Saturday, February 28, 2009

So many opera companies....

My page of links to opera companies in the region is almost complete and may never be absolutely complete. (See my extra pages in the side bar.) If you think I left any companies out, please comment here or send an e-mail to farlaf2000 at yahoo dot com. (There is also an e-mail button on my profile page.)

The list is not about who has the bigger budgets and flashier productions. It's about the number and variety of companies active in the general region -- Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania and Virginia. I've only seen productions by a few of these companies, mainly the ones around Baltimore and DC, but it's obvious that each one has something different to offer. I've read about Pittsburgh Opera, but Opera Theatre Pittsburgh is new to me, although they've been around since 1978. OTP's current season includes Bizet's "Djamileh" and Salieri's "Prima la Musica," so they're on a mission to circulate rarely performed works also. (They apparently have a special series of productions performed in unusual locations.) An opera friend told me about Opera Roanoke in Virginia. The company's artistic director is conductor Steven White, husband of soprano Elizabeth Futral (both have appeared with Baltimore Opera).

Yes, there is a Chamber Opera of Washington! The same opera friend was asking me if I'd heard about them, so I just tried a search and there they were. They're in the list now. They're planning to perform "The Turn of the Screw" in October 2009.

I'll add to the page as necessary, and I'll be working on links for my other extra page in the near future.

just nattering: more memorable albums; new albums; this economy

My list of 15 plus most memorable recordings in a recent post was typed up on the spot to see what would come to mind first (as truly memorable?). I made a couple of spelling and title corrections later, then I started thinking of other albums I might have mentioned on a different day. Rita Streich. Various collections of arias and lieder sung by Christoff, Chaliapin, Hvorostovsky... One chamber music set that came to mind was the Philips box of Mozart's six string quintets played by the violinist Arthur Grumiaux and friends. Then there's the DG box of Dvorak's complete music for string quartet played by the Prague Quartet. And what about a movie soundtrack? "Monsoon Wedding".

~Bjoerling and Melchior~
After I made my list the other night, I listened to some of the Nimbus collections of Jussi Bjoerling -- still magnetic as ever after repeated listening; would that he had not been killed by the drinking problem. Then I found my RCA disc of the Heldentenor Lauritz Melchior. The opening track of a both hypnotic and ringing rendition of "Mein lieber Schwann!" has been played here many times, but there is more on this album which I must revisit, including duets with sopranos Lotte Lehmann and Kirsten Flagstad. The photo of Melchior on the front of this album shows us one of the Nicest People of the 20th Century.


~A partial playlist of new discs on the player recently~

-- guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad's "Jardim abandonado" album on Nonesuch. It's a great disc to hear straight through in one sitting, but a couple of tracks that might get repeated listening are Sergio Assad's composition, "Tahhiyya Li Ossoulina", and the duo's rendition of "Rhapsody in Blue". (From memories of my early concert-going days: I heard the Assads in a performance on campus many years ago.)

-- "Immortal Soul". A two-disc set done by Rhino for Nordstrom, spotted in a counter display at Nordstrom the other night. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Little Richard and others. Some of the performers and titles were very familiar, some new to me. I had to have it. Listening to it at home also made me seek out my album of Sam Cooke.


~the economy (now Theater Project?)~
I won't post links to all the bad economic news I see. There's plenty of it for all of us to read, but the item about the Walters Art Museum in my last post was upsetting, and it provided a summary of other things that have happened. Note Theater Project fearing they might have to cancel next season, which I hadn't read about yet. This has been a location for some productions by Peabody Chamber Opera and American Opera Theater among other groups.

Some good signs, not really arts-related: A young family a couple of doors down from me who want a bigger house for the kids finally have an "under contract" notice on their house sale sign. For myself, this weekend on the social calendar: Taking a break from concert-going, I'm joining a sizable party of friends for dinner at a restaurant here in Columbia.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

OK, I'll play: 15 (or so) most memorable recordings, frequently played

I usually don't like memes, but this one appeals, and it's even something I've been thinking about recently. Alex on Wellsung
posted this idea, in which you list the 15 albums that made the most impression on you and which you played repeatedly, and ideally you can still remember events or feelings associated with the time when you first heard the music.

So here's my own list, which I'm going to type up without researching in my collection, and it might not be exactly 15:

1. Sibelius' Symphony No. 2, Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra -- borrowed on vinyl from the public library during college break around 1980; started a lifelong love affair with Sibelius' music

2. Borodin's "Prince Igor", Bulgarian forces with bass Boris Christoff as Igor and Khan Konchak on EMI. It is not a highly regarded set, and its deficiencies were more obvious to me later when I'd heard other performances -- but it's all about Christoff and it was my first exposure to a complete performance of what was an elusive opera to hunt down.

3. Russian orchestral masterpieces, including Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol and Gliere's Russian Sailor's Dance ending at breakneck speed, Ormandy and the Philadelphia (?)

