Summer coverage coming soon…

Due to a health issue, my posts related to summer events will be delayed. Thank you for your patience, and I hope to begin posting again very soon!

Santa Fe Opera announces 2023 summer festival season

Summer 2024 will include company’s 19th world premiere

By Peter Alexander June 22 at 3:45 p.m.

Robert K. Meya. Screen shot 10.25.2020

Robert K. Meya, general director of the Santa Fe Opera, has announced the repertoire, cast and creative artists for the company’s 2023 summer season. 

Opening the opera’s 66th Festival Season will be Puccini’s Tosca and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, followed by Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Dvořák’s Rusalka and Monteverdi’s Orfeo with a new orchestration by American composer Nico Muhly. Meya also announced the commission of a new opera by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Tracy K. Smith, The Righteous, to be premiered in 2024.

The Righteous  will be the company’s 19th world premiere.

The 66th Festival Season will feature a total of 38 performances, including two special Sunday evenings presentring the opera’s singing and technical apprentices in staged scenes, August 13 and 20. Tickets for the 2023 season are now on sale at the Santa Fe Opera’s Web page.

# # # # #

Santa Fe Opera
2023 66th Festival Season

Santa Fe Opera. Photo by Kate Russell.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca
John Fiore, conductor
Keith Warner, stage director
Cast includes Angel Blue, Leah Hawkins, Joshua Guerrero, Freddie De Tommaso and Reginald Smith, Jr.
Santa Fe Opera new production
Sung in Italian with English and Spanish titles
June 30; July 5, 8, 14, 21; August 1, 7, 12, 19, 23 & 26, 2023

Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman
Thomas Guggeis and Alden Gatt, conductors
David Alden, stage director
Cast includes Nicholas Brownlee, Elza van den Heever and Morris Robinson
Santa Fe Opera new production
Sung in German with English and Spanish titles
July 1, 7, 12, 31; August 5, 10, 15, 25, 2023

Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Harry Bicket, conductor
Netia Jones, stage director
Cast includes Huw Montague Rendall, Samantha Hankey and Gihoon Kim
Santa Fe Opera new production
Sung in French with English and Spanish titles
July 15, 19, 28; August 3, 9, & 18, 2023

Antonín Dvořák: Rusalka
Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor
Sir David Pountney, stage director
Cast includes Ailyn Pérez, Robert Watson, James Creswell and Michaela Martens
Santa Fe Opera premiere and new production
Sung in Czech with English and Spanish titles
July 22, 26; August 4, 8, 17 & 22, 2023

Claudio Monteverdi, orchestration by Nico Muhly: Orfeo
Harry Bicket, conductor
Yuval Sharon, stage director
Cast includes Rolando Villazón, Lauren Snouffer, James Creswell and Blake Denson
World premiere of new orchestration; Santa Fe Opera premiere and new production
Sung in Italian with English and Spanish titles
July 29; August 2, 11, 16 & 24, 2023

Read the complete news release from the Santa Fe Opera, with full cast and credits, here.

Statement from Central City Opera Board co-chairs

Comments on the resignation of artistic director Pelham (Pat) Pearce

By Peter Alexander June 18 at 10:05 a.m.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce, the longtime artistic director of Central City Opera, announced his resignation from the company yesterday (June 17). His departure, after more than 26 years with Central City Opera, appears to have been unexpected, as it was first announced by Pearce early in the morning on his personal Facebook page.

Today (June 18) the co-chairs of the company released the following statement:

We wanted share the news that Pelham “Pat” Pearce has decided to step down from his role as Artistic Director of Central City Opera. Pat’s 26+ years have been essential to who Central City Opera is and the fact we are celebrating our 90th Anniversary this year. He has been a visionary and will be missed.

Pat has done an excellent job of preparing for this year’s Summer Festival and has a terrific team in place. We have confidence that our directors, artists and technicians have the expertise to put Pat’s vision on stage and look forward to seeing their wonderful work come to fruition.

We celebrate and thank Pat for his tremendous work and the important legacy he has left on Central City Opera and the whole industry.

