Now available in time for the operas’ premieres in the Met’s Live in HD series!

The Metropolitan Opera Presents:

Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana

and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci

If you are planning to see the concert in HD this weekend, be sure to pick up this perfect companion to the premiere!

00129496Opera’s most enduring tragic double bill of verismo masterpieces, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci share many common features, most noticeably their direct language, plot simplicity, common-folk characters, and themes of adultery, betrayal, revenge, and murder. Written within two years of each other, and both set in villages in southern Italy, they feature dramatic confrontations, turbulent emotions, and gritty realism.

The Metropolitan Opera Presents: Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (April 2015, $18.99) is the latest in the Metropolitan Opera Presents Libretto Library Series by Amadeus Press. In this groundbreaking series, classic and well-known operas are presented in a fresh new package. Each book features the complete libretto; color image inserts from Met Opera productions, a Met Opera libretto “In Focus” feature; and official Met Opera program notes. All titles include introductions and forewords by renowned opera experts.

Cavalleria Rusticana takes place on Easter in a Sicilian village, where Turiddu, after returning from the army to find his beloved Lola married to the carter Alfio, found solace with the peasant girl Santuzza but ultimately betrayed her and ruined her reputation. When Turiddu goes back to Lola, Santuzza seeks revenge, with tragic results.

In Pagliacci, a troupe of traveling commedia dell’arte players is torn apart when its leader, Canio, discovers that his wife, Nedda, has taken a lover. In the ensuing “play within a play,” the actors struggle to go on with their performance as the line between theater and reality collapses, leading to an explosive climax.

The Metropolitan Opera Presents: Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci is the sixth title in Amadeus Press’s Metropolitan Opera Presents Libretto Series, following Puccini’s Tosca, Puccini’s La Boheme, and Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Bizet’s Carmen.

Event Alert! Toscanini: A Conductor Stands Up For Justice

There will be a FREE EVENT at the United Nations Headquarters to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual event sponsored by B’nai B’rith International.

EVENT DETAILS:

Toscanini: A Conductor Stands Up For Justice

Date & Time: Tuesday, January 27th at 1:15pm

Place: United Nations Headquarters, Conference Room 3

Admission: FREE

Pre-registration required – RSVP by Jan. 20 at rsvpun@bmaibriht.org or phone 1-212-557-0019

(In case of inclement weather only, call 1-212-490-1352 for possible schedule change.)

EVENT INFORMATION:

Using rare film footage and archival orchestral recordings, Cesare Civetta (director of the Beethoven Festival Orchestra and author of The Real Toscanini: Musicians Reveal the Maestro), will explore the life, music, and extraordinary impact of the man whose fiery passion and astonishing talent made him one of the most acclaimed musicians of the 20th century.

Special note will be given to Toscanini’s defiance of Hitler and Mussolini “Jewish policies,” eventually leading him to establishing the orchestra now known as Israel Philharmonic in 1936, in solidarity with Jewish musicians escaping Nazi persecution. The presentation will feature audio interviews with artists who performed under Toscanini as well as rare video footage of Toscanini rehearsing and conducting. The presentation will be followed by a Question & Answer period.

ABOUT MAESTRO CESARE CIVETTA:

CESARE CIVETTA is an internationally acclaimed conductor who has led more than 60 orchestras in 28 countries, including performances at Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden. He is the author of The Real Toscanini: Musicians Reveal the Maestro, and his concerts have been broadcast live over National Public Radio, Swedish Radio and the South African Broadcasting Company, and featured on CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

IN CHINA, he was the first foreign-born conductor to conduct at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music. He has also given master classes, lectures and conducted the orchestras of the Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang conservatories, where he found an outpouring of enthusiasm for Western music that was shared by orchestras, students and audiences alike.

