HOLIDAY CONCERTS TO STREAM AT HOME

Celebrate the holidays virtually this year with local festive concerts.

By Izzy Fincher and Peter Alexander December 3 at 10:45 a.m.

Relax with a hot cocoa, a warm blanket and your favorite holiday tunes, all from the comfort of your own home.

This year, holiday music on Boulder’s classical scene will not be the same without the decked-out concert halls and communal holiday spirit. However, the holiday celebrations will continue virtually in Boulder with CU-Boulder’s Holiday Fest and festive concerts from Pro Musica, the Boulder Phil and the Longmont Symphony. 

Holiday Festival 2020 Dec. 4

The 2013 Holiday Concert in Macky Auditorium. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

This year CU-Boulder’s Holiday Festival won’t be the usual grand event at Macky, where the auditorium is filled with students, faculty, family and other fans. Instead, 2020’s scaled-down online broadcast of the Holiday Fest will have pre-recorded performances of seasonal favorites and traditional selections from the fall semester. The holiday spirit of a festive Macky continues on from the comfort of home.

“Holiday Festival 2020”
CU-Boulder College of Music students and faculty
Available from 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4
Tickets

“Holiday Moods” Dec. 5 and 6

Under the direction of Cynthia Katsarelis, Pro Musica will present “Holiday Moods,” featuring both traditional and diverse holiday tunes. Earlier this year, Katsarelis planned to collaborate with the Boulder Chorale to perform Handel’s Messiah, but due to COVID-19 restrictions she decided on an all-strings program instead. 

Yumi Hwang-Williams

The program will feature soloist Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony. The two performances of “Holiday Moods” with a limited in-person audience at the Broomfield Auditorium and First United Methodist Church have been canceled and moved to an online broadcast, available for up to 48 hours after the concert times, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.

“Holiday Moods” continues Pro Musica’s season theme of diversity and healing. The program opens with Novellette No. 1 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Black composer and conductor active in England in the early 20th century. The rest of the program is composed of traditional repertoire, to offer healing and comfort to listeners, according to Katsarelis.

The second work is Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, which was composed for Christmas night (Fatto per la notte di Natale) in 1690, likely for Corelli’s patron, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, in Rome. Next, Hwang-Williams takes center stage for “Fall” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, another Baroque classic. To end the program, Pro Musica will play Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings, one of the composer’s most popular orchestral works.

“Holiday Moods”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violinist
Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6
Tickets

“Happy Holidays from the Phil” Dec. 13

Michael Butterman rehearsing in the Brungard Aviation hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport

With conductor Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s brass and percussion sections will present a selection of carols and other holiday tunes. Like the rest of the Boulder Phil’s fall 2020 season, this concert was recorded in a hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport, on a tight 48-hour rehearsal and recording schedule. 

The wide-ranging program is a mix of holiday favorites, including “Carol of the Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (mashed up with the French carol “Patapan”). The program also features lesser-known carols, including “Wassail Song” and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”; modern holiday music, Dan Forrest’s “Jubilate Deo”; and a Hanukkah observation, “A Celebration of Hanukkah.”

“Happy Holidays from the Phil”
Boulder Philharmonic Brass and Percussion, Michael Butterman, conductor
Available from 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 27
No tickets required; contributions welcomed

Vocal Concert will substitute for Messiah Dec. 13

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will present a Holiday Concert Sunday, Dec. 13—but not the one they had originally planned. 

The LSO previously announced pared-down selections from Handel’s Messiah with four soloists but no chorus as their seasonal offering. That performance was to have been recorded in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium and streamed starting at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13.

With the recent announcement that Boulder County has reached COVID Dial “Red Level: Severe Risk,” Stewart Auditorium became unavailable, and no other acceptable venue for the recording was found.An announcement from the LSO states, “The restrictions made it difficult to find a venue and to safely film the performance with our musicians.”

Consequently, the LSO reluctantly decided Tuesday (Dec. 1) to cancel the performance. Instead, the LSO will present a Holiday Concert featuring pianist Spencer Myer and baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco, from their home in New York City. The performance will include classical song selections by Handel and Schubert, as well as holiday favorites.