4. "Dawn on the Moskva River" from Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina" played ever so dreamily by the NY Philharmonic (?) with Bernstein conducting

5. Probably several different recordings of "Night on Bald Mountain"

6. Paul Simon's "Graceland" album

7. Nimbus recordings of Jussi Bjoerling in song and aria, most notably his Puccini arias (in Italian, not Swedish) and Beethoven's "Adelaide", and the collection of various classical and popular songs sung mostly in Swedish but ending with "O, Sole Mio" in Italian. (An English uncle who had heard Bjoerling in performance spoke fondly of him before I started finding albums by him.)

8. Solti's Ring cycle on Decca (well, that's 14 or 15 discs right there); not that I've put this set on repeatedly, but many segments ring in the memory

9. Cafe Oran

10. "In the Fiddler's House", Itzhak Perlman and several great Klezmer ensembles

11. Suite from "Swan Lake" with Karajan conducting on DG

12. "The Wood Nymph", by Sibelius, Vanska and the Lahti Symphony on BIS

13. "Mazeppa", by Liszt, Karajan and the Berlin on DG; no other recording will do; heard many, many times in a very difficult year of my life

14. that demonic "Gigue" by Lourie on Marc-Andre Hamelin's "Kaleidoscope" disc

15. Neeme Jarvi and the Scottish National Orchestra's set of Rimsky-Korsakov suites on Chandos

16. I do have a Baroque one: Christie and Rousset's Couperin album on Harmonia Mundi -- now I'm double checking titles in my collection -- which ends with a stunning display of duelling harpsichords in Musete de Choisi and Musete de Taverni.

17. one of the Los Lobos band's collections, "Del Este De Los Angeles" (along with other albums by them, especially "La Pistola y El Corazon")

18. Rutland Boughton's rare opera, "The Immortal Hour," on Hyperion.

19. Chris Norman's "The Man with the Wooden Flute"

20. Carlos Kleiber conducting "Der Freischutz" by Weber with Gundula Janowitz gorgeous in her arias besides other attractions to the set

21. The Seekers: There was a vinyl LP of their hits in the home when I was a kid, then I bought the 5-disc set of The Seekers Complete.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

one small way to help the arts (and friends and co-workers)

I might be stating something obvious to do, but I'm also happy to report some positive results. The Meyerhoff lobby, the brochure table in City Cafe, the foyers of the Peabody Institute and An die Musik -- all of these places have stacks of brochures and fliers for the season and upcoming concerts. Sometimes I'll pick up three or four and put them in a bag of reading material I usually have with me when I'm spending time before a concert. Later, I'll leave them in a small stack on a front counter in my office. Somebody always takes one or two of them (and I remove whatever is left before too long).

An die Musik, as many patrons of the store and its concerts have noticed, has individual fliers for most of its concerts in addition to the monthly schedules. The web site url for the concert calendar is printed on them, too. I thought that the flier for the recent guitar duo looked particularly interesting, so I picked up some copies of it and left them in the office. Yes, a younger new employee was attracted, and he even checked out the calendar on line and went to another concert in addition to the duo's. He also really enjoyed a regular feature of An die Musik's recitals: the post-concert reception and a chance to chat with the artists.

So new people in town might find out about the Baltimore Symphony and events at the Kennedy Center easily enough, but other opportunities that are either free or lower priced will be less obvious. I also mention the BSO's rush tickets, but these might not be available for all concerts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Abridged but Magical "La Calisto" in Peabody Opera Workshop

There was a larger program for the free opera workshop at the Peabody Institute last night, but I didn't stay for the second half, which was to be a selection of excerpts from operas by Gluck, Rossini, Cimarosa and Bellini.

The first half was an abridgement of Francesco Cavalli's "La Calisto", with libretto by Giovanni Faustini. Lasting just over an hour, this simplified version still felt like a full operatic experience. I left at the end with that lovely lament music for Calisto which begins and ends the opera still haunting me. The staging was updated, and the first sentence from the program's synopsis sets the tone: "The opera begins in heaven, which we imagine as an Italian restaurant, headquarters of the heavenly mob family." Thus, Giunone (Juno) becomes a Mafia Donna, and her Furies are hit women. These headquarters were off to one side of the stage, and the opera's main action took place in a very bare set that suggested a rundown garden or park with plastic bottles and other trash strewn around.

The Friedberg Hall has no stage curtain, and this set didn't exactly look very promising as the audience took their seats, but this is workshop opera with other matters under consideration. (The Ravel opera workshop a couple of years ago had something approaching a full set.) As the show proceeded, some very fine performances by the singers and the musicians (in a small ensemble on the other side of the stage) worked their magic and filled out a set in the imagination. The role of the unfortunate nymph, Calisto, was beautifully sung by Nola Richardson and also by Carolyn Pelley, who I assume was Calisto after her transformation at the end of the opera. Elizabeth Hungerford, who I've heard before with the Peabody's early music ensembles, was another strong voice on stage as the goddess Diana and Giove (Jove/Jupiter) disguised as Diana. In this disguise role, Hungerford turned in some good acting as Giove tries in vain to shake off signs of masculinity before making advances on Calisto -- yes, some suggestions of Lesbian love here.

