Another new recording which I'll seek out after my break: Hyperion has released the first complete recording of Swiss composer Frank Martin's opera, "Der Sturm", based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest". It's one of the Editor's Choices in the August issue of Gramophone. (The review appears next to an overall very positive review of the Ariodante recording featured in a recent post here.)
See also Harmonia Mundi's earlier recording of Martin's "Le Vin herbe", his take on the Tristan and Isolde/Iseult story. Penguin Guide makes associations with Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande".
"Der Sturm" at Amazon....and at Hyperion. From Hyperion's site: The painting is Richard Dadd's "Come unto these Yellow Sands" (1842).
Addendum: More about painter Richard Dadd with a complete view of the above painting and other works. He had a most tragic life, but left such inspired pictures, something akin to the work and subject matter of Arthur Rackham. If I could get to Twickenham before October...
I'm making one more post after this one -- another new opera recording with scenic cover art -- then I must take a little break from blogging. Enjoy my blog roll and other links. Please note that I've added Opera News magazine's Editor's Desk to the blog roll. I dropped a few local company and ensemble blogs for lack of activity, or in OV's case, problems with a new blog feed. OV's blog is now under the Buzz tab of its site. All the dropped blogs are still attached to the companies' sites in my links, if I/you need to look at them.
Brian Kellow's post, Listen to the Music, addresses inattentive, inconsiderate audience members who are actually part of the older concert- and opera-going population, and he wonders how we can avoid this problem in the younger audience. I know exactly the kind of person about which Mr. Kellow complains, and Baltimore Sun's critic, Tim Smith, has been citing examples in recent posts. Are we giving them too much attention? Well, I wish some of them could be escorted from the hall.
Philip Kennicott expands on the issue of developing new audiences (but not taking the established audience for granted) in the August edition, not on line yet: "Recruitment Plan: When did we stop trusting audiences to discover opera on their own?"
An excerpt from Kennicott's article, from discussion of a 1986 publication that looked ahead to attracting new opera audiences: "But even more telling, there was great anxiety about whether the existing audience was getting what it needed -- whether changes such as projected titles, opera in English and avant-garde directing styles would improve or detract from the experience for the existing audience."
I must have been in that store almost weekly, sometimes more than that, while it was here. My visit to the Columbia Borders last night might be my last one. The cafe and the restrooms are closed, both blocked off from access. It was so weird browsing the magazines and not having the usual crowd and activity of the cafe next to that section. The sign outside the restrooms that prohibits taking merchandise into them had been modified to read, "People may not be taken into the restrooms," so some humor seems to prevail among the employees. They seemed to be generally in good spirits yesterday, and we hope for the best for them.
Borders Express was still operating in the Columbia Mall a couple of days ago when I was there.
It's a vicious circle: The Towson Borders forced the wonderful independent An die Musik to close up shop there, but luckily for the arts scene in Baltimore, An die Musik found a niche as a CD store and performance space in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. Later, Borders left Towson after Barnes and Noble moved in nearby.
I've known the Columbia Borders since it was in its old location at Snowden Square. (It has been at Columbia Crossing for a few years now. Daedalus Books Outlet in Columbia has the old CD bins from Borders' former Snowden location.) Many of the CDs, books and DVDs in my library were purchased at the Columbia Borders. I was there last week, and it still looked like business as usual. Honest, I would have checked there first for the opera album featured in my last post before going to Amazon. I'm still very much a hands-on shopper, but I could see a certain trend at Borders. A sign of the times: When I went looking for "Mamontov's Private Opera", recently quoted here, Borders only offered it as a download for an e-reader device. To get the hardcopy book, I had to order it online from Amazon!
I've been told by someone who would know that if I'm going to explore Handel's operatic work, I must not miss "Ariodante". Finally, Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco have recorded it for their Handel series on Virgin Classics.
This weekend's weather is so gorgeous and perfect for outdoor activity, but I have not made it into Charm City for the big arts festival. Instead, I took a break from several consecutive years of attending the festival -- I also want to save a bit of money for August's trip to an out-of-state event -- and I let the weather lure me back into my main gardening project. After pulling up the pavers of an old, mud-covered patio in my back patio area last year, I'm slowly assembling a small ornamental garden with a simple stroll path using the old pavers. I worked on the path a little yesterday, but I had to focus on thinning out and shaping up a holly tree and some kind of short scrub tree that grows too close to it for comfort. These overlook the privacy fence surrounding my future garden together with a towering, picturesque sycamore (or London plane tree).
