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!

Muslims in America, Italians in Russia

In catching up on some NY Times arts coverage this weekend I found two Bizarro-Twins-appropriate articles I thought I’d merge into one…

Chronologically first, Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has a new album of baroque operatic arias called St. Petersburg.  Not a city we associate with baroque opera, but as Bartoli’s latest musicological excavation effort points out, as was the case all over Europe, the Russian court was home to several Italian composers patronized by emperors and empresses, alongside other artists from across Europe.  The pieces they composed basically followed Italianate opera conventions, though they were occasionally performed in Russian, but all 11 tracks on the CD are world premiere recordings so it’s certainly a rare set of materials.


Bartoli herself went to the Mariinsky Theater archives to peruse these scores, which were sort of hidden especially during Soviet times to suppress the history of Russia looking to Western Europe, a binary that’s relevant to this day.  I’d certainly like to know a bit more about those archival adventures!  (NYT article)

The other story I wanted to share was a conversation between three Muslim-American artists on how being Muslim, and depicting Muslim characters, influences their work.  The trio included Ayad Akhtar, creator of the Pulitzer-winning play Disgraced, currently on Broadway, Sundance award winning filmmaker Musa Syeed, and of special interest to us, writer G. Willow Wilson, creator of Marvel’s best-selling Ms. Marvel comic, of which the first trade paperback came out earlier this month!  It’s an interesting conversation in its own right, and Wilson talks to how the themes of assimilation and representation pop up in Kamala Khan’s own hero’s journey. (NYT article)

Ms. Marvel by Adrian Alphona, Copyright Marvel Comics

Ms. Marvel by Adrian Alphona, Copyright Marvel Comics

Apparently the new Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City whose own comic debuted in February of this year, is now Marvel’s top-selling female character, and that’s with competition from titles like Black Widow, Storm, She-Hulk, Elektra, and even her inspiration, Captain Marvel!  Not bad kid, not bad…

Dialogues to Come

I saw Francis Poulenc‘s Dialogues des Carmélites for the first time at the Met last Saturday, and curious as I was about it as a novelty, I was not prepared for that emotional roller coaster ride; really one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had at the opera, a supremely moving and nuanced examination of our mortality and our fear of it…

As I said last time, you can listen to the full opera on this At The Opera radio episode, but that’s really no replacement for the full, in-person experience, especially with this opera…  So just in case you happen to be in Toronto, Canadian Opera Company is also performing Dialogues this month!  And next season, Opera Philadelphia will present it too!


Dialogues des Carmélites at Canadian Opera Company

Carmelite Conversations Tonight

John Dexter production of Dialogues des Carmélites at the Met Opera

John Dexter production of Dialogues des Carmélites at the Met Opera

Francis Poulenc‘s 1956 opera Dialogues des Carmélites is back at the Metropolitan Opera this season in a rather famous 1977 John Dexter production, but for only three performances.  It was well-reviewed though, and tonight you can hear it live streamed starting at 7:25pm.

French Revolution-era political cartoon about the clergy

French Revolution-era political cartoon about the clergy, from the Library of Congress

The opera is based on a true story of the French Revolution, when 11 Carmelite nuns and their associates from Compiègne in Northern France, were arrested and executed for defying the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, meant to be the last nail in the coffin of monastic orders in Revolutionary France.  Their execution was famous because as they went to the guillotine, they sang a hymn, inspiring the opera’s famous last scene.

After the live stream, you can still listen to the full opera courtesy of the Internet Archive‘s collection of At The Opera radio episodes.  (More episodes available!)

Viruses Evolve Too

The new storyline over at David Willis‘ college sitcom webcomic Dumbing of Age starts off promising, with a brief but sweet exchange pitting sheltered creationist christian Joyce (the blonde) with awkward dino-loving evolutionist Dina (in dino hat).  It’s not the first time they’ve clashed over evolution, but this time Dina ain’t taking no prisoners!!!  And using flu shots to sneakily confront creationists about evolution?  Very clever Willis…

Apparently this set of strips was so popular (even more so than earlier lesbian kiss-themed strips) that it prompted a new evolution-themed t-shirt from Willis, available here.

Religious Rossini

The second half of NYC Opera‘s current season is fast approaching, and I’m seeing their posters everywhere lately, even my local pizza shop!   So here’s a preview of the video projections designed by Beehive studio for Michael Count‘s production of Rossini‘s 1818 opera Mosè in Egitto.

Rossini’s Moses in Egypt – Trailer from on Vimeo.

And for some more background on the creation of these animations, here’s Beehive founder Ada Whitney:


So get yer’ tickets, for Mosè in Egitto and Offenbach’s La Perichole!  Right now you can get 10% off tickets for both operas with Promo Code 10678 when buying tickets online!

Easter(n) Cantata

Lou Harrison portrait

Lou Harrison, photo by Oscar White, 1973

Mixing things up for Easter with a 20th century composition for the occasion.


Lou Harrison‘s Easter Cantata opens with the Gamelan style chords he is most known for.  He certainly seems like an eccentric character (I mean, just look at that portrait!), and he has an interesting biography, with impressive connections to Schoenberg and Ives.  If you want to hear more, his one-act opera Rapunzel is up on Spotify:

Reminder: Friday-Night Oratorio

Haydn portrait

Just to remind you that the Met (the Museum, not the Opera House) will be live streaming tonight’s 7pm performance of Haydn‘s orchestral piece for Good Friday, The Seven Last Words of Christ performed by Salzburg Chamber Soloists with projections by artist Ofri Cnaani.

Click here for Live Stream at 7pm

Don’t know if any of my readers are into this, but you can get a full free score of this and other pieces by Haydn and by tons of other folk at the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library, which shares digitized public domain sheet music.  Here’s tonight’s piece if you want to read along?

Seven Last Words, One Week Early

Here’s a 1951 performance of the Amadeus Quartet playing Haydn‘s Seven Last Words of Christ in its later reduced version for string quartet (in addition to the original full orchestra version and later choral and piano versions).  Haydn composed it in 1785 for Good Friday celebrations at the Cádiz Cathedral in Spain, explaining the unique experience as such:

The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the centre of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. (source)

We’re a bit early for Good Friday, but the reason I bring this up now is that there’s a performance at the Metropolitan Museum this Friday at 7pm featuring Salzburg Chamber Soloists in yet another adaptation, for string orchestra.

In keeping with the original multimedia experience, the Met invited Israeli-born, New York-based artist Ofri Cnaani to create a video installation using prints from the Met’s collection.  Best of all, the event will be live streamed, so you can enjoy it from home.

Habemus Papum

Copyright Scott Kurtz

My grandmother is tuned 24/7 to the Spanish version of Alabama-based retrograde Catholic propaganda channel EWTN (ewww is right!  they’re bashing gays as I type), so I just saw the whole new pope thing, en vivo.  I guess I dig the fact that he’s Argentine, having been born in Argentina myself, but otherwise: whatever.