I have to mention tenor Tyler Lee in the spinster-nymph role of Linfea. I was expecting the male as female role, but I wasn't sure Linfea had entered until Mr. Lee's fellow students in the audience laughed a little more loudly in approval. The costume was well done, and Lee completed the picture with a nicely done portrayal of a fussy matron. I also liked the scene in which Calisto is visited or haunted by the nymph, Echo, sung by Abigail Seaman. That was a nice bit of stage magic, as Echo literally echoed Calisto's words and movements accompanied by musical echoes from the ensemble. Finally, David Diehl as Giove in male form and Po-Ching Chen as henchman or sidekick Mercurio, swaggered around effectively, and showed us what appears to be a Baroque anticipation of Wotan and Loge.

The ensemble was a memorable part of the performance, too. Led by faculty member Adam Pearl at the harpsichord, the ensemble included two theorbos (those very large lutes), two violins, a cello, two recorders and a cornetto. (There is a second harpsichordist, whose name I recognize from other events also as a pianist, on the program, but was there another harpsichord on stage?)

Many thanks to the people at Peabody for another staging of some rare and beautiful opera that deserves wider circulation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Duo Transatlantique's Recital, Feb. 19

Remember the Peabody Camerata? I heard a concert by them for my second time last weekend. Well, I happened to come across the program from the first Camerata concert I heard back in February 2006 (and the date was Feb. 19 also). Maud Laforest was the soloist in Richard Rodney Bennett's Concerto for Guitar and Chamber Ensemble.

Laforest has teamed with Benjamin Beirs (pronounced to rhyme with "wires") in the guitar duo, Duo Transatlantique, since 2003, and they returned to An die Musik last Thursday evening. All but one of the works on the program were transcribed from the literature for other instruments, and guitarists stealing from other musicians was a theme in Beirs' lively commentary. When transcriptions sound so convincing on guitar (solo or duo), it hardly matters that it's borrowed music. There's been some Manuel de Falla in both of the Transatlantique's recitals I've heard, and I think I've heard de Falla's orchestral music performed on guitar more often than by orchestra. A highlight of Thursday's recital was a set of two pieces by Scott Joplin: "Cleopha" and "Maple Leaf Rag". The audience withheld applause until the end for most sets in the program, but we broke out into applause right after "Cleopha", so stylish was Beirs and Laforest's playing.

The one work on the program written originally for guitar or guitars was "Variaciones Concertantes" by Mauro Giuliani, the 19th century Italian composer who made it his life's mission to provide a literature expressly for the guitar. I'm also remembering some works I've heard by Fernando Sor, who was doing the same kind of work for the guitar in Spain. This is wonderful music to hear -- it's influenced by other composers of the day (Giuliani was influenced by Rossini, among others), it sounds like it could be played on piano or by some ensemble, but it sounds so good on guitar and brings out the full effect of that "little orchestra" label that has been applied to this instrument.

I bought Duo Transatlantique's first CD on their last visit to An die Musik. ("Le Gris et le Vert" or "The Gray and the Green".) Program notes announce a second CD coming later this year which I must add to my collection, but let's hope we can hear the Duo many more times in recital, too!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Guitar: the "Little Orchestra"

In my late 20's, frustrated by my lack of musical education, I bought a second-hand classical guitar and tried to learn to play it. It was a student instrument made in Japan, and people in the know thought it was of rather good quality for a student instrument. I ended up giving it to a musically talented nephew along with all the lesson books and accessories a few years ago, and he put it to much better use than I could. (I went through a similar process with a clarinet earlier in that decade of my life.) During my attempt at the guitar, I at least learned a new appreciation for its history and music, and I amassed a special collection of recordings of music for lute, vihuela and guitar. I also read a book: Frederic V. Grunfeld's "The Art and Times of the Guitar" (Da Capo, 1974 edition, copyright 1969 by Grunfeld). A couple of passages which have continued to strike a chord with me follow:

"The 6 strings of the guitar have a compass of over 4 octaves: more than half that of a grand piano. They can all be played at once, giving the 'little orchestra' its characteristic luxuriance of harmony. Highly responsive to the player's temperament and mood, the guitar, when skilfully played, combines a pure singing tone with deep resonance. This is not bad for an instrument 3 feet long and weighing 3 1/2 lbs." Grunfeld is quoting a 1967 poster for a Spanish guitar studio in London which he felt summed up the attractions of this instrument very well.

Later in the book, in a chapter called "Guitaromanie":

"Berlioz himself was a guitarist -- not in Paganini's class, perhaps, but from all accounts a remarkable player. He was the first important symphonic composer who was not at the same time a virtuoso on some more exalted instrument, such as the violin or piano, and this singular deficiency was to have important consequences for the development of his orchestral style....Everything that Berlioz composed is conditioned by the fact that he was not subject to the tyranny of piano habits. The way he spaces out his orchestral chords, the way his phrases are shaped and his rhythms change reveal a fresh, flexible mind that has been trained in the school of the guitar rather than in the boxed-in formulas of keyboard harmony...."

