Twelve Nights of Music

I’ve been off my blogging game this holiday season, meaning less posts but also me getting to the party late for some pretty neat music events…  Chief among these is the Twelfth Night Festival, a twelve days jamboree of early music at Trinity Church and Saint Paul’s Chapel in downtown Manhattan starting last Friday and lasting through this weekend…

There’s lots of great instrumental and vocal music from the renaissance and baroque, with plenty of free concerts throughout, and  the festival is even book-ended by two musical dramas.  It opened this weekend with the French renaissance Play of Daniel, in a production originally created for the Met Museum‘s medieval outpost, the Cloisters, and reviewed here.  An excerpt from the original performances at the Cloisters above, depicting Belshazzar’s Feast.

The festival ends this weekend with another fully staged musical-theater performance, of Georg Frideric Händel‘s 1739 oratorio Saul, a chorus of which is below.  Get your tickets for that now, and check out the other ticketed and free(!) performances throughout this week!

A Week of Free Early Music

Early Music Festival NYC LogoGreat news for early music fans like myself!

Starting tomorrow is the Early Music Festival NYC, with multiple free concerts a day in venues across the city between Friday the 13th and Thursday the 19th.

The schedule and programs are listed on their site for your planning pleasure (though really, how wrong could you go?), and the Festival gets off to a big start tomorrow with cellist Paul Dwyer performing all six of J.S. Bach‘s Cello Suites in five venues across all five of New York’s boroughs!

There are also quite a few vocal concerts in the line up, including…

No shortage of offerings as you can see!  And that’s not counting many other purely instrumental concerts!  So hope you enjoy!

PS: Sorry for my long absence from the blog!  I sorta let it go as I was on the job hunt but realized it might be a good thing to keep going when it was brought up during one of my interviews!  The comic / opera theme seemed to amuse people, haha…


Poulenc Anniversary

Today marks the 50th anniversary of French composer Francis Poulenc‘s death, so here is the legendary haunting final scene from his opera, Dialogues des Carmélites about a group of nuns who were guillotined in the wake of the French Revolution.  


The opera gets a rare outing at the Met in May, for three performances only.  Another, slightly more immediate option is his Gloria for chorus and soprano, performed by the Barnard-Columbia and St. Olaf’s Choirs at Alice Tully Hall in March.  I’m looking forward to getting to know his work a bit better myself…

Verdi Bicentennial the BBC Way

As I’ve mentioned many a time, this opera season marks the 200th birthday of Italian stallion Giuseppe Verdi, so opera houses all over the world are doing even more Verdi than they’d normally do, as well as reaching back for more obscure pieces.

BBC Radio 3 is going all out too, saying they’re going to stream every Verdi opera ever for a week each.  Right now their Verdi 200 includes three more off-the-beaten-path operas: 1857’s Simon Boccanegra has become a wider hit in recent years, the earlier 1843 I Lombardi, and the 1854 French grand opéra style I Vespri Siciliani.  (The distinct, strict traditions of French vs. Italian opera are really fascinating, but interesting to see that operas and composers could cross over too…)  Tomorrow, Verdi classic Il Trovatore gets added to the list too.

I’m wondering if LA Opera‘s production of the obscure Il Due Foscari will make it to BBC…  Speaking of LA Opera, if you’re a nerd like me who waits on the edge of their seat for new opera season announcements, LA just announced their 2013/2014 season, including some more Verdi (and a Britten too, for his centennial); pretty ahead of the curve, LA!

Happy Epiphany

January 6th marks Epiphany, which as I understood it was the day the Three Wise Men made it to Bethlehem…  and of course a second opportunity for presents…  To mark the occasion, here is part 6 from Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Christmas Oratorio, “for the feasts of Epiphany”:

This oratorio was actually made up of earlier music by Bach, drawn from 4 previous cantatas, one of which is otherwise lost, but this pastiche was written for the 1734 Christmas season.