IN RUSSIA, Mr. Civetta had the unique distinction of being the first American to conduct a transcontinental tour of the former Soviet Union. He gave the first performance of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever at the Communist Party Headquarters in Yaroslavl, where Civetta turned the statue of Lenin to face the wall. Coverage of Civetta’s historic tour of Poland, Romania and Russia during the dismantling of the Soviet Union was broadcast over Voice of America, and a video documentary about it was produced in nine languages.

To view a video of Maestro Civetta’s orchestral tour of Russia, click here.

For information about Maestro Civetta’s recently published book, The Real Toscanini, click here.

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Listen: Curtain Call with John Martin

Curtain Call host Charles Sepos chats with John Martin about his new book In Character: Opera Portraiture.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

In Character_Cover_9X12_with index.inddIn Character: Opera Portraiture memorably captures operatic performers away from the audience but fully inhabiting their roles. It showcases the work of John F. Martin, who for years set up a portable studio in the basement of the San Francisco Opera and photographed the players – in costume and full makeup – right before or after they took the stage. The subjects range from nonsinging supernumeraries through chorus members and comprimarii to opera’s greatest stars, such as Anna Netrebko, Natalie Dessay, Deborah Voigt, Juan Diego Flórez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Their roles run the gamut of opera personalities: heroes and heroines, villains and outcasts, royalty and common folk, Biblical figures and creatures of myth. Facing Martin’s camera, each artist projects the essence of his or her character, however great or small the part.

The book also features a foreword by author Amy Tan; a preface by David Gockley, general director of the San Francisco Opera; essays on opera behind the scenes, the vital role of costumes, and the transformation of singers into characters; and an interview with world-renowned soprano Danielle de Niese. A collection unlike any other, In Character will have broad appeal-to opera and theater buffs, costume and fashion aficionados, and anyone who appreciates fine art photography.

Landscapes in Piano Repertoire

The Composer’s Landscape features eight insightful essays on the piano repertoire, each chapter focusing on a single composer: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, and Mendelssohn. In this book, Carol Montparker uses landscape as a metaphor for the score, whether it be a well-tended garden of Mozart or the thorny thickets on a Schumann page.  In her introduction, Montparker beautifully explains the reasoning behind her “landscape” metaphor.

A few words and metaphors will explain why I gave the series the name “the Composer’s landscape.” music is a language, and that language has a very broad spectrum. often referred to as “the universal language,” still it encompasses many styles, genres, and dialects. not only does each composer write in a unique language, but performing artists have to learn to “speak” and “sing” in these various tongues. Very often pianists find that they are fluent and conversant in many composers’ languages—but not all. Very few pianists play every composer equally convincingly. even if we are lucky enough to be born with talent, it usually has a territorial boundary, as my great teacher Leopold Mittman put it.

00124843To my eyes, a page from any score is a landscape, with its own contours and terrain, that is directly related to the language of that composer—a kind of visual depiction of the language. When a musician beholds a page from a Schumann score, it has an altogether different look from a page of Mozart; it can be as different as a jungle is from a well-tended garden, and an experienced musician can glance at a page and discern which composer wrote it, just from the appearance of the writing style.

Yes, there is the same system of notation: notes, clefs, phrase marks, dynamics, lines and spaces, and so on. But what gets much more com- plex is the “topography”: the shapes—the peaks and depths, the patches of bramble or thickets to plow through, the open plains to traverse, the circuitous routes of the melodic lines, the clotted harmonies, the busy thoroughfares where all the voices converge, the layers of their impor- tance, and the depth of meanings, stacked like the geological strata of a canyon, through which we must dig in order to get to the core of truth. We must, in essence, be explorers and, for me, the metaphor of landscape works so well that I could find endless parallels between the manuscript and any kind of geographical terrain.

Most concerts are eclectic and varied. This series proved to be a rare opportunity to present and examine one composer at a time and take note of the extraordinary and essential elements that distinguish one composer’s landscape from the next, and what the unique challenges are for the explorer-pianist.

A Very Verdi Fall

This Autumn, Amadeus Press will release Verdi: The Operas and Choral Works as part of the Unlocking the Masters Series. Read this glowing, exclusive excerpt from the introduction of the book below.