Their performance will be streamed at the same time as was announced for Messiah—4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Season tickets for the LSO fall 2020 season and tickets purchased separately for Messiah will be honored for the Myer/Diaz-Moresco concert. For more information, see the LSO Web page

“Holiday Concert, New York—Longmont”
Spencer Myer, piano, and Mario Diaz-Moresco, baritone
Available from 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13
Tickets

HEARING BEETHOVEN, THE 19TH-CENTURY WAY

Jorgensen and Bryant discuss their CD of Beethoven’s violin sonatas, played on period instruments.

By Izzy Fincher Nov. 22 at 1 p.m.

Albany Records TROY 1825–28
(4 CDs)

Listening to Beethoven on early 19th-century instruments is the next best thing to time travel.

On their CD recording of Beethoven’s sonatas for piano and violin (Albany Records TROY 1825–28), released in July 2020, violinist Jerilyn Jorgensen and pianist Cullan Bryant play all 10 sonatas on restored historical instruments, transporting listeners back in time to 19th-century Vienna.

As historical performance practice instrumentalists, Jorgensen, a member of Colorado College’s performance faculty, and Bryant, a chamber musician based in New York, are breaking new ground. They are the first duo from the United States to release Beethoven’s complete violin sonatas on period instruments from an American collection.

Jerilyn Jorgensen and Cullan Brant. Photo by Lee A. Brown

Their expertise in classical-era performance practice has led to invitations from the Historical Keyboard Society of North America in 2018 and 2021, performances at the National Music Museum in South Dakota, and an early-piano concert series in North Carolina.

In 2020, the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth, a year flooded with Beethoven recordings, their interpretation stands out, offering listeners an opportunity to hear Beethoven’s music as it sounded during his lifetime.

On a first or superficial listening, listeners may find the sonic differences between period and modern instruments rather subtle. But after learning about the historical context and the technological developments in instrument making, listeners will be better able to identify and appreciate the musical nuances.

“Playing on period instruments doesn’t lend one to being more academic in one’s interpretation,” Bryant says. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It invites more emotional involvement, and in the case of Beethoven, a little more insanity, a more romantic interpretation.

Jorgensen and Bryant. Photo by Christopher Greenleaf.

“The instrument is telling you how to play. It is telling you what it needs to express the music. You don’t play the same (as on modern instruments), and you gain a new insight into what Beethoven was looking for interpretively. It is precious.”

On the album, Jorgensen uses a Viennese classical-era violin constructed by Andrea Carolus Leeb in 1797, and four period bows. The Leeb violin is one of few surviving period violins with the original neck setup, which allows for traditional gut strings.

The modern violin fingerboard and neck setup allows for greater tension on the modern wire strings. This creates a larger, louder sound that can fill a larger concert hall, but it does not necessarily reflect the sound that Beethoven had in mind while composing.

The distinctive aesthetic of Jorgensen’s period violin, when compared to a modern violin, is the most striking difference of the recordings. The sound is slightly thinner and quieter, almost delicate at times, yet it also has a deep, rich resonance and profound, lyrical expressivity.

Bryant recorded the album on five historical pianos from the Frederick Collection, which is located in Ashburnham, Mass., a small town located 50 miles north of Boston. The Fredericks own the largest playable, historical piano collection in the United States, which currently includes 24 restored pianos, dating from 1795 to 1928, mostly built in Vienna and Paris.

Anonymous piano from 1795, the oldest instrument in the Frederick collection

“We went up there originally to choose a piano for the set,” Bryant says. “But both of us were like kids in a candy store. The character of each piano lent itself so wonderfully to the music.”

“I was absolutely blown away,” Jorgensen adds. “This is the best collection of working early pianos that you can play in the United States.”

For Bryant, playing on these different period pianos was difficult at first, due to the difference in touch and size from a modern piano. For each recording session, he needed a few days to adapt his technique.

“The pianos sound dramatically different than a modern piano, (in terms of) the clarity, the smallness of the instrument and the technique,” Bryant says. “There is a great distance between a sforzando and pianissimo. For a pianissimo, you can’t even see your fingers move.”