–Anne McGonagle and Roopesh Aggarwal
Co-Chairs of the Central City Opera Board of Directors

The announcement comes only two weeks before the opening of the company’s 2022 summer season. There has been no announcement if or when Pearce would be replaced in his role as artistic director. The company hired Pamela Pantos as president and chief executive officer of the company in February.

Further information and tickets for the summer season are available on the CCO Web page.

Portions of new opera to be presented Sunday

Kamala Sankaram’s Joan of the City is inspired by homelessness and Joan of Arc

By Peter Alexander June 17 at 5:23 p.m.

Composer Kamala Sankaram says that many of the pieces she writes start with her own imagination and not the way many operas get written— with a commission for a specific performing organization. 

“They start with a crazy idea that I have” Sankaram says. “Then I talk to people and see who also is crazy.” She then works with the “also crazy” people to bring her idea to life.

Kamala Sankaram

For her latest project, an opera titled Joan of the City that combines themes of homelessness with the Joan of Arc story, those conversations led her to Leigh Holman, director of the Eklund Opera Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the New Opera Workshop (CU NOW).

Sankaram has been in Boulder for the past two weeks, composing music and working with students in the opera program to start turning her “crazy idea” into a site-specific opera that will be premiered next year by Opera Omaha. Completed portions of Joan of the City will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday (June 19) in the Music Theatre of Imig Music Building.

The performance is free and open to the public, and will take place entirely in the Music Theatre space.

The basic idea of the opera is that not one but five Joans will be fighting, not the English invaders in France, but gentrification and other forces creating homelessness in American cities. Starting in five different places within Omaha, the Joans eventually meet up, as audiences move with them through the city.

Sankaram grew up in Southern California, where the car is king, but after she moved to New York she started walking everywhere. “Whenever I go to a new city I’m walking, and I see the homeless community,” she says. “I think it’s important to have people see what does that feel like, to be walking the city, instead of driving by in a car.

“I started thinking about [homelessness] several years ago, and it has become increasingly problematic and prevalent . . . [in] all places across the United States. So the idea was how do you get people to look and see things that they normally look past.”

Another idea was the use of technology, which features in a lot of Sankaram’s work. It is technology that will allow the onsite performances in Omaha to take place in different places across the city, and also will allow audience members to participate in the performance by playing audio from their cell phones.

The final piece of Sankaram’s “crazy idea” was working with homeless agencies—Mary’s Place in Seattle and Micah House in Omaha—to connect the finished work to the homeless community. With her co-creator of Joan of the City, New York-based hybrid-theater director Kristin Marting, Sankaram and the homeless shelters presented writing workshops for the shelter clients.

Leigh Holman (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The work that came from those workshops became the basis of the text for Joan of the City. “The libretto is all these poems that the shelter clients wrote, and then they’re sort of structured on this overall dramatic arc from the Joan of Arc story,” Sankaram explains. “It starts off as arias and then as the Joans meet each other, it turns into duets and trios and finally a quintet.”

Sankaram’s work is an example of the kind of creative and adventurous projects that CU NOW aims to support. Many new works go through a workshop process, but CU NOW is unique in that it offers a longer than average period for composers to work with performers while refining their work. 

The program is largely Holman’s brainchild. She started CU NOW in 2010, and it has offered several composers the opportunity to refine works that were in development, including It’s a Wonderful Life by Gene Scheer and Jake Heggie, which was premiered by Houston Grand Opera in 2016 and performed by the CU Eklund Opera in 2019.

The composers and works are chosen for CU NOW largely through Holman’s contacts in the professional world. “So far nobody has ever submitted anything (for consideration),” she says. “It’s only been knowing somebody or meeting somebody through relationships, or going to see their operas. I just invite them, and they do it because they want to develop their piece and we can provide the students and the facilities and the musicians.”

In addition to the work that is done by an established composer preparing a new piece, there is simultaneously an educational component for young composers. Under the rubric Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CFI), a composer and librettist have been brought in to work with students to develop both their musical skills and their understanding of stagecraft.

Tom Cipullo

This year, the students have been working with composer Tom Cipullo, whose comic opera Hobson’s Choice was featured at CU NOW in 2019, and librettist Gene Scheer, whose was in Boulder for CU NOW last year (Intelligence, with composer Jake Heggie) as well as 2016 (It’s a Wonderful Life). 

