BWW Preview: Summertime and the Singing is Easy at Opera and Vocal Festivals in the Northeast
Something old, something new...there's still plenty going on for fans of opera and classical vocal music in the Northeast now that summer is upon us. Here's a taste of what to look for.
June 15-September 1
Tanglewood--the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in Lenox, MA--is presenting something new and interesting among its many stellar and starry musical events. It's the world premiere of Kevin Puts's THE BRIGHTNESS OF LIGHT, a work for voices and orchestra inspired by letters between Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, conducted by music director Andris Nelsons. It was written especially for Renee Fleming and Rod Gilfry, who will be the featured soloists for the premiere on July 20.
Fleming has been a favorite guest artist at Tanglewood since her BSO debut there in 1991 and was been named the Koussevitzky Artist for the 2019 Tanglewood season. An earlier version of the work, called LETTERS FROM GEORGIA (which did not include the character of Stieglitz), was performed in New York a couple of years ago, with the Eastman Symphony and Fleming.
Fleming also has another world premiere commission by the BSO at Tanglewood this year, with the Emerson String Quartet, on July 24 at 8pm: PENELOPE by Andre Previn and Tom Stoppard.
The other greatly anticipated opera event event--under the "something old" category and also conducted by Nelsons--is a first for Tanglewood: a concert performance of Wagner's complete DIE WALKURE. It's being done in separate pieces, with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and a star-studded cast, in three concerts over a two-day period, July 27 & 28. Among the performers: Christine Goerke (Brunnhilde), Amber Wagner (Sieglinde), Stephanie Blythe (Fricka) and Simon O'Neill (Siegmund).
Earlier, on July 13, the Boston Symphony and Nelsons with present the Verdi Requiem at the Tanglewood Gala. Featured performers will be Kristine Opolais, Oksana Volkova, Jonathan Tetelman and Ryan Speedo Green, along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus under James Burton.
June 27-July 18
SUNY Purchase and Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theatre
Will Crutchfield--who ran the spectacularly good bel canto program at Caramoor for years and moved on last summer to his own operation, Teatro Nuovo, at SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center--is adding some performances in New York City this year, at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Rose Theatre, while still holding on to his base in Westchester.
The pair of operas showcased in July are Bellini's LA STRANIERA (July 13 at The PAC; July 17 at Rose) and Rossini's LA GAZZA LADRA (July 14 at The PAC; July 18 at Rose). The Bellini is one of his less frequently performed works--it has been called his most radical opera--and should be interesting to become acquainted with, while the Rossini is one that has been know primarily for its catchy overture but, again, not know so much as a whole. In addition, on June 27, Teatro Nuovo is pairing Rossini's STABAT MATER with a first New York hearing of Donizetti's Symphony in E Minor at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, 1085 Fifth Avenue at 90th Street, just above the Guggenheim Museum.
July 6-August 24
The "something old" here at Glimmerglass is not exactly from the old masters. It's John Corigliano's THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES-with William Hoffman's libretto based somewhat on the third part of the Beaumarchais plays about Figaro, LA MÈRE COUPABLE (THE GUILTY MOTHER) after BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA and NOZZE DI FIGARO and debuted at the Met in 1991. (It had been commissioned for the Met's 100th anniversary and originally scheduled for 1983.) It's an elaborate opera and not often staged, but the production in Los Angeles several years back caused something of a sensation. The first performance is on July 13 at 8pm and there will be seven more through Friday, August 23 at 7:30pm
Glimmerglass's new work is the Jeanine Tesori-Tazewell Thompson BLUE, about a black police officer and his wife whose lives are tested when their teenage son's life is taken and the community helps them get through it. Its world premiere is on July 14 at 1:30pm, with seven more performances through August 22 at 7:30pm. (It looked interesting from the excerpts shown at the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series.)
There are, of course, other works on the Glimmerglass schedule, including Verdi's LA TRAVIATA and Jerome Kern's SHOWBOAT, plus a concert version of Tchaikovsky's QUEEN OF SPADES and Britten's NOYYE'S FLUDDE (Noah's Flood) for the Glimmerglass Youth Chorus. In addition, there's a sold-out conversation with that most-famous of opera lovers, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on July 26. (There's a waiting list for tickets.)
Caramoor Summer Music Festival
June 15-July 28
While Caramoor's adventurous programming at its home in Katonah doesn't showcase any full opera performances, there are lots of unique programs, from the baroque to the cutting edge. Among the concerts and performers to look out for are celebrated mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, who appears in concert with New York Baroque Incorporated; the Boston Early Music Festival presenting French chamber operas; and Anthony Roth Costanzo and Paul Appleby perform with composer/pianist Matthew Aucoin.
