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John Mauceri’s distinguished and extraordinary career has brought him not only to the world’s greatest opera companies and symphony orchestras, but also to the musical stages of Broadway and Hollywood, as well as the most prestigious halls of academia. Regarded as the world’s leading performer of the music of Hollywood’s émigré composers, he has taken the lead in the preservation and performance of many kinds of music and has supervised/conducted premieres by composers as diverse as Debussy, Stockhausen, Korngold, Bernstein, Hindemith, Elfman, Ives, and Shore. As an accomplished recording artist, John Mauceri has over 70 albums to his name, and is the recipient of Grammy, Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, Edison, Cannes Classique, Billboard, two Diapasons d’Or, three Emmys, and four Deutsche Schallplatten Awards.

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Opera Saratoga: Back to the Cradle

Posted September 3rd, 2017

From La Scena Musicale’s retrospective review of Opera Saratoga’s 2017 season, written by Charles Geyer on 31 August 2017.

Most widely discussed in advance of this Opera Saratoga season was the company’s planned production of composer-librettist Marc Blitzstein’s controversial, idiosyncratic – and surprisingly fun – 1936 proletariat-boosting agit-opera, The Cradle Will Rock… . It’s a work with near universal name-recognition among operatic and musical-theater cognoscenti, but one never seen or heard as it would be here.

John Tibbetts (L) as YASHA and Scott Purcell (R) as DAUBER, Photo: Gary David Gold

The warrantable buzz and excitement mostly concerned plans to present Cradle, for the first time in memory, with both its full, original Blitzstein orchestrations (piano accompaniment has been the longstanding norm) and fully staged (as opposed to rendered in a “presentational,” cantata style, adopted even for the Howard da Silva-directed “bleachers” production at New York City Opera in 1960).

The plan did not disappoint.

Dylan Elza (COP) with THE LIBERTY COMMITTEE, Photo: Gary David Gold

The monitory fable of Steeltown U.S.A., corrupted at every social level by the predations and capitalist cupidity of its boss-man, “Mister Mister,” was brought to full, sometimes fierce, sometimes tongue-in-cheek life in Lawrence Edelson’s colorful, high-energy production.

Some standout performances in a large and uniformly well-cast ensemble were mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson as the Moll, Blitzstein’s original model for the downtrodden victim of the system, forced into prostitution in order to survive. Often conceived as more wan and passive than here, Costa-Jackson instead brought Black-Dahlia exoticism and gorgeous, smoldering vocalism to the role. She was thoroughly engrossing right from her opening musical soliloquy.

Baritone Christopher Burchett brought power and vivid blue-collar conviction to his turn as everyman Larry Foreman, Blitzstein’s essential protest-voice conscience of The Cradle Will Rock.

Ginger Costa-Jackson as THE MOLL, Photo: Gary David Gold

Equally well-acted and vocally impressive performances were offered by baritone Efraín Solís as the hapless and corrupt officer Dick; bass-baritone Justin Hopkins as the fire-and-brimstone pharisee Reverend Salvation; tenor Keith Jameson as the bedeviled Harry Druggist; bass Matt Boehler as the evening’s arch-antagonist, Mr. Mister; and mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock as his willfully benighted facilitator, Mrs. Mister; plus a tapestry of additional colorful characterizations by members of the Opera Saratoga Young Artist Program.

Opera Saratoga artistic and general director Lawrence Edelson directed and choreographed the production with flair. His hilarious coup de théâtre of having the corrupt Steeltown “Liberty Committee” – whited sepulchers to a man – appear at the eleventh hour in whored-up red stilettos and forming a makeshift chorus line/police lineup was both a perilously edgy meta-commentary, and a perfect correlative to Blitzstein’s originating inspiration for The Cradle Will Rock. , It was no less an oracle than Bertolt Brecht who had offered Blitzstein the seminal suggestion: “Why don’t you write a piece about all kinds of prostitution – the press, the church, the courts, the arts, the whole system?”