Despite Bryant’s assertions, the differences between the period pianos and the modern piano can be quite subtle, especially when compared to the period vs. modern violin. Overall, the Frederick Collection’s pianos can be distinguished by a quicker speed of attack and less sustain when a note is played and a solid dynamic range, allowing for extremely quiet moments that maintain clarity and gradual, steady dynamic builds.

The collection’s oldest piano, an unsigned Viennese style piano from 1795, is featured on the album’s opening work, Sonata No. 1 in D major. The piano, with a reverse-color, five-octave keyboard and geometric-patterned case, has a somewhat sharp attack, though this is balanced by an overall lightness of sound.

Piano by Caspar Katholnig (1805–10)

A piano by Caspar Katholnig, used for Sonatas 3, 5, 6 and 7, has a notable historical connection with Beethoven. In the early 19th century, this piano, built between 1805 and 1810, was housed in Esterházy palace, located outside of Vienna in Eisenstadt. Prince Nikolas II Esterházy, known for being the last patron of Haydn, also supported Beethoven early on and in 1807 commissioned his Mass in C. This instrument has a deeper, richer tone than the 1795 piano, lending itself well to the passionate turmoil and expressivity of these four middle-period sonatas.

Bösendorfer piano, ca 1830

For the 10th sonata, composed in 1812, Bryant chose a Bösendorfer piano built between 1828 and 1832. Ignaz Bösendorfer was an apprentice of Joseph Brodmann, whose piano was used for Sonatas 2 and 8. He later became one of Vienna’s most influential piano makers, after being championed by Franz Liszt in 1838. The company still exists today, though owned by the Yamaha Corporation. The Bösendorfer‘s sound is almost modern, with more sustain, a smoother attack and greater aural consistency.

To complement the Bösendorfer’s aesthetic, Jorgensen uses a modern style bow, built in 1830, rather than the transitional bows she used for the first nine sonatas. The transitional bows, referring to those in use between the Baroque bows of the 17th century and the more modern bows of the 19th century, were designed to resonate more than project. 

Violin bows, from Baroque to modern

In contrast, the convex modern bow, developed in France by François Tourte in the early 19th century, was designed to project in larger concert halls. The bow is capable of more tension on the bow hairs and thus a louder sound. Jorgensen felt a modern bow would better match the “sustaining quality of the piano and the lyrical lines of the 10th sonata,” Jorgensen says.

”The 10th sonata is sitting on the cusp of Beethoven’s late period,” Bryant adds. “He got more introspective with more lyrical, longer lines.”

Overall, Jorgensen and Bryant present a unique window into Beethoven’s musical world that is both intellectually and sonically stimulating. Though the album is still enjoyable for casual listeners, to truly understand the musical significance, listeners must commit to deeper, dedicated listening with an ear for subtle differences.

“I hope that (listeners) will be able to hear the music in a new way,” Jorgensen says. “(Period classical instruments) are not anything that people have necessarily heard before. I am hoping that people will say, ‘Wow! That really caught my attention. I never really heard it that way before.’

“I hope they will be entranced with the sound and feel transported back in time a little bit.”

# # # # #

NOTE: For more information on bows, watch the documentary The Bowmakers, presented online during the holidays by the Friends of Chamber Music in DenverThe stream of The Bowmakers will open Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26, and be available through Sunday Dec. 6.

The documentary features Brooklyn Rider, the Miró and Dover quartets. More information and streaming tickets are available here.

_________

NOTE: Updated to correct the sentence “They are the first duo from the United States to release Beethoven’s complete violin sonatas on period instruments from an American collection.” The sentence as originally posted did not include the modifier “from an American collection.”

Seicento will stream concert that was canceled in March

“Song and Dance in the French Baroque” available online Friday

By Peter Alexander Nov. 18 at 10:45 p.m.

Amanda Balestrieri wanted to bring French Baroque music and dance together to Boulder audiences.

Seicento Baroque Ensemble preparing a program of French music and dance

“I absolutely love this repertoire,” the artistic director of Boulder’s Seicento Baroque Ensemble says. She is speaking of music that came out of France in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly opera and other forms that mixed song and dance.