“It’s a marvelously thrilling thing to be a part of,” Cipullo says of CFI. The composers in this year’s program “are extraordinary young musicians,” he says. “CFI gives them a push into writing operas. They have an interest, they’re all talented. How much they’ll pursue it, what works they’ll create, who can say, [but] they jumped in and they’re doing some really good things.”

# # # # #

CU Now Opera Workshop
(CUNOW)
Leigh Holman, director

Kamala Sankaram: Joan of the City (portions)

3 p.m. Sunday, June 19
Imig Music Building, Music Theatre (N1B95)

Free

Pelham (Pat) Pearce resigns from Central City Opera

Surprise announcement made this morning (June 17)

By Peter Alexander June 17 at 3:15 p.m.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce, the general/artistic director of Central City Opera who has been with the company since 1996, today announced his resignation from the company.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce

The announcement was made by Pearce on his facebook page early this morning. The company has not yet responded to Pearce’s sudden announcement, which in its entirety was: “Dear Friends: I have resigned as Artistic Director of the Central City Opera. Please use my personal email, cell or social media to contact me. I look forward to new possibilities.”

The announcement comes only two weeks before the opening of Central City Opera’s 2002 season on Saturday, July. 2. The season, marking their return to Central City after two years that were affected by the COVID pandemic, features the musical Light in the Piazza by Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel (opening July 2) and Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, Jr.  (opening July 9).

For more information on the summer season, visit the Central City Opera Web page.

More information will be posted as it become available.

Longmont Symphony announces 2022–23 season

Season includes Beethoven cycle, Handel’s Messiah, world premieres

By Peter Alexander June 8 at 1:54 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony recently announced their 2022–23 season of concerts. The season features six mainstage concerts, three chamber orchestra concerts, and a Messiah singalong during the Holiday season (Dec. 18; see full season listings below).

The Beethoven symphony cycle will continue with Symphony No. 8 (Oct. 22 and 23), and other familiar orchestral repertoire will be represented by works of Dvořák and Sibelius. There will also be works by less familiar composers, including two world premieres, adding up to a season with intriguing discoveries to be made on most programs.

Composer John Heineken

The first of the two world premieres is Symphony for the Great Return by American composer John Hennecken on the opening night of the new season, Oct. 8. With it on the same program are Dvořák’s familiar Cello Concerto, played by Naumburg Competition winner Clancy Newman, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and George Walker’s elegiac Lyric for Strings.

The next installment of the LSO’s Beethoven cycle will feature the Eighth Symphony, possibly the least familiar of the canonical nine symphonies (Oct. 22 and 23 in Stewart Auditorium). Sharing the same chamber orchestral program is a symphony by Anton Reicha, a contemporary and friend of Beethoven. An adventurous and experimental composer for his times, Reicha is little known today, but his work serves to fill in the context in which Beethoven worked.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

The major work on the November mainstage concert (Nov. 19) will be Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, a cheerful and upbeat piece that was written shortly before the composer’s 1892–93 visit to the United States. It will be preceded by three works that reflect the native American experience: Overture to the choral-orchestral Song of Hiawatha by the black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; American composer Michael Daugherty’s Trail of Tears for flute, strings and harp, inspired by the forced removal of Cherokees from their homeland; and Chokfi’ (Rabbit) for strings and percussion by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, a composer who is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Flute soloist for Trail of Tears will be Brice Smith.

The LSO will celebrate the Holidays with a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 17), followed by an audience-participation truncated Messiah “singalong.”

Silvestre Revueltas

The new year begins with a family concert (“Painting the Orchestra,” Jan. 21, 2023), followed by an all-Sibelius program (Feb. 18, 2023). Sibelius is generally under-represented in orchestra repertoire now, so it’s good to have a complete concert of his music, even if the program sticks to his more familiar works—Finlandia, the Violin Concerto with soloist Judith Ingolfsson, and the Symphony No. 2 in D major.

March 18 and 19 will see the second concert of the “Made in America” series, opening with Alcancías (Penny banks) for chamber orchestra by the 20th-century Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. Jason Shafer, principal clarinet with the Colorado Symphony and a previous soloist with the LSO, returns to play Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. Completing the program are Gershwin’s Lullaby and Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, written for piano as a tribute to the Baroque composer François Couperin and later transcribed for orchestra.

