A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 136: Cymbeline at Shakespeare and Company; Elgar at Tanglewood

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Tamara Hickey as Imogen and Thomas Brazzle as Posthumus in Shakespeare's Cymbeline. Photo Stratton McCrady.
Tamara Hickey as Imogen and Thomas Brazzle as Posthumus in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Photo Stratton McCrady.

Cymbeline at Shakespeare and Company

For me Cymbeline is all about the new Blackfriars Theater, an enclosed space, a place to speak quietly, a place lit by candles, a space that found William Shakespeare buying a house in the vicinity, a space for a riot of inventiveness, revived for us by Tina Packer. Think of the bedroom scene where Iachimo examines the sleeping Imogen. This scene played in The Globe would surely have produced some less than elegant speech from the crowd. Shakespeare and Company’s production chose something of a middle way, a humorous assault on Imogen’s person, which must have played better in the Blackfriars Theater, the audience being genteel, and their number being small. What I am trying to say is that the space, the location matter. When one gets a new house, one fills it up with beautiful things. Cymbeline is a flood of moving, ridiculous, silly, sweet, dangerous things. Some scenes work better than others. My personal favorite in this production was the scene with Pisanio and Imogen. Deaon Griffin-Pressley as Pisanio and Tamara Hickey as Imogen gave the most heartfelt performances of the evening. Their short tender scene remains with me. Nigel Gore, taking three roles, was excellent in a different way. He excelled in the hijinks; he was believable in the tender passages.

What does the play say, in the final analysis? —that there is a process, often saddening, even to the point of despair, which in the excellent play Cymbeline, shines through the hijinks. This is not Shakespeare’s finest moment, but it may be his truest.

Edward ElgarEdward Elgar

Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra

The first concert of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra was a tour-de-force, a collection of intricate, complex sounds. Finest of all was Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in C, conducted by Nuno Coelho, a performance which had pathos as well as energy. There was exceptional clarity. The wind playing alone, in its poignancy, was the highlight of the evening. The young players of the TMCO moved fearlessly through two trumpet concertos by Mark-Anthony Turnage, a kind of barely controlled cacophony, conducted energetically by Andris Nelsons.

Moving to the other side of the pond for its second concert, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra gave a stunning performance of Edward Elgar’s Symphony no.1, the Adagio movement especially, a work of sublime nostalgia. This great work begins with a plangent, quiet march, a tune which could not be anything other than English. We hear the broad, brave melody throughout the symphony, playing time and time again, after the bustling energy of the piece, the center of English melancholy. The Scherzo in particular was brilliantly played, its ending again bringing us back to the sad presage of war. The playing of the Tanglewood Fellows was remarkably complete, in its technical bars particularly. The young musicians played fearlessly, ably supported by the energy of Stefan Asbury’s conducting. All in all, this for me, was one of the best performances by the Fellows, in my many years around the Festival. It deserved a larger audience than it received.

Last but not least by any means, there was an atmospheric performance of Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs, by Elaine Daiber, Alexandra Smither, and Paulina Svierczek. They made the angular, delicious music seem a natural voice.

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