Last night at The Met…

…C.C. caught the penultimate performance of Philip Glass’s pacificst epic “Satyagraha.” [Full review to come...]

Umm, so, aside from the gentleman two seats away from me who puked in the aisle right before the curtain for Act II went up, and the couple next to me who wouldn’t stop whispering through the quietest moments of the music, and catching a glimpse of Rufus Wainwright looking well and enjoying the Grand Tier during first intermission, I was mostly able to pay attention to the opera.

Except for when, mid-way through the second act–with the faint odor of a stranger’s vomit occasionally wafting by–I heard a dark, mysterious, and familiar descending melodic line coming from the orchestra. Then suddenly it hit me: THIS MUSIC IS FROM “THE HOURS!”

[UPDATE: FoM has a sound clip.] Continue reading

“La Fille”: In Brief, HD

On Sunday Saturday afternoon, we checked out the HD simulcast of The Met’s“La Fille du Regiment” at the Walter Reade Theater. And much to our dismay, we caught a glimpse of high-C-flaunting Juan Diego Florez coming out of the Juilliard School’s Meredith Wilson Residence Hall with fiance wife Julia Trappe in tow at around, oh, 1pm. That’s like 30 minutes before curtain! He was dressed in a nice suit, and she in a gold and pink sleeveless opera gown. They were ducking into an elevator, trying to avoid being recognized by the 30 or so people waiting in the standby line at the box office.

It makes sense that JDF would be strolling into the theater in the nick of time, since, during the post-Act I interview with Renee Flemming, he told her he didn’t warm up his high Cs. He just goes out there and does them. That’s also consistent with various accounts–and our own observation–that the notes for him are oddly effortless. Continue reading

On A Musical Note

I thought I’d send y’all out into the weekend with a thought about the debate that’s been simmering on these two posts. Some of the comments concern this idea that atonality is unnatural, and therefore, illegitimate in some way. Bernard Holland’s recent comment that serialism is “made up” represent this notion that there is something essentially plastic about twelve-tone composition.

First of all, it’s important to recognize that all methods of composition are made up. If Holland understood what it took to learn the skill of writing 4-part harmony with “correct” voice leading, he would know that the music of Mozart and Brahms adheres to a rather strict complex of rules that, while lovely and truly a marvel in terms of human aesthetic achievement–have not always been the rule. It’s a relatively recent notion that parallel fifths are incorrect. In fact, western polyphony began by simply doubling a single melodic line with the higher fifth. It was a hot new technique that was all the rage at the time. But now, when you enter a conservatory program in composition, you learn quickly that parallel fifth are a big no-no.

Yet parallel fifths still remain very natural to the ear. That’s why most young composers have to have parallel fifths beaten out of them before they can return to them with a more complex approach. Perhaps, one could say, parallel fifths are too natural to the ear (after all, it is the second partial in the harmonic series and the second most important degree in the hierarchy of diatonic harmony). Continue reading

Critics Award of the Day: A.M. on James Kudelka

So, Alastair Macaulay makes the case for adding James Kudelka’s “The Ruins Proclaim the Building Was Beautiful” to C.C.’s Know When To Say When list; and then some. He writes:

“The Ruins Proclaim the Building Was Beautiful” (to music by César Franck soupily arranged for orchestra by Rodney Sharman) lasts no more than 30 minutes, but only by clock time. While you watch, you begin to feel that Bill Clinton probably eloped with Michelle Obama long ago, that the problems of Palestine and Iraq and Afghanistan must have all been sorted by now, that whole generations of human life have passed and aliens have surely taken over the planet and then departed, all while you are stuck there in the theater trying to find the least interest in watching the same tepid floozies doing the same limp steps. With its women so evidently “fallen” and its frock-coated men so pallid and ghoulish, I can see why a friend called it “The Best Little Whorehouse in Transylvania.” Even in Transylvania, though, aren’t most whorehouses livelier and more frolicsome than this dirge?

OMG, this is hot. Although, I’ve never been to an actual whorehouse. Unless art galleries count. And in that case, they’re actually pretty mellow.

Baby One More Time

It’s a classical music day!