Tyler Harrison

The season’s second world premiere will be the Symphony No. 3 by pianist/composer and CU, Boulder, alumnus Tyler Harrison. It will be paired with Tchaikovsky’s brooding Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” in a program titled “Darkness and Light” (April 15).

The 2022–23 concert season wraps up May 6 with a lighter program, “LSO Goes to the Movies,” featuring music by John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Hans Zimmer. Subscriptions are available through the LSO Web page. Tickets to individual concerts will go on sale Friday, July 29.

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2022–23 Concert Season
Longmont Symphony Orhestra

Longmont Symphony and conductor Elliot Moore

“The Great Return”
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Clancy Newman, cello

  • Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
  • George Walker: Lyric For Strings
  • John Hennecken: Symphony for the Great Return (World premiere)
  • Dvořák: Cello Concerto

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8
Vance brand Civic Auditorium

Beethoven Symphony Cycle
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Anton Reicha: Symphony in G
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 8

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

“Made in America,” Part 1
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Brice Smith, flute

  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Overture to Song of Hiawatha
  • Michael Daugherty: Trail of Tears
  • Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate: Chokfi’
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 in G major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Candlelight Concert
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Handel: Messiah

4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17
Westview Presbyterian Church

Messiah Singalong
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Handel: Messiah (selections)

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18
Westview Presbyterian Church

”Painting the Orchestra!” Family Concert
Elliot Moore, conductor
Program includes:

  • Prokofiev: March from The Love for Three Oranges
  • John Williams: Nimbus 2000
  • Prokofiev: Cinderella Ballet Suite (selections)

4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

“Sibelius: A Portrait”
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Judith Ingolfsson, violin

  • Sibelius: Finlandia
  • —Violin Concerto
  • —Symphony No. 2 in D major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

“Made in America,” Part 2
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Jason Shafer, clarinet

  • Silvestre Revueltas: Alcancías
  • Copland: Clarinet Concerto
  • Gershwin: Lullaby
  • Ravel: L’Tombeau de Couperin

7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, 2023
4 p.m. Sunday, March 19, 2023
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

“Darkness and Light”
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”
  • Tyler Harrison: Symphony No. 3 (World premiere)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 15, 2023
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

“LSO Goes to the Movies”
Elliot Moore, conductor
Program includes:

  • John Williams: Music from Star Wars and Harry Potter films
  • Ennio Morricone: Music from Cinema Paradiso
  • Hans Zimmer: Music from Pirates of the Caribbean

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, 2023
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Season tickets now available. Single-even tickets go on sale July 29.

Ars Nova Singers, guitarist Spera will present ‘postcards to the future’

Concerts June 3–5 feature new work by Theofanidis and Pizzetti’s 1922 Requiem

By Peter Alexander May 23 at 9:12 p.m.

Nicolò Spera

Guitarist and CU music professor Nicolò Spera was shocked by things going on the U.S. after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He wanted to respond in the best way he knew—with music.

The musical work that came from that desire, Door Out of the Fire by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Christopher Theofanidis, will be the centerpiece of a concert by Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, under the direction of Thomas Edward Morgan. The Ars Nova performance will be the Colorado premiere, following a performance by Spera in Michigan in October, 2021.

Also on the program is the Requiem of Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti. Performances will be June 3, 4 and 5, in Denver, Boulder and Longmont, respectively (see details below). In addition to the live performances, the concert will also be available by livestream. Information and tickets for the concerts, which close out Ars Nova’s 2021–22 season, are available here.

Christopher Theofanidis

After Ginsburg’s death, “I wanted a composer to write some ‘postcards to the future,’ in music,” Spera wrote in a recent email. He turned to Theofanidis, who had recently written an orchestral work, On the Bridge of the Eternal, for the 2020 centennial of the CU Boulder College of Music.

Writing for and with Spera, Theofanidis composed four choral “messages in a bottle” based on poems by Melissa Studdard. Each of the four choral settings is preceded by a prelude for guitar.