The great John Mauceri conducted the recovered treasure of Blitzstein orchestrations with masterful insight.

Read the full retrospective at myscena.org.

Putting the Baby Back in the Cradle

Posted July 16th, 2017

Putting the Baby Back in the Cradle

It may come as a surprise that Marc Blitzstein was the composer of ten musical dramas, three ballets, incidental music to ten plays, seven film scores, and various concert works and art songs. He is best known in America as the translator of Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera (1954), and to a lesser extent, the composer of the operas Regina (1949), based on Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, and The Cradle will Rock (1937). But even these last two works are only occasionally heard, which is our loss. He also was part of a circle of legendary American artists like Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, John Houseman, and Orson Welles. And, when Kurt Weill died in 1950, the only American composer to attend the interment was Marc Blitzstein. At the time of Blitzstein’s death in 1964, he was working on a new opera for the Metropolitan Opera House. In short, Marc Blitzstein was in the middle of great things in those heady days of American creativity and political passion. He was regarded by his fellow geniuses as their equal and, in many ways as a leader in the movement to find a comprehensible (and an American) voice in musical theater and link it with political action, something that he felt was required of an artist, much in the line of a Giuseppe Verdi and a Kurt Weill.

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Richard Gerstl – Neue Galerie New York

Posted June 28th, 2017

Richard Gerstl

Opening June 29, 2017, the Neue Galerie New York is pleased to present “Richard Gerstl,” the first museum retrospective in the United States devoted to the work of the Austrian Expressionist (1883-1908). This exhibition is co-organized with the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, and with music curated by John Mauceri will be on view at the Neue Galerie through September 25, 2017.

From Neue Galerie New York

Gerstl was an extremely original artist whose psychologically intense figure paintings and landscapes constitute a radically unorthodox oeuvre that defied the reigning concepts of style and beauty during his time. The long-standing secrecy surrounding Gerstl’s dramatic and untimely suicide at the age of 25, and the scandalous love affair that preceded his death, only further magnify the legend that has grown around this lesser known, but influential member of Vienna’s artistic avant-garde at the turn of the twentieth century. The show is organized by Expressionist scholar Jill Lloyd, who has assembled several important exhibitions for the Neue Galerie, including “Van Gogh and Expressionism” in 2007, “Ferdinand Hodler: View to Infinity” in 2012, and “Munch and Expressionism” in 2016.

Approximately 55 paintings and works on paper will be on display, including portraits, frontal nude figures, highly gestural group portraits, landscapes, and comparative works by Gerstl’s artistic contemporaries. A special gallery will be devoted to Gerstl’s relationship with the leading Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg; the artist’s friendship with Schönberg abruptly ended in 1908 upon the disclosure of the love affair between Gerstl and Schönberg’s wife Mathilde. Although Gerstl’s extant body of work comprises only approximately 90 works, his groundbreaking style is central to the development of the Expressionist movement of fin-de-siècle Vienna.

A fully illustrated catalogue, published by Hirmer, will accompany the exhibition featuring contributions by leading scholars in the field, including Raymond Coffer, Jane Kallir, Diethard Leopold, Jill Lloyd, Ingrid Pfeiffer, Maria Sitte, and Karol Winiarczyk.

For more information visit the Neue Galerie New York website.

More information on Richard Gerstl and the show can be found on The New Yorker’s website in an article by Alex Ross “The Final, Shocking Self-Portrait of Richard Gerstl“.

Kiri Te Kanawa – Royal Albert Hall Concert 1987

Posted February 26th, 2017

Kiri just posted this from 30 years ago. The sound is occasionally wonky and not in synch, but her “Sogno di Doretta” and, well, just about everything she did that night were magnificent.  Watching Jeremy do My Fair Lady brought back many memories … two broadcasts the same day … Enjoy!

From Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s YouTube channel