So, e’rbody knows about Juan Diego Florez’s 18 high C’s at The Met last night. C.C.’s gonna check out the simulcast on Saturday. Interrupting a piece of theater so a performer can take a bow–or in this case, re-sing the entire aria–is like one of those divisive election-year issues that is bound to stir up emotions. As are Mortier’s modern-dress updates of classic operas.

I’m not sure NYC knowns how lucky it is going to be when you have Gelb at The Met programming hard-core Bel Canto seasons, and Mortier rocking crazy-ass contemporary works at the City Opera. They seem to represent emphatic polar opposites in at least a few regards. If all goes well, and things don’t get too mud-slingy, New Yorkers should be privy to witness an energetic and world class conversation about opera in the 21st century by two of the most well-known opera houses in the world.

Hot.

[BTW: The applause in the audio excerpt last about 1:30, which is about about 60% of the time the actual cabaletta lasts; about 2:30. That should give you an idea about why some opera fans disapprove of placing so much emphasis on virtuosity (as Bel Canto operas generally did). This also includes the audience applauding before an aria has even ended, which you do hear as Florez finishes the encore.]

Bernard Holland Is A Serial Killer

Ok, sue me for being sensational. It’s only a pun. But it gets to the point. Bernard Holland has set his will against serial music, and atonality in general. Oh, and rational discourse.

Y’all already know about B. Ho’s last piece, to which we responded with due ridicule.

And then, just the other day, he wrote this editorial–already addressed by many a blog–where he takes the opportunity of composer George Perle’s 93rd birthday to wax idiotic about how atonality and serialism are unnatural, elitist, and generally against human nature. (I did warn all of you that this was coming…here and here and here.)

It would seriously stress me out to try to go into all the reasons why B. Ho. is not a great thinker. And that’s what it comes down to. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t enjoy atonal music. The problem is that he can’t formulate constructive or even rational thought regarding why he doesn’t like it. It literally sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But there are, however, signs of hope at The Times. Continue reading

DUmb Critic Hack Award: THIS TIME, IT’S PERSONAL

DOUCHEWell, well, well. We’re back and we’re bad, and we’ve resuscitated the DUCHIES (pronounced, DOUCHE-ees) because Jenny D.’s recent review of a mixed bill at BRIC Studios in Brooklyn has us fired up. The interesting thing is that C.C. was personally involved and invested in one of the pieces she took down.

Now, before we all start tearing our hair out and screaming, “But you can’t criticize a review of something you were part of!”, I can. Not only is this a blog, and therefore, I make up the rules. But, I can’t think of anything more healthy than an artist responding to a critic in a manner that is thoughtful and critical. Why is this dialog not happening in the first place? Why are artists afraid of critics, and vice versa? Well, there are probably a lot of reasons. But the greatest value the medium of bloggery has, a value that is sadly underemployed, is the way it can mediate immediacy in discourse and public discussion. It’s an experiment, but here goes.

According to J. Dog, “the program was a flaccid and dispiriting affair.” And she’s partially right. Only two of the night’s five acts, all curated by Ishmael Houston Jones, were at all interesting or moving.

The first of these was Pele Bausch’s “ism”, where she and Christine Sandifer gently moved about the space, their bodies wrapped in plastic bags that have be stuffed under flesh-tone nylons, so that with each miniscule movement, you heard a soft, swishing of crinkling plastic, like gentle sheets of rain falling on leaves. It really was magical in its way; the sound creating a total aural analog to the entire force and presence of the human body. In this regard, I think J. Dog under-recognized them.

Now, the second, and here’s where it gets fun, was the solo “Empty Every Night” by dance artist, Jeremy Laverdure. Jeremy is not only a friend of mine of several years, but he and I are actually collaborating on a dance piece together, some of which found its way into his solo (with my acquiescence). This means, not only do I have a vested interest in the success of some of the choreography, but I also have the inside creative scoop on how some of the choreography came about, which, in this particular instance of dance, is deeply important: The opening moments of Jeremy’s solo were lifted from Jerome Robbin’s “Afternoon of a Faun.” Continue reading

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