To that end, she created a program titled “Airs and Graces: Song & Dance in the French Baroque,” featuring the Seicento chorus as well as guest singers, instrumentalists and Elena Mullins, a guest artist trained in both the singing and the dance of the French Baroque period.

Dancer Elena Mullins

The artists were all assembled in Boulder last March, and rehearsals were well under way at Boulder’s First United Methodist Church. And then COVID happened, and the performance was cancelled at the last minute. “We just finished preparing to do the concert, so we decided to record it without an audience,” Balestrieri says. “I felt if we could at least record it, we could present it at a later time.” 

That recording will be available online for the first time Friday (Nov. 20) at 6 p.m. It will be accessible through the Seicento Facebook page, in return for a donation of any amount.

Amanda Balestrieri

Including dance in the program was crucial because it was such an important part of French music at the time. “I wanted to present the concept of having visual representation of the gesture and the meaning in the dance, because it’s really an integral part of the music,” Balestrieri says.

Most Baroque music derives from dance to some extent, but that was especially so in France, where dance was a cherished courtly activity. King Louis XIV, famed as “The Sun King” and the builder of Versailles, was an accomplished dancer, as was the court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. French Baroque dance is also important historically as the source of classical ballet.

“We have to understand this music in its complete form,” Balestrieri says. “If you have the body involved in the music, it becomes human and it becomes something that is related to us. That’s a very important thing. It’s part of the genre.

Louis XIV costumed for dance

“At the time the whole point of the music was to reach the passions. So the dance is very much in relation to the audience. It is supposed to relate not to [something] abstract but to real human dilemmas and fears and love and grief.”

Her interest in the art of French music and dance came from her own experience as a performer. “I have been on stage with French Baroque dancers and admired their expertise,” she says. “I know the music very well.”

To bring the music and dance to life, Balestrieri picked a program that included scenes from operas by Lully (1632–1687) and Marc Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704). Other works are an anthology of the most popular dance types of the times by Jean-Féry Rebel (1666–1747), the cantata Le triomphe de l’Amour by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667–1737), and courtly songs of love. 

Balestrieri wanted the performance to be a learning experience for the audience, so that they could see the dance movements that underlay the music that they would hear, but also for the singers in the chorus. “I wanted the choir to have the experience of the music enough to get it,” she says. “I wanted the dancer to give that element and for people to understand the visual side that was combined with the music.”

She admits that the program and its presentation are well outside the mainstream, even of Baroque music, but that was the point. “This is an esoteric corner of an esoteric art,” she says. “Our whole mission with Seicento is perform lesser-known music, to present things that you wouldn’t otherwise see.”

Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Lully by Paul Mignard

When the decision was made to record the final rehearsal for later streaming, Seicento hired Michael Quam as their video engineer. Quam has recorded videos for the Boulder Philharmonic, the Colorado Music Festival and other organizations in the area. Several cameras were set up to record the performers from different angles. 

Because viewers won’t have access to the texts in a printed program, Balestrieri herself added titles with French and English texts. “I learned how to use Adobe Premiere Pro and I beat my head against the wall for about a week,” she says. She also added the names of the individual dances as well. “You can watch and say ‘So that’s a bourrée! I never knew that!’”

The performances are all straight takes, with no corrections added afterwards. The absence of an audience was a challenge for the amateur singers in the chorus. “Feeling like you are connecting with live performance electricity—you have to imagine it,” Balestrieri says.

Nevertheless, she says she is happy with the final result. “It’s going to be very lovely to watch,” she says.

# # # # #

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

“Airs and Graces: Song & Dance in the French Baroque”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director
With Elena Mullins, soprano and dancer
Guest vocalists and instrumentalists

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Excerpt from Les arts florissants
Jean-Féry Rebel: Les caractères de la danse: Fantasie
Jean-Baptiste Lully: Excerpts from Bellérophon
Michel Lambert: and Christophe Ballard: Two airs de cour
Jean-Paul Égide Martini: Plaisir d’Amour
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair: Le triomphe de l’Amour

Available at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 through the Seicento Facebook page
Stream will include a live post-concert conversation with guest artist

AN INTIMATE NIGHT OF BACH WITH THE BOULDER PHIL

Featuring guest conductor/pianist Simone Dinnerstein and soloists

By Izzy Fincher Nov. 15 at 12:45 a.m.

