Music and words, words and music. In director Allyn Burrows’ Twelfth Night at Shakespeare and Company, words and music received full support from the text and from the melodies. One reason for this play’s greatness is a simple one—many characters, many situations. The first encouragement in this superb production is its near constant use of music. New music, old music, all used with joy. Also that occasional joy which comes from sadness.
The best of director Allyn Burrow’s energetic As You Like It at Shakespeare and Company resides in the middle of the show. The quietest of activity focused us on a vexed question: is disguise a better truth? Somehow when I see As You Like It, I am always a little disappointed when Rosalind fits everything together, as if she were ready for a good evening out. Our Rosalind, Aimee Dougherty, masterfully manipulated, lied even, to come to a better end. What I liked most in her superb performance was that little twinge of doubt, just at the end. The big question is, can deception tell the truth? In this case the answer would have to be yes, and this wonderful young actress and singer made it work. (You may also have heard her wonderful voice in the Boston Pops Leonard Bernstein concert a couple of months ago.)
The Tanglewood Vocal Fellows singing Bernstein made a marvelous display of fine technique, verbal intensity, and general cooperation that wowed me. I have always heard A Quiet Place with a sense of bewilderment, sometimes wondering where the opera came from. An adventure in newness, one must listen to it carefully, repeatedly, to find its inside. Let me say at this point that there was spectacular vocalism, particularly by soprano Elaine Daiber as Dede, whose golden voice roamed from below the staff to atmospheric heights with ease.
The plays of August Strindberg that I know tend to reach their greatest intensity in the middle. His plays crave engagement. Energy is all. This was shown deftly, powerfully in Shakespeare and Company’s production of Creditors. Convincing performances were provided by Jonathan Epstein as Gustav, Ryan Winkles as Adolph, and Kristin Wold as Tekla. As Gustav, Mr. Epstein was the mover and shaker. He had been given the difficult task of showing a kind of hidden abuse in the guise of providing instruction in living to the young Adolph, Mr. Winkles.
The first two concerts this summer season by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra were among the best I have heard in several decades. The energy level was palpable. The intensity of the playing, particularly the strings, was a marvel. The two greatest challenges for the ensemble were Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and the Leonore Overture No. 3 of Beethoven.
At the risk of repeating myself, I must once again give my best praise to Aston Magna’s concert, “Dueling Violins, Genial Gambas,” on June 30 at Saint James Place in Great Barrington. Though I am not on the lookout for poor performances from anyone, I am continually amazed at the high level of the participating artists in this group. The style has become an easy, normal thing, speaking clearly to us centuries later in large part because of the ease these wonderful players show.
What is best in Aston Magna’s concerts is a complete lack of pretension, whether it is Daniel Stepner’s quiet erudition or the singing of soprano Dominique Labelle, who shows an almost childlike identification with the music she sings, this requiring of course, a superb technique. The players take pleasure in the style which they have mastered so completely. It doesn’t proselytize or force anything on you. We are a family, privileged to hear some of the greatest music there is.
A show both rollicking and precise began the season at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, New York. Among several accomplished performances, Corrinne Tork as Lola connected the threads of the play into the real thing and raised her performance to an expression of kindness. Damn Yankees purports to be a play about baseball, but it is really a soul-searching adventure. Baseball is only a tangental part of the action, although the writer does allow a victory for all at the end. What really mattered and what really played as if it mattered, was the progress the major characters taught themselves.