the porny kind!)

Tonight is the stateside premiere of Nico Muhly‘s Two Boys, commissioned by the Met Opera and given a workshop world premiere at English National Opera.  Tonight’s performance will be live streamed on the Met’s site at 8pm.  Here’s the NYT review of the premiere.

Two Boys at ENO poster

Poster from ENO’s Two Boys premiere

There’s a neat behind-the-scenes article about the development of the piece since ENO.  It also mentions some of the outside-the-box promotion the Met’s been doing (TV spots during Catfish seem appropriate), including an “Ask me Anything” session with Muhly on Reddit!  Strangely engrossing…   He elaborated on some of the questions on his own site too.

PS: “Two Boys One Cup” was definitely a Google autofill suggestion today…

EDITED TO ADD:  Britten‘s final opera, Death in Venice, is streaming until Friday on BBC Radio 3, which I mention here because of Muhly’s self-proclaimed love of Britten’s operas and the centrality of a boy character to each.  Maybe by listening to the two you can play spot-the-influence; I heard some gamelan-like touches are appear in both…

Also, here’s a video from the Met with the most music and footage from the actual opera as I’ve yet seen…  To put some visuals to the disembodied music you’ll hear tonight…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C80eJCaNedY&w=350&h=300]

Juilliard Baroque

Original Libretto for Handel's Radamisto

Original Libretto for Handel’s Radamisto at the V&A

Tickets for Juilliard‘s first operatic production of the academic year went on sale this week, and it’s for Handel‘s 1720 Radamisto, his first opera for the Royal Academy of Music in London.  Here’s a famous aria performed by Joyce DiDonato.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmzZLolnUVw&w=350&h=300]

The libretto at top is from the collection of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and it was used at the opera’s premiere performance, making it one of the earliest preserved prompt scripts.  They have a nice page on 18th century opera with more primary sources from their collections.

The other operas to be performed at Juilliard are Tchaikhovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Massenet’s Cendrillon (ie, Cinderella).  Here’s their full listing of operatic and vocal offerings this year, and as long as we’re talking about New York schools, here’s the opera schedule for the Manhattan School of Music too, an intriguing combination of Haydn, Cavalli, and Virgil Thomson…