Bach’s expressive, animated melodies poured out of my Bluetooth speakers.

Meanwhile, on Vimeo, musicians played for an empty airport hangar, the only audience a pair of Beechcraft airplanes and a few socially-distanced recording engineers. 

The Boulder Phil launched their second online concert of 2020–21, “The Beauty of Bach,” last night (Nov. 14). The concert, which was pre-recorded at Boulder’s Municipal Airport, featured conductor/pianist Simone Dinnerstein, flutist Christina Jennings and violinist Charles Wetherbee.

Simone Dinnerstein leads the Boulder Phil in Bach (screenshot)

Throughout “The Beauty of Bach,” Dinnerstein shined both as conductor and pianist. Her reputation as a Bach interpreter, which began with her 2007 recording of the Goldberg Variations, is certainly deserved. Her interpretations of Bach are flowing, evocative and lyrical, as she draws out beautiful melodies from Bach’s dense contrapuntal texture. 

“I think that Bach was somebody who was really interested in the sonorities of different instruments,” Dinnerstein said to conductor Michael Butterman in a pre-concert interview. “When I am playing Bach on the piano, I think about lots of other instruments, and in particular, I think a lot about the voice. How would somebody sing a line? Where would they breathe?

“I think about anything besides hammers hitting strings.”

The pre-recorded format enhanced the visuals of Dinnerstein’s performance. The opening wide shot showed the typical audience perspective of a pianist-conductor, Dinnerstein’s back as she faced the orchestra, her facial expressions and at times her hands hidden from view.

Later, alternate camera angles, including close-ups and front-facing shots, showed her expressiveness in a completely new way, from the perspective of the other musicians and Dinnerstein herself. Her facial expressions showed her intense passion for the music—sometimes her eyes even appeared to be shining with emotion.

Dinnerstein conducting from the piano (screenshot)

This perspective also highlighted her skill as a conductor, allowing the audience to see her interactions from the perspective of the Boulder Phil musicians. Using a skillful combination of subtle eye cues and whole body gestures, Dinnerstein conveyed her musical intentions clearly and powerfully, despite the black face mask obscuring her facial expressions. 

Dinnerstein played and conducted at her best when collaborating with flutist Jennings for the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. This is not surprising, considering Dinnerstein and Jennings have played this program together before, the last time in February at Columbia University, before the first COVID-19 shutdown. According to Jennings, bringing this Bach program back for the Boulder Phil has been both “eerie and wonderful.”

“(The Orchestral Suite) starts with the flute rather hidden,” Jennings said in her interview with Butterman. “Then the flute emerges more and more and becomes more prominent. I love the arrangement that we have created together with different timbres, different parts of the orchestra featured in different movements (and) a rousing finish.” 

Flutist Christina Jennings (screenshot)

Jennings’ intentions for the Orchestral Suite certainly came through. At the beginning, she blended impeccably with the orchestra, nearly inaudible above the strings, before emerging from the texture with an elegant tone and an air of self-assurance. Her expertly executed trills floated above the entire orchestral texture, naturally melting into a sensitive vibrato. Despite the lightness of touch stylistically, Jennings was still able to dominate musically, her projection almost overpowering the rest of the orchestra and even Dinnerstein at times. 

The final piece of the night, the Brandenburg Concerto would have received a standing ovation, if there had been a live audience. The vivacious melodies paired with Dinnerstein’s pyrotechnic cadenzas were impressive, creating almost palpable excitement through the screen. 

The second “Allegro,” the concerto’s last movement, featured bouncy, energetic melodies on the flute and strings, underpinned by flowing, ostentatious scales on the piano. The gigue-like feel from continuous triplet eighth notes inspired vigorous head-nodding, foot-tapping and perhaps even a bit of clapping and dancing (now acceptable outside of the concert hall).