Verdi and the Culmination of Italian Opera

Sooner or later we learn that in this world popularity and quality do not go hand in hand—far from it, in fact. But in the case of Verdi, they do. Giuseppe Verdi, probably the most popular operatic composer of all, brought Italian opera to its peak, single-handedly saving and reanimating this beloved musical genre for the better part of a century. Italian opera of the 1840s, when Verdi came on the scene, was a hodge- podge of formulas spun out by mostly forgotten composers who were at the mercy of fickle audiences, self-promoting singers, and impresarios whose chief personal quality was greed. A few fine composers—Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti—had by their individuality and hard work carved out niches for themselves, achieving popularity that spread beyond Italy, over Europe, and across the Atlantic. But with the arrival of ambitious new ideas about musical drama, chiefly those of Wagner, German opera had become the avant-garde, what the cool kids, even in Italy, wanted to see. While even the finest works by Italians still sounded beautiful, they were rarely daring. With his musical and dramatic genius and force of character, Verdi gave Italian opera’s tired conventions new life, while continually raising its standards, ultimately adding sixteen indestructible operas (of the twenty-eight he composed) to the repertory.

Verdi’s music combines lyricism with power, helping it reach its vast and well-deserved popularity. His operas grab you by the throat, demanding your attention and making submission to their beauty and force your only course. They’re not always subtle, but that’s not generally a quality associated with Italian opera. Verdi refined his style continually, though, and his final opera, Falstaff, is nothing if not subtle. Opera, the Italian variety in particular, may be unsubtle, but it is the best musical formfor the direct expression of emotions, at which it is unsurpassed. By any analysis, it’s one of the most important limbs of the Western musical tree; you can perhaps think of it as standing opposite to German-Austrian instrumental music, which runs to the abstract and intellectual. German opera, the fruit of the romantic era, is moody, grandiose, often mystical. But the goals of Italian opera are the expression of emotions, often in showy ways, and sheer entertainment.

To say that opera in Italy fills a much wider position in the national culture than it does in 00118902the United States seems a truism; it’s also safe to say that nothing in American culture, where the boundaries between “high” and “low” are written in stone, is analogous to opera in Italy, where it’s accepted by millions as an essential element of their upbringing and national heritage. While Americans and others seem irritated or amused up to a point, or bored by opera; others feel intimidated, and many seem to be put off by its artificiality. But of course, placed in the proper light, any art—and any sport—can appear unnatural. There’s more than a bit of blood sport in being an opera fan in Italy, where fine performances are cheered, and bad ones booed enthusiastically; and where the ability of tenors and sopranos to execute fast passagework and hit high notes with ease and power—or their failure to do so—are applauded or condemned vigorously during performances. Verdi’s popularity in Italy arises, as we’ll see, not only from his role as perhaps Italy’s greatest composer, but also as a symbol of the national spirit during the unification struggles of the mid-nineteenth century.

Opera’s noble purpose is to say in music what everyone feels—no more, no less. The big solo numbers, or arias, typically express an emo- tion that the character is experiencing. In a duet, each character’s emotion should be clarified and heightened by the music. Termed affects, these are the feelings we’ve all known from early in our own lives: happiness, grief, anger, fear, and all the others. (It seems curious that opera should not gain a wider response in an age and a society in which open emotional expression is accorded high value.) By Verdi’s time, emphasis had begun to shift toward the expression of more complex psychological and dramatic truth, an art Verdi excelled at and brought to transcendent levels of mimesis.