I finally hit on the best design incorporating the pavers and have laid part of it for experiment. Just keeping it simple in the compressed area I have to work with and maximizing planting space -- still plenty of work for one gardener. Even in this small area, I have the luxury of having both shady and sunny spots for a variety of plants, and then I'd like to cultivate a border along the outside of the fence. I'm thinking mostly native, but I'll keep the large hosta planted by a former owner. I'm not one for ripping up plants that have been doing just fine where they are, unless it's something invasive. Yes, I'm gradually ripping up the over-abundant Liriope grass. A native fern that I planted myself for starters is looking fine and is big and lush after all the rain we've had this season, and there's a clump of Virginia creeper nearby that I'd like to incoporate into my scheme. English ivy is mostly gone now, but I must keep my eye on it.
In spite of the garden's small size, I have a compost heap going in one corner. It's actually contained within a special compost sack found at River Hill Garden Center to keep things a little more tidy, but eventually I want to screen this with some kind of planting. I started it a couple of years ago, and the banana peels, apple and pear cores, used coffee filters and grounds, laundry filter lint, frozen vegetables salvaged from a refrigerator breakdown this spring and more have been disappearing quickly in the mix of plant trimmings and old potting soil. By the time I'm ready to focus more on establishing new plants, this heap will have plenty of home-grown natural fertilizer to help them.
...through the present day, Mamontov's supporters and his detractors, his contemporaries and modern scholars have all identified one characteristic of his company that made it unique. The artistic policies, internal structure, and daily operations of Mamontov's enterprise were to a large extent driven by ideology -- the aesthetic views of its leadership, most importantly Mamontov himself....
"From the moment it opened its doors, Mamontov's company positioned itself at the epicenter of the cataclysmic aesthetic shift that saw the new generation of modernist artists confront, battle, and ultimately displace their predecessors....its response to the issues of the debate was an outgrowth of Mamontov's personal aesthetic preferences, shaped and tested over three decades [from the 1860s to the 1890s]....
"In the late nineteenth century, as Western civilization stood on the verge of the modern era, an age-old debate over the meaning and value of art in society was once again taking center stage in the aesthetic discourse...."
From Chapter One of "Mamontov's Private Opera: The Search for Modernism in Russian Theater" by Olga Haldey (Indiana University Press, 2010).
Artscape 2011 starts on Friday and runs through Sunday next weekend, July 15-17, in Baltimore. Here's the opera schedule with links to other performance genres, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Notice the hot buttons next to each performance for getting the free tickets in advance via MissionTix. Did they have that feature last year?
Latest issue of local free magazine Urbanite has this article on Opera Vivente and the new Aida Opera of DC at Artscape. (The composer's name is Hoiby, not Houby.)
Excuse the bad press: While the performances at Artscape are free, if you drive into the city, expect fees to be increased for the weekend at some (all?) nearby pay parking lots. I've paid as much as $20 at one lot where I normally pay about $11 on the weekend.
Peabody Conservatory's Bassoon Week begins on the tail of Artscape on July 17. That event is aimed at students and teachers of the instrument, but it begins with a free recital at 5pm in Peabody's beautiful Griswold Hall, upstairs from the main Friedberg Hall. There is now a program of works in that link which wasn't there before.
Bard Summerscape 2011 has begun in the Hudson Valley already. I'll be there in August for Richard Strauss' "Die Liebe der Danae" and Noel Coward's "Bitter Sweet".
After getting back from Bard, I hope I can make it to Wolf Trap Opera Company for their last production of the summer. I would love to see WTOC's treatment of Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann" in the Barns at Wolf Trap.
The Style section of Friday's Washington Post has Ann Hornaday's article on a new documentary film about Jack Cardiff, the great cinematographer. (The film is also reviewed in the Post's Weekend section.) The Criterion Collection's editions of Powell and Pressburger's movies certainly have plenty of coverage of Cardiff's life and work in the extras, but it focuses on what he did for Powell and Pressburger.
Technical difficulties prevent me from linking to Hornaday's article here, and there is also an official site for the film at JackCardiff.com.
A quandary: Hornaday discusses the flat or bland look of many new movies, although she cites a few exceptions. We also seem to be going more and more in the direction of "photographs of people talking", which Hitchcock so derided. Yet the camera technology has improved so much since the huge Technicolor equipment of Cardiff's earlier work! Look at the results after the BBC Planet Earth people have carried their equipment deep into remote rainforests or mounted it on helicopters or hot-air balloons. Getting there and setting up is still a challenge, but would it have been possible with older equipment?
Ever a lover of vintage movies, I still watch for new developments. Some new movies that could get me into a theater instead of waiting for the DVD releases: "Midnight in Paris"; "Beginners"; "The Tree of Life"; "Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff".