(Quoting that last bit is not meant to be a slight to composers who are proficient on the piano, but it helps explain to me why Berlioz sounds so different from other 19th century composers.)

guitars; Ives; opera potpourri

A quick note as I'm on my way to work: I almost didn't go to the Duo Transatlantique recital at An die Musik last night, it being a weeknight and I'm anticipating another trip into Baltimore on Saturday night. So glad I went though! The Duo played an engaging program complete with encores, and they have wonderful rapport with their audience. (I hope to write a better post soon with details about the program.)

Once again, a review by the Baltimore Sun's Tim Smith (on his Clef Notes blog) draws me to a Baltimore Symphony concert I've been thinking about. Ives is always interesting. Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony is not one of my favorites, but I was curious to hear how it fares in live performance (and with the Baltimore Opera's James Harp at the organ!). There are two more performances of this program, tonight and tomorrow at the Meyerhoff, but now I'm saving myself for the parade of Italian Baroque and Bel Canto opera at the Peabody Institute tomorrow night.

While I was browsing in An die Musik before last night's recital, I found and purchased a sought-after Ives CD. "An American Journey" on RCA with Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony, baritone Thomas Hampson and choruses is on Alex Ross's list of recommended recordings of 20th century music in his book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another Baltimore Opera Company!

I'm at my other computer adding my new opera links page to my side bar, and there's an article on Tim Smith's Clef Notes blog about the new Baltimore Concert Opera.

the post on Clef Notes with link to the new company's site

Later: I had read all of Tim Smith's post before writing this post. He spells out the details of the new Baltimore Concert Opera's relationship to the Baltimore Opera Company (which earlier filed for bankruptcy and cancelled the remainder of this season). Briefly, the BCO provides a forum for Baltimore Opera singers to perform while their original company recovers. I thought I'd better expand on this post after finding another note clarifying the situation elsewhere on the web. Meanwhile, both companies are included in the links on my page of opera companies.

Art Museums, Galleries, Gardens, Other Interests

(To see the main blog page, click on the blog title above.)

~COLUMBIA, HOWARD COUNTY~

> Artists' Gallery
> Columbia Art Center
> Columbia Film Society
> Daedalus Books and Music (and Movies)
> Rep Stage
> Savage Mill

> Howard Community College Visitors and Community page with link for the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center

> early Frank Gehry buildings in Columbia (brochure in PDF download)

> hocoblogs.com -- site with feeds from many Howard County blogs


~BALTIMORE~

> Baltimore Museum of Art
> The Charles Theatre (arthouse cinema)
> Cylburn Arboretum
> Mount Vernon Cultural District
> Walters Art Museum

> Blogs by Baltimore Sun writers


~WASHINGTON, DC~

> Freer and Sackler Galleries (Smithsonian Institute)
> National Gallery of Art
> The Phillips Collection
> U.S. Botanic Garden
> U.S. National Arboretum

> Washington Post's Local Blog Directory (directory home page with links to the rest of the newspaper)



~INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS~

Mostly local and a few beyond, these artists are mainly contemporary painters and photographers whose work I've seen and sometimes purchased. (Also see the link to the Artists' Gallery in Columbia above.)

> John Borrack - mainly watercolor and gouache (Australia)
> Martha Dougherty - watercolor
> Kesra Hoffman - gouache
> Deborah Maklowski - pastel; colored pencil; graphite
> Stewart Skelt - photography (Australia)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Condensed Calisto and More Italian Opera Gems at Peabody This Saturday, Feb. 21

I'm anticipating other musical events this week; however, posters at the Peabody last Saturday evening caught my eye. The program of the Opera Workshop this Saturday evening was revealed, and I might have to attend. It's a little bit of Baroque and a little bit of Bel Canto, starting with an abridged version of Cavalli's "La Calisto".

Peabody opera workshops are also free. They used to take place on weeknights, but this timing makes this one a little easier to attend. The workshops might have less production frills than a full-blown staging, but don't let that put you off. A workshop of Ravel's "L'Enfant et les sortileges" ("The Boy and the Spells" or "The Bewitched Boy") was among my best memories of the opera season a couple of years ago.

Here is the full program with lovely reproductions of related historical paintings and hints of updated stagings for this performance. They may have simplified the plot of Calisto, but there is still much Baroque gender-bending going on.

In this version of the program from the Peabody's events calendar, you can click on a headphones symbol and listen to a short talk by music director, Adam Pearl. (Pearl is the harpsichordist and conductor for many of American Opera Theater's Baroque productions.)

The performance will be at 7:30pm in Friedberg Hall, the Peabody's main concert hall. (The Friedberg has real caryatids! See if you can spot them.)

Mihaly Virizlay

I just learned from the spring 2009 issue of the Peabody Magazine that the great cellist, Mihaly Virizlay, died at the age of 76 in October 2008. It was a great pleasure for me to see Virizlay on stage at the Meyerhoff in his last years with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra -- he played in the BSO from 1964 to 2002 -- and in a performance with student and faculty cellists of Arvo Part's "Fratres" at the Peabody a few years ago. He was also on the Peabody faculty, joining them in 1964.