The texts reflect some of the major issues of our time, including the threat posed by climate change. They are titled “Burning Cathedral,” “The Book of Rahul,” “Ruth’s Aria”—to be sung by CU music faculty member Abigail Nims, mezzo soprano—and “Migration Patterns.” The work is dedicated to “le nostre speranze”—our hopes—Spera’s children, Julia and Giacomo.

Pizzetti’s Requiem will be presented in observance of the 100th anniversary of its composition. The Requiem, Pizzetti’s only liturgical music, is written for a-capella choir. The musical setting includes Gregorian chant as well as movements that recall Renaissance madrigals. The texture varies from single-line chant to eight voices to multiple choirs in the manner of 17th-century Venetian polychoral music.

# # # # #

Thomas Edward Morgan and Ars Nova Singers

Made Real
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, director
With Nicolò Spera, guitar, and Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano

  • Christopher Theofanidis: Door Out of the Fire
  • Ildebrando Pizzetti: Requiem

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 3
St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

7 p.m. Sunday, June 5
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Information and tickets, including livestream

MahlerFest includes works by Bartók, Casella, guest composer Christopher Gunning

Thirty-fifth festival returns to near-normal with five days of activities

By Peter Alexander May 16 at 10:20 p.m.

It has only been nine months since the COVID-postponed 34th Colorado MahlerFest, but the festival is returning in its usual May slot and with a full schedule this week.

Performances in the 35th festival include the usual Sunday afternoon Stan Ruttenberg Memorial Concert (May 22) in Macky Auditorium featuring a Mahler Symphony—this year the Third— as well as a symposium Saturday. Other events include music for piano (Tuesday), a film screening (Wednesday), chamber music (Thursday), a free concert of film music at the Boulder Bandshell (Friday) and an opera performance (Saturday; see full schedule below). There are also open rehearsals and social events during the week.

Kenneth Woods with the Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra. Phot by Keith Bobo.

Full details and tickets are available on the MahlerFest Web page.

“We’re really excited to do a quote ‘normal’ festival,” MahlerFest’s artistic director Kenneth Woods says. “It will be the biggest festival we’ve done so far.”

The signature event of the festival is the annual performance of a Mahler symphony. That is how the festival was started, and it remains the culmination of the week’s activities. The Third Symphony “is the biggest of the big pieces, the most Mahler-ish of the Mahler symphonies,” Woods says. It will be presented in the first U.S. performance of a new critical edition from the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel.

The Third is indeed a sprawling work in six movements divided into two parts: An opening march, titled “Pan Awakes; Summer Marches In” that lasts 30 minutes or more; and a series of five movements in differing styles and for differing forces, titled respectively “What the flowers in the meadow tell me,” “What the animals in the forest tell me,” “What man tells me,” “What the angels tell me” and “What love tells me.”

In Woods’s words, the opening movement is “a creation myth. It’s incredibly epic.” That exuberant, bold march is followed by a series of more intimate reflections that grew out of Mahler’s reverence for nature. The flowers inspire a graceful minuet, the animals an energetic scherzo that includes a nostalgic offstage posthorn solo.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Chris Stock.

“What man tells me” is an ominous alto solo using a text from Nietzsche, “O Man! Take heed!” The angels are represented with a folk-like tune accompanied by a children’s chorus imitating bells, and in the final movement the full orchestra without singers brings love’s message in the form of a broad, lyrical slow movement. 

“Modern-day fascination with this piece for me is trying to understand what Mahler means when he says, ‘What the flowers tell me’,” Woods says. “It’s quite remarkable that he’s taking these almost naive ideas and writing huge movement after huge movement of intricate, sophisticated music.

“I see the piece almost as a call to action. It ought to inspire us to listen as Mahler listened, (and) to listen to Mahler’s music as he listened to the flowers. It’s so timely—what was once gentle warnings are now urgent cries of alarm. When you think about Mahler’s evocation of the flora and fauna, and what no longer exists, there is an element of a prophetic warning in the Third Symphony, but a whole lot of hope.”

Since taking over as director of the festival in 2015, Woods has expanded the scope of the festival to include music by composers related to Mahler in one way or another. In addition to the Third Symphony of Mahler, the Sunday concert will feature the world premiere of the 10th symphony of British composer Christopher Gunning.

