Music that is somehow outside the accepted parameters of classical music appears at the Tannery Pond Concerts once or twice every season. For example, in 2008, soprano Amy Burton and pianist John Musto presented a program of show tunes from Broadway and the Grands Boulevards. Or mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, whose singing of Vivaldi, Handel, and Rossini is so highly regarded in Europe and America, combined German Lieder with zarzuela numbers, an enthusiasm she acquired from her Mexican-born mother. Now, for Tannery’s 20th anniversary season, Music Director Christian Steiner has asked Paula Robison and her colleagues, Romero Lubambo and Cyro Baptista (both Brazilians who have settled in the United States) to return after a ten-year absence, to play the Brazilian music which has attracted a warmly enthusiastic following since the early 90’s when they first began playing together.
Why has Debussy’s Mélisande become a mezzo-soprano role? Maybe David Mamet has given me the answer to this. The playwright and bomb-thrower tells us in his new book “Theatre” that actors are in almost every case better off without a director, their own instincts leading the way. Mélisande has been sounding lower and lower over the decades (and Pélleas, too, for he always follow her wherever she goes). Here are the explanations we get: the part is low (surely Debussy realized this, yet did not change it, as he did for a baritone Pélleas), the orchestras are larger, the halls are larger, and maybe mezzos just want to do it. I have now in my imagination the idea that a century of cynicism has altered the instincts of the finest singers of the role, and also its finest hearers.
Greeting guests were James Barton, a Trustee of the Board of Glimmerglass, and Michael MacLeod, General and Artistic Director. MacLeod has, in five years of his term, maintained an enviably high artistic level of production, while at the same time bringing a much needed marketing facelift. For example, program books, brochures, mailings, and the Website have undergone extensive and attractive redesign.
Vermont Hippies: Photographs by Peter Simon and Rebecca Lepkoff, an exhibit of some forty photographs of southern Vermont will be on view at the Vermont Center for Photography, 49 Flat Street, Brattleboro, July 2 to August 1. Since the 1930s Vermont has been a magnet for urban émigrés searching for their own Edens. During the 1960s and 70s, veterans of the peace and civil rights movements settled into nontraditional households. Outwardly, they were distinguished from their Vermont neighbors by their progressive views, long hair, and unconventional clothing. The repercussions of this influx of counter-culture is still strongly felt in Vermont today, even thought the photographs make it look like so long ago. Suzanne Flynt, a VCP Board Member said, “This exhibition will make you smile, or cringe, or even laugh out loud.”
As sundry acts of God and man are manifested, unexpected changes, substitutions, and permanent transitions abound.
I can’t resist beginning on a happy note: The Berkshire Review for the Arts has exceeded 1,000,000 hits in a month. The numbers game is not our priority here at The Review, but a million is a significant and symbolic number in the esoteric world of Internet traffic statistics.
The news I have been expecting has now officially arrived:
James Levine will withdraw from his concerts with the BSO and Tanglewood Music Center due to further recuperation time needed after recent back surgery.
Michael Tilson Thomas will lead the BSO opening night performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 on July 9, and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Mozart’s Requiem on July 16, as well as the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 on July 17.
Christoph von Dohnányi will conduct the staged Tanglewood Music Center Production of Strauss’s Ariadne Auf Naxos on August 1 And 2.
Johannes Debus will have his BSO Debut, conudctin Mozart’s The Abduction From Seraglio on July 23
Hans Graf will lead the BSO in program of marches, waltzes, and polkas by the Strauss Family on July 25 .
An announcement about substitute conductor for program of Strauss’s Four Last Songs and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Soprano Hei-Kyung Hong on July 31 will be forthcoming.
These and other changes have been entered in the season schedule below.
What can one say to this? I left my opening sentence as it was, because Maestro Levine’s cancellations are now routine. I wrote a defense of the Maestro back in February, and that still stands. Levine has improved the orchestra, organized some excellent programs, and conducted some brilliant performances, along with some mediocre ones. There is nothing sadder than being unable to work, especially if it is an artistic vocation to which one is devoted, and Mr. Levine’s health may well be out of his control, but he has disappointed his audiences and his TMC students for too long. He has missed 60% of his BSO engagements this past season, and now there is more. We don’t know what to expect next season, either at the BSO or at the Met, where Levine was to inaugurate a much-publicized new Ring Cycle. There is enough evidence for us to conclude that he is truly physically incapable of pursuing the agenda he has taken up at both institutions. It is time for him to cut back his commitments to the point where he can give his best to his public and his students on a reliable, if not consistent basis.
The Beethoven C-Sharp Minor alone can exhaust both listeners and performers in its athletic compass of emotional extremes. But the deeply tragic and valedictory Britten Quartet, the program’s true centerpiece, was infused with such poignancy and despair that the tranquility of Tannery Pond’s almost ethereal grounds, with their assuring Shaker buildings and yawning fields, offered little succor. The rarely heard Schumann quartet, while having its share of Biedermeir charm, also shared some spectral affinities with the Britten, and evoked, at times, the melancholy of Caspar David Friedrich’s dark and mysterious landscapes. However, two hours later, one could not have been more satisfied and impressed with a performance that transformed the darkness into light with the sheer force of musical intelligence and immaculate technique.