One of Virizlay's mentors in his native Hungary was the composer Zoltan Kodaly, and he also studied with Janos Starker. Being aware of a connection like that makes one feel witness to a great musical legacy.

Here is a link to a page in honor of Mihaly Virizlay on the Peabody Institute's web site.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Listening to the Peabody Camerata -- Tommasini on Modern Music

A couple of related veins I'm following here: Last night I went to hear the Peabody Camerata, my second time attending one of their performances. (Of course, it's understood that membership in any Peabody student ensemble changes a little from year to year.) On last night's program, the Babbitt and Carter pieces represent a block of American composers I have not approached yet for listening -- although I seem to be reading about them all the time! Music theory aside, Elliott Carter's "Canon for 3" and Milton Babbitt's "All Set" were enjoyable listening that encouraged me to seek out more music by these composers.* The music theory, by the way, was eloquently explained in a manner friendly to the layman by the Camerata's conductor and Peabody faculty member, Gene Young. "Interbalances IV" by Barney Childs (1926-2000), the one unfamiliar name for me on the program, was the one piece that tried my patience. It was chance music, with a trumpet soloist selecting passages randomly from a "score" provided by Childs while a speaker (Gene Young here) read a literary passage.

The concert closed with Britten's Sinfonietta, Op. 1. As Young pointed out, Britten wrote this piece when he was 18, about the same age as last night's musicians. Next to the more challenging listening on the program, this piece sounded reactionary.

The ensembles varied from piece to piece, and the playing was excellent. The Camerata's concerts are free, an opportunity that should not be overlooked if you're interested in new music.