Christopher Gunning

A prominent composer of film scores who has turned more to the writing of symphonies, Gunning is related to Mahler through the world of film music. Woods points out that the earliest film composers—Franz Waxman, Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold—were all Austrian- or German-born musicians who brought the style of Mahler and his contemporaries to Hollywood.

And now, he says, Gunning is returning the film-music style to the symphony, “a kind of musical arc of the last 100 years coming full circle. Gunning is taking where film music got to and going back into that large-scale exploration of sonata form (of the symphony) using the language that it evolved through to him.”

The presence of Mahler’s style in film music will be explored in more depth in the free Friday evening concert at the Boulder Bandshell, in a program titled “Mahler and the Movies.” 

Another work with a distant relationship to Mahler is the opera Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartók, which will be presented in a chamber version Friday. Half a generation younger than Mahler, Bartók wrote the opera in 1911, the year of Mahler’s death, and saw its first performance in 1918.

“It is the most amazing of operas,” Woods says. “I would not try to convince anyone that Bartók and Mahler are in any way the same, but they’re breathing the same air, and feeding from the same streams. What fascinates me is stylistically how far they diverge, but the role of vernacular music in both composers is provocative for its time, and that’s something that does link them in an interesting way.”

Soprano April Fredrick

The chamber version of Bluebeard’s Castle will be presented in a concert performance, featuring soprano April Fredrick as Judith and bass Gustav Andreassen as Bluebeard. Fredrick will speak about the opera at Saturday’s symposium in a talk titled “Self-will and missed connections in Bluebeard’s Castle.”

The rest of the symposium program, and the programs of the other concerts are listed in full below. There is a great deal of music not by Mahler—pieces by Bruckner, Casella, George Crumb, Beethoven, John Williams and others—but for Woods the focus remains firmly on Mahler’s symphonies, regardless of the program content.

“This will be the first year that you can hear some of every single Mahler symphony in the festival, if you come to every event,” he says. “In fact, I can guarantee listeners that they’ll hear some of every Mahler symphony on Friday night (“Mahler and the Movies”)—just not in the way they are used to hearing it.”

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Colorado MahlerFest XXXV
“What Mahler Tells Me”

Mahler at the Piano
David Korevaar and Jeremy Reger, piano

  • Bruckner: Symphony No. 3, movements II and IV (arranged by Mahler)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 3, “Menuetto aus der III. Symphonie” (arranged by Ignaz Friedman)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 4, movement IV ”Das himmlische Leben” (arranged for piano by Mahler; played by Mahler via piano roll)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 5, movement I “Trauermarsch” (arranged by Stadl)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 6, movements II and III (arranged by Alexander Zemlinsky)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 7, movement V (arranged by Alfredo Casella)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17
Grusin Hall, CU Imig Music Building

Movie: Under Suspicion
Film Screening of Under Suspicion, starring Liam Neeson and Laura San Giacomo
Film score by MahlerFest guest composer Christopher Gunning

3 p.m. Wednesday, May 18
Boedecker Theater, Dairy Arts Center

Quartets and More
Zachary De Pue, Karen Bentley Pollick and Suzanne Casey, violin; Lauren Spaulding, viola; Kenneth Woods and Parry Karp, cello; and Jennifer Hayghe, piano

  • Christopher Gunning: Piano Trio
  • Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 1
  • George Crumb: Sonata for solo cello
  • Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16 in F major, op. 13
    III. Lento assai, cantabile e tranquilla
  • Bartók: String Quartet No. 1

4 p.m. Thursday, May 19
Mountain View United Methodist Church

Mahler and the Movies
Colorado MahlerFest Chamber Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductorMax Steiner: Music from King Kong (arr. Steven Stanke)

  • Christopher Gunning: The Belgian Detective: Theme from Angela Christie’s Poirot (arr. Kenneth Woods)
  • Franz Waxman: Suite from Sunset Boulevard (arr. Matthew Lynch)
  • Mahler: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 (arr. Kenneth Woods)
  • Korngold: Suite from Captain Blood (arr. Luciano Williamson)
  • John Williams: Theme from Schindler’s List
  • Gunning: Music from Under Suspicion (arr. Kenneth Woods)
  • George Morton: Mahler, A Final Frontier, Fantasy on themes of Mahler and Courage

6 p.m. Friday, May 20
Boulder Bandshell, 1212 Canyon Blvd.; Free

NOTE: An alternate venue in case of inclement weather will be the Mountain View United Methodist Church.