The voice dominates Italian opera, and it is the dominant element of Verdi’s style. His works are written for singers, who at best inhabit their roles and hope to become known as great Lady Macbeths, Rigolettos, or Aidas. Verdi’s mastery of the orchestra was immense, as well, and three of the operatic overtures (Luisa Miller, I vespri siciliani, and La forza del destino) are played in the concert hall. With the exception of a few piano fantasies on Verdian themes by Franz Liszt, there are no suites of material lifted from the operas and played by the orchestra without a singer: the idea itself is preposterous. The opposite holds true for Verdi’s contempo- rary and fellow operatic titan Richard Wagner, whose music has always been excerpted and transcribed for orchestra without voice, and Wagner’s music generally stands up well to the treatment. Verdi came to maturity in an era in which the bel canto style dominated; the phrase means “beautiful singing,” and it’s characterized by elaborate and difficult vocal parts, with lots of high notes for the high voices and decoration of all vocal parts. The voice is what’s on display in bel canto operas, and much of what singers are asked to do requires not only vocal power, but also agility and subtlety. The popularity of singers in Italy, entirely comparable to that of professional athletes, typically rewards those who have mastered this difficult style of singing. As we’ll see, some of Verdi’s operas display bel canto characteristics, though he came into his prime as the style was losing its hold on the public. But even if he had been born a few years earlier, his development as a composer of musical drama would have strained the inherent limitations of the style.

 

But there is more for all of you Verdi fans! This October, Amadeus Press will also release Verdi’s Operas, which studies in detail each of Verdi’s 26 operas, from Oberto to Falstaff. Visit the website for more information about this publication.

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Celebrating Leonard Slatkin at Tanglewood

American conductor and composer Leonard Slatkin will be celebrating his 70th birthday today at the renowned Tanglewood festival. He will be taking the stage with the Boston Symphony Orchestra to lead the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom’s Circus Overture. The Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon as well as the recipient of numerous awards, Slatkin is also author of Conducting Business, a book that takes an insightful look at what conductors actually do for a living. In the following excerpt from Conducting Business, Slatkin speaks about his memorable experiences with the Tanglewood festival.

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Hot and humid. Bugs everywhere. Wine bottles clanking. Babies screaming. Ah, there is nothing like the sights and sounds of summer.

The alfresco concert has been with us for centuries now. Tribal drummers, troubadours and rock stars, even classical ensembles have enjoyed a place in the great outdoors. Handel must have loved the Royal Fireworks Music as he stood at a safe distance away from the barge that carried the musicians and explosives. We don’t know when the formally organized, professional, outdoor concert series was conceived. Major orchestras in America lacked summer homes until both the Chicago an the Boston Symphony moved out of town in 1936. The vision of Serge Koussevitzky helped forge Tanglewood, a bucolic venue in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains. The first concerts were played in a tent, but in two years’ time, the famous Shed was dedicated. The BSO plays and resides in the Lenox area almost all summer. Although located in Massachusetts, it amounts to a second home for New Yorkers who flock to the area, families in tow. This seasonal music center includes a well-known school for very dedicated young musicians, who play with master conductors and soloists. It is arguably the go-to place for serious music-making during the summer months.

Teaching, from its inception, has been fundamental to the Tanglewood ethic. A number of fine conductors have emerged from the program, and for most years, this class was held in Saranac, the original residence of Koussevitzky. All the greats have taught there and that history is so palpable, you can feel it oozing from the walls. Everyone respects the festival’s traditions, no doubt a factor in why it remains at the top of every music lover’s list for summertime listening.

An article from Janet Horvath

Not only is Janet Horvath the author of Playing (Less) Hurt, a guide to avoiding and healing injuries acquired whilst playing musical instruments, she also writes bright, contemporary and amusing articles about the world of classical music! Janet has kindly let us post some of her articles.  Read more from Janet here.

 

Reach Out, Freak Out?

by Janet Horvath

There’s a storm brewing in classical music. The quandary:
#1 how far are we willing to go to achieve reaching out? Can we pursue change without freaking out our musicians and loyal concert attendees?
#2 how do we remedy the erroneous expectations and misconceptions regarding attending a performance in a concert hall or opera house?
#3 how do we entice more people to classical music concerts when knowledge about, and interest in classical music might be dwindling due to cut backs in music education?

