A Singer’s Notes, 15: Masks

Gilbert and Sullivan is not my cup of tea. Its style wears a mask. I can be analytical, and I just can’t place it. Of course it is a send-up of everything from Bellini to the New Year’s concert. I am also convinced there is something serious there which I am not getting. It’s rather like reading The Rape of the Lock; the parody is the pathos, and when you laugh with it, you feel like you are laughing at it. C-R Productions at the Cohoes Music Hall IS my cup of tea. In their recent Mikado I saw a well rehearsed, well thought out, not over-staged production, which helped me with my dilemma.

Boston Baroque under Martin Pearlman play Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610

As a 400th anniversary tribute to Monteverdi’s Vespers, Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque have returned to one of their signature pieces. Their history with the work goes back to their early years, and their 1997 recording remains one of the most highly respected. These performances, two at Jordan Hall and one at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York were an opportunity to hear Pearlman’s thoroughly researched and solid reading with a new crop of singers, most of whom are young performers from New England. Kristen Watson in particular I remember as one of many excellences in Aston Magna’s Purcell program two summers ago. Her rounded tone as well as her clean articulation, as well as her intelligence and wit, were truly memorable.

Myung-Whun Chung conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in an All-Ravel Program

For a good part of this reviewer’s life, it would seem, the world has been waiting for a truly great International French symphony orchestra. At mid-century, a general feeling was that the Boston Symphony under Sergei Koussevitzky and Charles Munch carried the torch for French music, ably assisted by Paul Paray in Detroit, Pierre Monteux wherever he could be found, and, on disc, by L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva.

Simon Keenlyside sings Schumann, Wolf, and Schubert at Alice Tully

There could not have been a more extreme contrast between Renée Fleming’s approach to Strauss’ Four Last Songs, recently reviewed in these pages, and Simon Keenlyside’s in this recital. For Fleming, the texts of Strauss’ songs are cushioned in her gorgeous production and phrasing, while for Keenlyside the text is the beginning and end of a performance which is essentially dramatic, no matter what beautiful moments his extremely varied—and variable—voice may produce along the way, and of course these moments are entirely expressive in purpose. Acting is second nature to him. In most of his selections he created a character before he uttered a phrase.

Maximum Stupid: Sydney’s Big Barangaroo Blowup

“The Master Plan suggests an architecture that, despite its scale, will not overshadow any of the spaces that are, in and of themselves, naturally beautiful. The exception to this is the library and hotel pier. A reference to tall ships that once docked at the harbour’s edge and the hotel and library are expressions of the magnificent ability for a building to almost walk on water. This architecture will provide necessary markers in their own right.” -from the Barangaroo Public Display, March 2010

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