Symposium
MahlerFest XXXV Symposium

  • Leah Batstone: “Mahler’s Nietzsche: Philosophical Resonances in the Early Symphonies”
  • April Fredrick: “’Now all is darkness’: Self-Will and missed connections in Bluebeard’s Castle
  • Peter Franklin: “Mirroring the world? What a sentimental trombone, a distant posthorn and The Bird of the Night tell us about a symphony”
  • Kenneth Woods: “Interpreting Mahler’s Third Symphony”
  • Nick Pfefferkorn: “Mahler Third Symphony: Insights on the first critical edition from the editor’s desk”

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Saturday, May 21
Mountain View United Methodist Church; Free

Bluebeard’s Castle
Colorado MahlerFest Chamber Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor
April Fredrick, soprano, and Gustav Andreassen, bass

  • Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
    Arranged for chamber orchestra by Christopher van Tuinen and Michael Karcher-Young

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21
Mountain View Methodist Church

Mahler’s Third Symphony 
Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor
With Stacey Rishoi, mezzo-soprano, Women of the Boulder Concert Chorale and Boulder Children’s Chorale Festival Choir

  • Christopher Gunning: Symphony No. 10 (World premiere)
  • Mahler: Symphony no. 3

3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 22
Macky Auditorium

More information and tickets for all MahlerFest performances are available HERE.

CORRECTIONS (May 17 at 12 noon): April Fredrick’s family name was corrected; it is not Frederick. Violist Mario Rivera has replaced Lauren Spaulding on the “Quartets and More” program May 19. Due to technical constraints in the venue, there will be no lighting effects in the performance of Bluebeard’s Castle as was originally stated.

Violist Richard O’Neill gives stunning performance with Boulder Phil

All-English program features Walton Viola Concerto, works by Elgar and Anna Clyne

By Peter Alexander May 15 at 12:10 a.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic finished the 2021–22 classical concert series with sound and fury last night (May 14).

Conductor Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium. Photo by Glenn Ross.

No, that is not a criticism. The first piece listed on the program was Anna Clyne’s Sound and Fury, inspired in part by Macbeth’s soliloquy featuring that phrase. In practice, though, Clyne was preceded by an “off-menu special,” in the words of conductor Michael Butterman: Elgar’s familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 1, in honor of the region’s recent graduates.

The performance was led by an honorary guest conductor, Boulder’s outstanding arts patron Gordon Gamm. Looking dapper in a fedora, Gamm did a creditable job of getting things started and holding the orchestra together. Indeed, the only audible error—one out-of-place note—cannot be laid to the conductor. 

Butterman preceded Clyne’s Sound and Fury with a helpful music-appreciation style introduction, with an explanation of it’s connection to “The Scottish Play” and illustrations from a Haydn symphony quoted in the score. The performance was strongly profiled, with contrasting sections nicely characterized and distinguished, lacking only the precision necessary for clarity in the skittering string parts and the full depth of sound that a larger orchestra could provide. 

The recorded voice speaking the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy near the end was not always intelligible, but it did show how those words fit into the scheme of the piece. This is a new piece (2019) that is definitely comprehensible and enjoyable for the classical audience, and I would welcome hearing it again.

Violist Richard O’Neill

A friend told me about this concert, “The Walton Concerto won’t sell any tickets.” If that’s right, I’m sorry for anyone who was not sold a ticket because they don’t know Walton’s music. They missed a fun piece, and a stunning performance by violist Richard O’Neill, the newest member of the Takács Quartet. Where is their sense of fun, of adventure, interest in new things? This is not difficult music.

Composed in 1929, the Viola Concerto shows the composer’s quirky style to good advantage. At times lush, at times shifting, surging and dying away, its kaleidoscopic episodes and unexpected turns provide an ideal palette for an instrumental soloist of O’Neill’s qualities.

His performance was glittery (and no, I don’t mean his shoes) and perfectly assured. Visibly reacting to every twist and turn of the orchestra part, he showed in both gesture and musical interpretation his connection with the players. Utterly at ease playing all the virtuoso material the concerto throws at the soloist, O’Neil gave a solo performance of the highest caliber. 