There are two camps— those who feel that we have to reach out at all costs to younger audiences and those who steadfastly want to keep the traditions unchanged.

There certainly have been some strange goings-on in the classical world of late in both camps! The Seattle Symphony was taken by surprise when a YouTube went viral on Twitter. They, like many symphony orchestras, have been dancing on a trapeze— attempting to keep patrons happy while trying to attract new audiences. Several women were asked to come onstage to dance during a song of Sir Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony. The short video features a 38-year-old audience member now known as “the lady in the black dress.” Needless to say, it was Ms. Shawn Bound’s first time at the hall leading to millions of views and considerable controversy. A gimmick? A spectacle? Would you see it as fun or shocking? I wonder what the musicians thought.

The San Francisco Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Pacific Symphony and the Dayton Opera have something in common— Tweet seats. Tweeting from a designated section of the concert hall during the performance is a strategy to lure young people to concerts in the hope that it will seem more interactive. (See link below for a conversation about this.) One camp certainly finds this a dastardly distraction.

Recently, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, Tom Morris, invited the audience to bring their drinks to the front of the stage during an ‘accessible and informal’ performance of Handel’s Messiah saying, “Clap or whoop when you like, and no shushing other people.” American chemist and Royal Society research fellow in London, Dr. David Glowacki, attended the concert but he took the go ahead a step too far by attempting to crowd-surf. I must admit I had to look up the term— crowd surfing, is the process in which a person is passed above everyone’s heads during a concert, with other members of the audience supporting the person’s weight.

Attendees were so irritated, that they physically ejected the academic from the performance. Morris claims it is the first such incident at a classical concert since the 18th century. What to do? He is reluctant to re-instate the oftentimes strict rules of concert etiquette, which he hoped to ditch.

A new use for duct tape in opera, the genre that can be dignified or outlandish makes me feel like we’ve now seen it all. Atthis by Georg Friedrich Haas, is an opera based on writings of the Greek poet Sappho, depicting a fraught relationship between the poet and a student. Ms. Greif, soprano, said in an interview after the end of the run of Atthis, “There could be numerous occasions to be nude in opera. But I thought this one was especially fine on so many different levels.”

“The soprano came to the front of the stage stepped out of her dress and began to tear off the metallic-looking strips of duct tape that girded her naked torso— a close-up of what must be one of the most searingly painful and revealing operatic performances in recent times,” wrote The New York Times. Sounds like it!

Several orchestras are experimenting with putting large screens onstage for projections. The Minnesota Orchestra recently performed a work by Kevin Puts, his Symphony No. 4,From Mission San Juan, a multimedia installation. Sensing devices and sonic inputs gather live data that triggers visual images specific to this music, which are projected on a backdrop behind the orchestra. A performance was free to the public— part of the Northern Sparks Arts Festival hosted by the University of Minnesota—an overnight of arts exhibits and presentations both inside and out in different venues all over the city. Even my son and his friends were talking about it!

There are several artists who are extending the boundaries of their playing, “crossing over” into world music like Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and more popular music such as Maya Beiser, cellist. Singers Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, violinist David Garrett, and Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulić of 2Cellos are the rage.

Still there are classical musicians and loyal audiences that feel degraded by the popularization of the art. Starting with the indignation of cell phones ringing in the concert hall and the ongoing subject of the dress code, behavior code, clapping code and maintaining silence code, feathers are ruffled at the slightest deviation from tradition.

There has always been a place for experimental music, which at times has caused riotous reactions as far back as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring premier, but other genres have been able to evolve into contemporary arts. How does classical music shed the label of being stuck in tails in the distant past? This May there was proof that it is possible—even without the gimmicks, technologies and stunts. Washington D.C’s Kennedy Center Concert Hall was packed with all types—young and old, dressed up and dressed down, novices and aficionados. The audience roared with joy after the performance. Arvo Pärt’s music, performed by the superlative Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, is proof that contemporary music can be riveting and moving. So it is possible. The two opposing camps can unite.