*Well, this Carter piece, written in homage to Stravinsky, was very short, under two minutes, so it might not be accurate to call it enough of a sample of the composer's work. After a first performance of it last night, Young gave an explanation of its workings with demonstrations by the three flutists, then they performed it a second time for us. It's written for three unspecified instruments, so besides moving on to other works by Carter, one could try to hear this one in different instrumental combinations.

~~~~~~

The other vein of interest? I was just looking at Ionarts' regular "In Brief" feature and saw the link to the current NY Times project in which Anthony Tommasini is fielding questions from readers. A first look shows a blog-like discussion with some points about modern music (among other issues of interest) relevant to last night's program and commentary at the Peabody. (I'm recalling Young's mention of how Babbitt dominated the field of music composition for many years. See the first question and answer in the following link.) Here is a link to the Tommasini discussion.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

well, I might go to this concert instead

After harping about other concert opportunities this weekend, I noticed this one by the Peabody Camerata tonight at 7:30pm. It's contemporary music, or more recent at least: Babbitt, Carter, Britten, Barney Childs. And it's free.

Griswold Hall in the Peabody Conservatory, where this concert will take place, is itself a "jewel in the crown" of concert locations around Baltimore. This is on the same Monument Square (or Place) in Baltimore's Mount Vernon district as the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion discussed in my last post.

Classical music is dead, or in its death throes? Here I am choosing between three concerts in locations all within a metronome's throw of each other in downtown Charm City this weekend. Two of them could very well sell out, and one is free. And I'm looking ahead to the coming week and being careful not to spend too much on tickets or overwhelm myself with concerts.

An Aristocratic Location for Concerts

When I planned this post, I was going to refer to the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion as one of the jewels of Baltimore, and I see that the mansion's own web site designates it as one of the jewels in the crown of Baltimore's historic homes. Some people know the Garrett-Jacobs as the Engineers Club, an organization that resides there. It also serves as a site for events, including concerts. It's nice to go to concerts in "ultramodern" places, like the new Horowitz Center in Columbia, which was the subject of a recent post on this blog, but it seems equally nice to hear and see performances in historic settings with all that ornate, period charm.

As I learned on 91.5 FM, WBJC, yesterday morning, the Concert Artists of Baltimore have a Music at the Mansion series at Garrett-Jacobs. This Sunday at 2:30pm, WBJC's own Jonathan Palevsky and Mark Malinowski will be the readers in CAB's performance of Walton's "Facade". As I heard Palevsky say in his interview with CAB's Artistic Director, Edward Polochik, the concert is likely to sell out.

Luckily, there are other chances during the year to attend a concert in the mansion. An die Musik occasionally holds recitals here, and before the performance you can wander around the mansion's lower floor and goggle at the lovely antique furnishings, carved wood and a spiral staircase with Tiffany skylight.


a link to the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion web site

a virtual tour of the mansion provided by the Engineers Club

Concert Artists of Baltimore web site

Friday, February 13, 2009

Starting a long weekend; a ramble about TV and movies

As I surfed my blog roll last night, I was amused and interested to see two bloggers holding forth about their DVD collections and how they provide much more satisfaction than the hundreds of channels they get on cable TV. I don't have cable, but I do have a nice flatscreen and a gradually increasing DVD collection of my own. The flatscreen was an upgrade from my iMAC theater a couple of years ago. My only broadcast TV comes through the rabbit ears on a trusty old Sony picture tube TV (so the flatscreen is a Sony, too). I only watch news and weather on this old TV, so when we go digital at the end of the month, I'm not following along. I'll see how long I can get by with news and weather on the Internet and radio. (Disclosure: If I'm stuck in a hotel room on a road trip, I'll surf the cable channels to see if I'm missing anything. On my last vacation, I became addicted to "Cops," but as the vacation stretched out, I did feel like I had better things to do than watch that show. It was strangely fascinating before it got depressing, though.)

So this weekend I have a stack of new DVD's of old movies to explore -- "Dinner at Eight", "Twelve Angry Men", "The Children of Paradise" (a favorite which arrived quickly when I ordered at Borders)....I already watched the original "Lost Horizon" from the 1930s, with those stills taking the place of scenes too damaged to restore, but they are few and the movie is beautiful, and the score is by Dimitry Tiomkin with Max Steiner as music director....The other night I watched "The Black Swan" again. Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara are in it, but for me the most delicious roles to watch are George Sanders as Captain Leech (sp?) and larger-than-life Laird Cregar as Captain/Sir Henry Morgan. Can that really be the same Sanders of "All About Eve" and "Rebecca"? He's obviously eating up his pirate role here, with great results, somewhat like Geoffrey Rush in the first "Pirates of the Caribbean". Eye-grabbing Technicolor. Wish I could see that opening scene of a ship in full sail on a big theater screen.

I'm not a vintage movie snob, but I'm going to the cinema much less than before. Of recent releases, I chose to go see "Valkyrie" and was not disappointed. I could see it again on DVD, too. There are plenty of bad old movies, to be sure. My Black Swan DVD has some trailers, and one can tell the "Pirates of Tortuga" is absolutely awful without seeing the whole movie. But the trailer is entertaining. The announcer informs us that we can watch the star of the movie conquer his female lead just as he would conquer any pirate (as he grabs her in his arms and kisses her full on the mouth). Run that by me again, please?

Well, there is also another concert this Sunday which I hope to attend, and I just heard about another interesting one that day as I listened to 91.5 FM, "Baltimore's classical music station", this morning. Perhaps more about that later, but this news made me aware of a couple of links I need to add to my list. (And I'm still working on those opera company links in my new page, previous post.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Links to Opera Companies in the Region

(To see the main blog page, click on the blog title above.)

Maryland, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Companies and institutions large and small, collegiate and professional.

Summer opera is a separate section at the bottom of this page.


BaltimoreOpera.com - a site for news about opera in Baltimore. (established in September 2009)


Annapolis Opera
Baltimore Concert Opera