Here the issues were of balance, both within the orchestra and (from where I was sitting) with the soloist. The boisterous second movement was my favorite, but the more gentle moments were equally well played. Two profound tributes to O’Neil: he held the audience in silence for at least 20 second at the end of the concerto, and it was the orchestra, stamping their feet, that brought him back for his final curtain call. 

Again channeling his inner Leonard Bernstein, Butterman gave an insightful introduction to Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, showing how the variations brought their subjects—the composer’s friends—to life. This to me is a better preparation for the audience than program notes about “the return of the subsidiary theme” or “remote tonalities.”

Elgar’s “Enigma,” one of the greatest sets of orchestral variations of the Romantic or any period, received the best orchestral performance of the evening—maybe because it is a piece well known to all orchestral pros. Rehearsal time then can be devoted to details of interpretation, of unity, of sound. Butterman found the telling elements in each variation and brought out their individual characters. 

As one hopes and expects, the familiar “Nimrod” variation swelled calmly from shimmering pianissimo strings to a rich, full orchestral climax before falling back. Other variations had the sparkle, or the weight, to communicate character and meaning. This is a fun piece for brass, who enjoyed their moments of grandeur, and for the timpanist, who brought both visual and aural flash to the performance. 

Finally, this program had many of the ingredients of a successful concert: some exploration, a dazzling soloist, a great piece of music. I happily note the inclusion of a living female composer in the stew. It’s a recipe musical organizations should follow.

Grammy-winning violist to play with Boulder Phil

Richard O’Neill of the Takacs Quartet will play Walton Concerto Saturday

By Peter Alexander May 12 at 1:20 p.m.

Richard O’Neill

It was in the middle of the pandemic and a massive blizzard when Richard O’Neill won a Grammy award. 

The Grammy awarded in 2021 was for his recording of the Viola Concerto by American composer Christopher Theofanidis—during the same year that he joined the Takács Quartet, moved to Boulder and joined the CU faculty. “This has been a long haul,” he said at the time. 

Hopefully, things are closer to whatever can be called normal for a performing musician/recording artist, as O’Neill takes the stage Saturday (May 14) to perform William Walton’s Viola Concerto with the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman (concert details below; tickets here).

A demanding and dramatic work. Walton’s concerto was composed in 1929, when the composer was 27 years old, and premiered that year by the composer/violist Paul Hindemith. Since then it has become one of the landmarks of the viola repertoire.

Composer Anna Clyne has drawn on a variety of sources for inspiration in her compositions, from the paintings of Mark Rothko to music by Beethoven. Her Sound and Fury was inspired by Shakespeare’s soliloquy for Macbeth and by Haydn’s unusual and quirky six-movement Symphony No. 60, Il distratto (The distracted one), which began as incidental music for a comic play.

Anna Clyne. Photo by Jennifer Taylor.

In a program note, Clyne wrote: “My intention with Sound and Fury is to take the listener on a journey that is both invigorating—with ferocious string gestures that are flung around the orchestra—and reflective—with haunting melodies that emerge and recede.”

Sir Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, known as the “Enigma Variations” from the word Elgar wrote at the top of the score, remains one of the most popular works in the orchestral repertoire, more than 120 years after its premiere. Each of the 14 variations has an inscription that refers to one of Elgar’s friends. 

Those subjects of the individual variations have been identified. The larger enigma, however, is what Elgar wrote in his program note: “The Enigma I will not explain. Its ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed. . . . Over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes,’ but is not played.”

Whether that “larger theme” is a musical or a philosophical one is one of the many mysteries that surround the piece. Guesses as to the musical theme have ranged from “Rule Britannia” to “Pop Goes the Weasel” to Luther’s “A Might Fortress is Our God,” to Liszt’s Les Preludes, none of which have convinced a majority of musical scholars.

And so that enigma remains unsolved. Feel free to go to the concert and devise your own solution.

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Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Richard O’Neill, viola

  • Anna Clyne: Sound and Fury
  • William Walton: Viola Concerto
  • Elgar: Enigma Variations

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14
Macky Auditorium

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