That last playlist I posted was a Eurocentric one and rooted in the 19th century -- but the pieces are favorites which I hadn't heard for a long time. Here are a some recent releases of more recent repertoire from the budget-priced but not budget-sounding Naxos label that I'm currently exploring, all found while browsing at Borders in Columbia*:
~~ William Grant Still ("the dean of African-American composers"): Symphonies 4 and 5; Poem for Orchestra. John Jeter conducts the Fort Smith Symphony in Arkansas. ~~ Alberto Ginastera: Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals (recorded in two versions here); Variaciones concertantes. Gisele Ben-Dor conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Israel Chamber Orchestra. ~~ Clarinet Hive: 20th century music written or arranged for various combinations of clarinets, and one piece from 2007 -- clarinetist Evan Ziporyn's own work, "Hive".
I also added to my small collection of alternative recordings of Tchaikovsky's symphonies with the DG remastering of Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in the 4th, 5th and 6th (analog recordings from the 1970s).
*They greatly shrank the extent of their classical section in the last year, but they still seem to get a fair selection of new releases.
The program that developed the other night: Beethoven's Coriolan Overture; Kurt Masur conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig on Philips....Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony; Mariss Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic on Chandos....Liszt's Mazeppa and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2; Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic on DG.
I snapped these photos of Columbia's Lakefront on July 4th a couple of years ago. The scene will be repeated today as people stake out prime viewing spots for this evening's fireworks.
Reconsider taking pets to the fireworks! Some dogs get severely stressed by the noise, and I know of two cases in my neighborhood last year. My house is close to the Lakefront, and my own cat will hide under the bed during the display. I prefer to stay around the house and reassure him until it's over, but I can watch a good part of it from here.
Daedalus Books here in Columbia currently has a stack of "The Theatrical World of Angus McBean", edited by Fredric Woodbridge Wilson (2009). It's on the photography book table in the art section and is going at Daedalus' customary greatly reduced price. McBean ("McBain") made a career of photographing the stars of the Shakespeare, drama, opera and dance stages around the mid-20th century. Olivier, Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Vivian Leigh, Callas, Coward, a very young Robert Morley, Laughton, Robert Helpmann (see the movies, "The Red Shoes" and "The Tales of Hoffmann" by Powell and Pressburger) and much more are here. The opera and dance section has a good focus on Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears.
While there are many more glamorous photographs in the book (Hepburn!), I'm fascinated by the effective costume and expression in this portrait of Alec Clunes as the creature Caliban in a 1957 production of "The Tempest". (This image was found on Flickr. Quality is much better in the book.)
I'm anticipating Artscape 2011 in Baltimore this month and preparing another edition of An Opera Cat's Calendar. While researching, I came across this old post by Opera Vivente's John Bowen as he and his company finished their first appearance at Artscape in 2007. A previous post on this old blog contains an interesting description of the Brown Center, where opera happens at Artscape.
This year, OV plans to perform Lee Hoiby's "Bon Appetit", based on the career of Julia Child.
~~~~~~~ Some blogineering: I rearranged links in my margin and moved opera companies to the top of the links block. I hope that gives them a little more visibility at least here, and if I slow down in posting, the blog remains a nice portal to opera websites. There are lots more music and other arts resources further down in the margin.
"La fee noire est morte." This line is part of an eerie Underground Chant -- Le Chant Souterrain -- heard when Ariane opens the forbidden door in the opera, "Ariane et Barbe-Bleue", by Paul Dukas. Listening to the opera for my first time this weekend, I loved this particular section as the chant by Bluebeard's imprisoned wives wells up from the dungeon behind the last door and Ariane and her nurse are fretting over what has been revealed and getting the door shut again or going down into the darkness. Apparently, the black fairy in the libretto is another wife who did not survive the ordeal in the dungeon. There are four named wives in the cast, but stage directions identify another, Alladine, who must be a mute role. Perhaps the shock of the ordeal has taken its toll on her in this way? Ariane of the title is Bluebeard's (Barbe-Bleue) latest wife, and the opera is Dukas's take on the same story which inspired Bartok's opera.
Leon Botstein conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in this recording. Botstein, a champion of rare opera, also conducts the annual opera feature at Bard Summerscape, coming up in July and August.
This album's cover art is from an illustration by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). Rackham was a popular illustrator of fairy tales, legends and fairy-tale-like stories, and his work, fortunately, gets a lot of attention as a source for adorning recordings and opera programs. (I still have Baltimore Opera Company's program of Rossini's "La Cenerentola" with a Rackham work on the cover.) It is Rackham's illustrations that grace the booklet for the Decca-Solti set of Wagner's Ring.
Ariane at Amazon For local collectors, some of the Botstein-Telarc opera sets have been showing up at the Daedalus Books and Music Warehouse Outlet here in Columbia at scandalously reduced prices, but this Dukas set was bought there quite some time ago. Latest one spotted (and purchased, of course) is the highly regarded recording of "The Egyptian Helen" by Richard Strauss with Deborah Voigt in the cast. Botstein conducts his Bard Summerscape force, the American Symphony Orchestra.