Bel Cantanti
Chesapeake Chamber Opera (formerly Chesapeake Concert Opera; Baltimore)
Curtis Opera Theatre (Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia)
Figaro Project (Baltimore)
In Series (Downtown DC performance series includes "pocket opera".)
Loudoun Lyric Opera (Loudoun County, Northern Virginia)
Lyric Opera Baltimore (Modell Performing Arts Center/Lyric Opera House
Maryland Opera Studio (University of Maryland)
Opera Baltimore (new organization and web site, about April 2009)
Opera Camerata of Washington
Opera Company of Philadelphia
Opera Delaware
Opera International
Opera Lafayette
Opera Roanoke
Opera Theater Pittsburgh
Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia (Aurora Opera Theatre as of 2010)
Opera Vivente (chamber opera in English, Baltimore)
Canceled 2011-12 season; shut down website in July 2012. Peabody Opera (Peabody Institute, Baltimore)
Pittsburgh Opera
Repertory Opera Theater of Washington
Theatre Project ("Baltimore's Year Round Fringe Venue" also hosts opera productions.)
Virginia Opera
Washington Concert Opera
Washington National Opera
Washington Savoyards (light opera and musicals)
Zarzuela Di Si


~~Summertime~~

Artscape -- Baltimore's annual summer arts and crafts festival includes free performances of opera and symphony.
Castleton Festival (Maazel's Chateauville Foundation, Virginia)

Opera International -- see main list above
Wolf Trap Opera Company
Young Victorian Theatre Company (Gilbert and Sullivan in Baltimore)

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Post for Australia

Responding to the news of deadly wildfires raging in part of southeast Australia:

I'm trusting that friends who I know there are physically safe, though I'm afraid that they in turn have friends and relatives in the fire area. I still hope that one of my friends can visit Maryland as planned soon. Thoughts go out for the people who have been less fortunate in this disaster.

Two writers in my blog roll are based in Sydney and Melbourne: "Prima la musica..." and "On Stage Melbourne". Some of my best opera and concert experiences were in those fine cities.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Columbia's New Performing Arts Center

I was so pleased as punch: Just a couple minutes' drive from my house in our suburban-planned-community-urban-village of Columbia, Maryland, a famous string quartet played in a theater on a community college campus last night. The significance of the opportunity wasn't lost on me, but I was almost as thrilled to see Howard Community College's renovated Smith Theatre and new Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center. I had not seen the Smith for a few years, and the Candlelight Concert Society, host of the Talich Quartet last night, was itself graciously hosted by the nearby Wilde Lake Interfaith Center during construction and renovation. Candlelight returned to the campus some time this season. Last night, I parked somewhere close to where I had parked in the past, but before I found the Smith Theatre, I had to walk around the outside of a couple of buildings that weren't there before, across a new quad and into the completely new building, the Horowitz Center, which had sprung up around the Smith's old home. The Horowitz is ultramodern with an airy, spacious, tiered main lobby. The University of Maryland's Clarice Center on a smaller scale came to mind as I looked around. In addition to at least three performance halls, there are also bright, ultramodern art exhibit spaces.

I found that the Horowitz Center's main grand entrance is on the other side from where I entered, and there seemed to be more parking there. (I think there is plenty of free parking, as before, but I must double check the parking regulations on the HCC site.) The less grand entrance is on the new campus quad, which bears visiting again during daylight for a better look. (Check out what looked like a dragon mosaic brick path!)

a link to the Horowitz Center's page on the HCC web site, with a link to an events calendar

a map of the Horowitz Center showing the layout of the Smith Theatre

Rep Stage, HCC's resident drama company, another cultural opportunity to explore

Saturday, February 7, 2009

on my calendar: February into March

Here are some upcoming events which I don't want to miss, but I might not make it to all of them, and I might add to the list.

~~ First, tonight I plan to go to the concert by the Talich Quartet at Howard Community College (Columbia, Maryland), almost right next door to me, in the Candlelight Concerts series. Web site says there are still tickets available ($29 for adults). (See Candlelight Concerts in my links list.)

~~ I'll also make a note that baritone John Dooley, soprano Theresa Bickham and the McDaniel College Gospel Choir will be singing with the Columbia Orchestra nearby in the Jim Rouse Theater tonight. The orchestra will play film music, and the vocal part of the program is African-American spirituals. Dooley was an exquisite demon of lust, Ashmodeus, for Opera Vivente's production of Dove's "Tobias and the Angel" last year (and it's nice to see that he's not being type cast!).

~~ Feb. 15: The Monument Piano Trio most likely will draw a capacity crowd again in An die Musik's recital room next Sunday evening. I don't see a program announced anywhere yet, but it wouldn't be the first time I've attended one of the Monument's recitals without knowing the program in advance and come away musically fulfilled in spite of that.

~~ Feb. 19: Also on An die Musik's busy calendar is the Duo Transatlantique, classical guitarists Benjamin Beirs and Maude Laforest.

~~ Feb. 20, 21: Marin Alsop conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question", Mozart's Symphony No. 29 and Saint-Saen's "Organ" Symphony.

~~ Feb. 26, 27: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's program with guest conductor Peter Oundjian includes Benjamin Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from his opera, "Peter Grimes". Cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott is the soloist for Dvorak's Cello Concerto, and Elgar's "Enigma Variations" close the program. (Part of this program will be a Casual Series concert that Saturday morning.)

~~ Mar. 6-14: Opera Vivente's production of Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea" (in English). Please to enjoy Director John Bowen's posting of costume designer Jennifer Tardiff's sketches.

~~ Mar. 22: The Sundays at Three chamber series at Christ Episcopal Church here in Columbia only recently appeared on my radar. I'm interested in that recital by the Prometheus Chamber Ensemble on this date, and note other recitals involving musicians from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. (Thanks go to the local free paper, Columbia Flier, for making me aware of this series.)

~~ Following from the BSO program above, Washington National Opera performs the complete Grimes this spring. (My ticket is for April 4.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mendelssohn's birthday; Decca's demise

I'm remarking on the recent and current "headlines" in my blog roll. It lit up with Mendelssohn's name for a couple of days, and now, found courtesy of Letter V, Norman Lebrecht writes about the demise of the venerable Decca label.