Bernstein Centennial forthcoming

I’ve repeatedly mentioned how this year has been a big one for operatic anniversaries;  bicentennials of Verdi and Wagner and a centennial for Britten (born on St. Cecelia‘s Day, appropriately enough!).  Well, some people are gearing up for another centennial five years in advance…


Leonard Bernstein was born in 1918, and the Leonard Bernstein Office in New York is now fielding submissions for a logo for his centennial.  Information on competition guidelines are here, and the last day to submit is January 31st, 2013.  Any creative followers out there get cracking!  And definitely share your submissions with us!

(PS: If you came through Facebook, the photo of Bernstein appearing in that status update is by Jack Mitchell; credit where it’s due!)

Opera Jawa & Austwia

After hearing about this upon its release 6 years ago, I finally saw it by chance on CUNY TV last night:

Opera Jawa was commissioned of Garin Nugroho, prolific and award-winning Indonesian director, by  Peter SellarsNew Crowned Hope Festival to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart‘s birth, so I gotta wonder what he would’ve made of it.

It’s an adaptation of an episode from The Ramayana to modern Indonesia, but it still retains a very mysterious, ritualistic vibe…  I’m sure I didn’t get out of it what someone who is more familiar with Indonesian music and drama would, and it did feel pretty long at just under 2 hours, but I was glad to see it finally.  I enjoyed the imaginative use of props, the clearly collaborative process, and the mix of classical Gamelan music, by Rahayu Supanggah, with folk music elements.

Opera Jawa will be shown again on CUNY TV‘s City Cinematheque tonight at 9pm, and next Saturday at midnight.

I think the furthest east Mozart ever got in an opera was Turkey, so no super-appropriate from-beyond-the-grave response to Nugroho, but here’s a choral interlude from the incidental music he wrote to the play Thamos, King of Egypt, in a 1980s Swiss TV performance:

Thanksgiving in Minnesota

Classics Illustrated Song of Hiawatha

Marking Thanksgiving, inspired by harvest celebrations between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in New England, with an opera drawn from an epic poem inspired by Ojibwe legends from Minnesota might seem strange, but  Thanksgiving seems to be sort of a hodge-podge anyway, so whatever!

Wrapping up National Native American Heritage Month with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor‘s 1898 cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the first in a trilogy of cantatas based on Longfellow‘s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.

Coleridge-Taylor was born to an English mother and an absent Sierra Leonean father (echoes of Obama) in 1875.  He was active in the 1890s and became known as “The African Mahler”.  The wildly successful Hiawatha Trilogy made his name, but he died at just 37 years old.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Another interesting link between Hiawatha and Thanksgiving is Longfellow himself.  He also wrote The Courtship of Miles Standish which helped reinvigorate American interest in the Pilgrims just as Thanksgiving was beginning to take hold as a nation-wide holiday.

ANYWAY…  Happy Thanksgiving Americans!

Britten War Requiem

Sunday may have officially been Veteran’s Day, but today’s the federal holiday, so it still counts…  That bit of crassness aside, I’ll let Benjamin Britten‘s 1962 War Requiem speak for itself:

This full 1992 performance is by the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.

Also, if all goes according to plan, this will be the first post to be shared to Facebook, so hello!  This is my blog about all things comics & opera, so check it out if you like either or both of those things, I guess.

Creole Church Chorus

Misa Criolla, Phillips record cover

Religious music and opera have an interesting relationship…  Lots of church music – oratorios, parables, etc – tells a story, so that’s enough of a link for me.  In fact, though works based on religious themes were banned from the stage in 18th century London, that didn’t stop composers like Händel from writing religious works that shared a whole lot in common with their secular work…

Masses and passions are less plotty I think, but it’s still vocal music with a communicative purpose, right?  Glimmerglass Opera will be presenting a double-bill of Passions next year, so that’s an interesting precedent…  ANYWAY, this is all a long-winded excuse for posting a wider range of religious music here on Bizarro Twins.  So here is Misa Criolla by the Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez, ’nuff said!