There will be a spotlight on the music of Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw (as well as music from 14 other living composers), including several regional premieres. Among the performers of Shaw's pieces are Grammy-winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth and singer Davone Tines.
Bard SummerScape Festival
June 29-August 18
While this is only the 16th year for the Bard SummerScape Festival at Bard College in New York's Hudson Valley--featuring seven weeks of world-class opera, theater, dance, cabaret, film and music--this year marks the 30th year of Bard's Music Festival. The center of attraction this year: Korngold and His World, celebrating the work and world of Erich Korngold, with concerts, lectures and opera performances about the composer here and in Vienna.
In the US, the composer is probably best known for his opera, DIE TOTE STADT, which has sometimes been compared to Hitchcock's "Vertigo" and was a huge hit for the old New York City Opera in Frank Corsaro's production back in 1975. Based on a novel by Belgian Symbolist poet Georges Rodenbach, DIE TOTE STADT is a heady, haunting story of love and obsession. It is set in a surreal version of Bruges, Belgium.
Korngold may even be better known in the US as a film composer of such works as "Of Human Bondage (1946)," "King's Row (1942)," "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)" "Anthony Adverse (1939)" and uncredited scores for "The Green Pastures (1936)" and "Captain Blood (1935), which also will be represented.
Bard is giving the place of honor this year to the American premiere of Korngold's DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE (THE MIRACLE OF HELIANE), which takes place in an unnamed totalitarian state and features an erotic love triangle of a ruthless despot, his beautiful wife and a young messianic stranger. Based on an Expressionist mystery play, the new production is directed by German Christian Rath. (July 26 at 7:30 pm; July 28 at 2 pm; July 31 at 2 pm; August 2 at 4 pm; August 4 at 2 pm.) There also will be a single, semi-staged performance of DIE TOTE STADT on August 18 at 5pm.
Under the "something new" heading at Bard is AQUANETTA--I found it fascinating when it appeared at PROTOTYPE 2018--a piece of music theatre/virtual reality/film about a B movie star that is filled with surprises. Created by Michael Gordon, composer (of 'Bang on a Can' fame), Deborah Artman, librettist (ditto) and directed by Daniel Fish, who's the director of the production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA that's caused a big stir of Broadway this year. (It started life at Bard, by the way.) There will be 10 performances between July 11 and July 21 in the LUMA Theater of the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center.
Mostly Mozart Festival
July 10-August 10
New York, NY
Besides all the wonderful music and musicians, dance and dance-theatre works on this year's Mostly Mozart schedule, there are a pair of opera productions that shouldn't be missed: The "something old" is Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE (DIE ZAUBERFLOTE for you purists). Even if you've seen the opera before--and what operagoer hasn't seen it to death?--this production is worth going out of your way to see.
This is the New York production premiere of Komische Oper Berlin's sensational staging of the work, at Lincoln Center's Koch Theatre, July 17-20, as reimagined by directors Suzanne Andrade, Barrie Kosky and animator Paul Barritt, with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra conducted by Music Director Louis Langree. I saw the production last year at Opera Philadelphia's Festival and it's like nothing you've ever seen. Go.
The "something new" is THE BLACK CLOWN, July 24-27, adapted from a Langston Hughes poem by Davone Tines and Michael Schlachter, in a production from the noted American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, directed by Zack Winokur. Schlachter wrote the music and he and Tines collaborated on the adaptation. If you haven't heard baritone Tines--who plays the black clown--before, make sure to do it this time.
Another Mostly Mozart event for vocal fans (August 4 at 5pm) is Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra with soprano Jeanine De Bique, doing Haydn, Handel and Mozart.
Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
New York, NY
Dell'Arte's 2019 festival, Voices from the Tower, will be part of the Summer Shares at La MaMa Experimental Theater, 66 East Fourth Street, New York City, with 14 performances from August 10-25, 2019, exclusively featuring works by women. These include LA LIBERAZIONE DI RUGGIERO from 1625 (performed on August 10, 11m, 15, 17, 23, and 25m) and the newly commissioned PRINCESS MALEINE (performed August 16, 18m, 20, 22, and 24). In addition, there will be "Scenes from the Tower" (performed August 21 and 24m), including Pauline Viardot's CENDRILLON and excerpts from operas by Thea Musgrave, Victoria Bond, and others. A program of song repertoire entitled "Les Boulangers" will be performed at the matinee on August 17, and will feature works by Lily and Nadia Boulanger and other female composers.
Not enough for you? Stay tuned for a follow-up.