My last playlist post happened to be mostly Decca, and my opera recording collection is full of classic Decca sets.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A movie on order: "The Children of Paradise"

Or "Les Enfants du Paradis". I understand that the usual English title is a mistranslation and that paradis is actually the word for the topmost gallery in French theaters. "The Children of the Peanut Gallery" would not work, I'm sure.

This is one of those movies we fall in love with when we're exposed to finer cinema in our college years (if we were not lucky enough before that). I've seen it a few times on rented tapes since then and thought that it wasn't available on DVD yet. I don't know what made me check Borders' database tonight while I was in the store, but there it was in a fairly new release on the fairly pricey Criterion label. I ordered without hesitation.

The story of the making of the film by a partly Jewish crew in Nazi-occupied Paris is as interesting as the film itself. I first learned the details in Volume II of Roger Ebert's "The Great Movies".

a correction and an upcoming recital

Daniel Schlosberg, the pianist for Ryan de Ryke's song recital at An die Musik last Friday, sent an e-mail to thank me for my post. Also a correction: Daniel Schlosberg was the author of the program notes, as is clearly printed at the bottom of the page, now that I look there. I've corrected the post. By the way, last night I got compulsive and typed in the entire recital program at the bottom of that post with a couple of notes about composers.

Mr. Schlosberg added that there will be a mostly-Haydn recital by Ryan de Ryke and soprano Ah Young Hong with Mr. Schlosberg at the piano at the Austrian Embassy in DC on May 22.

Thanks for the notice and the correction.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Playlist: Another Side of Shostakovich and Some Nubian Music

Since Saturday night's experience with the 8th Symphony at the BSO, I've been getting reacquainted with some of Shostakovich's lighter (?) music. Riccardo Chailly recorded these three albums on Decca/London with the Philadelphia and Concertgebouw orchestras during the 1990's:

-- The Film Album, which I'm listening to this evening, and it's the kind of movie music that stands up very well to hearing without the visual element (The Romance from "The Gadfly" will be recognized by some as the theme for the old British TV series, "Reilly, Ace of Spies".)
-- The Dance Album, suites from various works;
-- The Jazz Album, such lovely waltzes in the Jazz Suite No. 2, and the album ends with the composer's interpretation of "Tea for Two".

I sometimes put these discs on as background music while I'm busy at home, but they invariably draw me to stop and pay attention to the music.

Another change of pace, a favorite non-classical album:

-- "Salamat: Mambo El Soudani": Nubian Al Jeel music from Cairo, on the Piranha label, 1994. My favorite track is "Salam Cairo Salam", a kind of concertante arrangement for accordion and Al Jeel music's special brand of brass and percussion and other instruments.

Vasily Petrenko's blog

Last week's Russian guest conductor with the Baltimore Symphony, Vasily Petrenko, has his own blog on Blogspot.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tim Smith reviews de Ryke recital

It slipped by me in my blog roll, but I just checked Clef Notes and found Smith's review of last Friday night's recital at An die Musik. I was particularly interested in reading his views, so I am posting a link to the review here. There's a nice photo, too.

American Opera Theater announces 2009-2010 season

Director Timothy Nelson just posted on Yugen. Note these two names: composer Kurt Weill; soprano Sylvia McNair. But there is so much more, too, and Nelson gives a glimpse of the 2010-2011 season.

I was going to post a helpful pragmatic post about parking in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood, after noticing developments this weekend. For now, just be aware that PMI, the company that runs most of the pay lots along Charles Street, has raised rates again. I paid $11 on Friday and Saturday evening each after not being able to find street parking. Probably not unrelated: While I dined at City Cafe before the symphony on Saturday, I watched the meter patrol ticketing cars outside (and I've never noticed them checking there before).

After reading AOT's announcement, however, I'm thinking, "Damn the parking fees! Full speed ahead!"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Michael Sheppard's web site

Pianist Michael Sheppard is the keyboard section of the phenomenal Monument Piano Trio and a regular soloist and accompanist in Baltimore. The Trio's web site is in my links already. Sheppard has been working on his own site. I stopped checking for a while, but it's finally working: michaelsheppard.com

(I will add this one to my links when I can get to a better computer. I was just there yesterday and made some additions to my blog roll.)

At the Bal'timorsk Symphony

Last night was my first time getting to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this season. I was attracted to the BSO's all-Russian program, led by guest conductor Vasily Petrenko, and reading Tim Smith's review on Clef Notes of Thursday night's "incendiary" performance cemented my resolve to go into the city a second time this weekend. Incendiary, yes. The conclusion of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 drew some spontaneous applause, which pianist Stephen Hough kindly acknowledged. Before proceeding with the rest of the concerto, he had to mop the perspiration from the keys. I also enjoyed hearing Liadov's "Kikimora" in live performance, and Petrenko led us on an unforgettable symphonic journey with the titanic Shostakovich 8th. The BSO turned the symphony's serene closing passages into one of those world-halting moments in the concert hall that silence all the noise of outside distractions.

After reading all the bad news about financial troubles, I was glad to see the Meyerhoff quite packed last night. The sections where I prefer to sit were almost full. I was able to get a seat there, buying my ticket at the box office on the evening of the concert, but I didn't have the usual luxury of moving to a less crowded row, if I had wanted to do so. The box office employee also informed me that rush tickets were not available last night, because sales had been rather good for this performance.

Further to good news in spite of recent cutbacks: According to the BSO's Overture magazine, they recently hired two new musicians. They are bassoonist Fei Xie, 26, and associate principal hornist Gabrielle Finck, 29.

There is a large Russian community in and around Baltimore. I have stopped being surprised when I hear Russian being spoken in the city, but last night I seemed to overhear it more as I passed by groups of people in the lobby. (So I sometimes fondly refer to Charm City as Bal'timorsk.)

Only one cell phone went off during the concert, as far as I could hear from my section. That's still one cell phone too many, and I recall hearing one the last time I attended a BSO concert. Please, please remember to turn them OFF -- or leave them in the car or at home????

I like this different but positive view of music in general with commentary on this concert in particular in the last paragraph. The link is to a post by "introverted excavator".