The Boulder Phil and Jennings, under Dinnerstein’s guidance, captured both the grandeur and intimate expressiveness of Bach’s music. Even with only a computer screen, Bluetooth speaker and unreliable Wi-Fi, “The Beauty of Bach” delivered as promised: a much-needed, beautiful musical experience. 

Boulder Philharmonic continues 20–21 season Nov. 14 with ‘Beauty of Bach’

Guest conductor/pianist Simone Dinnerstein, flutist Christina Jennings, violinist Charles Wetherbee are featured

By Peter Alexander Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Simone Dinnerstein has garnered a reputation as a Bach pianist, dating at least from the 2007 release of her recording of the Goldberg Variations. And in “Beauty of Bach,” a program performed with members of the Boulder Philharmonic, she reveals a new facet of her career: Bach conductor.

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Not only does she lead the orchestra in the keyboard concertos in the program—the Concerto in D minor and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto—she also conducts two orchestral pieces—Philip Lasser’s arrangement of the chorale prelude Erbarm’ Dich and the Orchestral Suite in B minor. The latter two she conducts from the keyboard while playing continuo, the chordal accompaniment that is a feature of Baroque performance.

“I love so much of Bach’s music, not just the keyboard music, and I’m hoping that this is going to lead to more conducting,” Dinnerstein says. “I don’t yet feel comfortable to conduct without playing the piano, but I feel like I can transmit more through playing, even if I’m playing continuo.”

Charles Wetherbee

The performance was recorded at Boulder Airport in September for live streaming, and will be available at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 14). Soloists with her for the Brandenburg Concerto are Charles Wetherbee, the Phil’s concertmaster, and flutist Christina Jennings, who also plays the flute solos in the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor.

The program is a repeat of one given by Dinnerstein and Jennings at Columbia University in February, just before the pandemic halted most concert activity. That performance, her first as conductor, featured Baroklyn, a string ensemble that Dinnerstein created for her own performances.

When Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Phil, asked Dinnerstein to participate in the orchestra’s ‘20–’21 streamed season, she immediately thought of the concert she had done with Jennings. “He wanted a Bach program,” she says. “I suggested that we do that program, because Christina lives (in Boulder).”

In assembling the original program for the February concert, Dinnerstein was sensitive to the flow from one piece to the next. “I think it’s interesting to start the program with something that is a very contemporary take on Bach,” she says. “And it moves very beautifully into the orchestral suite, so I like that connection between the two pieces.

Christina Jennings

Erbarm’ Dich was arranged by Philip Lasser, who is a fantastic composer and has a deep understanding of Bach’s music. This particular transcription sounds almost as much like his music as it does like Bach. He didn’t change any notes, but the way that he voices it, it’s in the style of Philip Lasser.

“I like the juxtaposition of the D minor Concerto and the D major Brandenburg Concerto. The whole program shows different sides of Bach’s music, from this very profound chorale prelude to the ebullient Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, which couldn’t be more fun.”

Although most live concerts since the February program in New York have been cancelled due to COVID-19, Dinnerstein has kept busy. “I’ve been doing concerts similar to the one in Boulder, where I am filmed and then they’re streamed,” she says. “So I’ve been doing a little bit of traveling.”

Whatever her reputation at this point, Dinnerstein does not want to be pigeonholed as a Bach pianist. “I don’t think of myself as a Bach specialist,” she says. “I love Bach, and I have recorded a lot of Bach, but I’m not somebody who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Bach. I would not call myself a Bach scholar.”

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

As for playing on the modern piano instead of a keyboard of Bach’s time, “There is a kind of abstraction to his music which is not instrument-specific,” she says. “He thought of music in a pure way.”

Like many musicians and other performing artists, she is looking forward to the days after COVID. She doesn’t want to guess how things will have changed in the meantime, however.

“I can’t quite process how it’s going to change our perception of concerts,” she says. “I think that it will certainly make us favor live concerts when we are able to attend them and perform at them.”

Like most of us, she has found both positive and negative aspects to the Zoom experience. In some ways it has enhanced her teaching. “I teach in New York, and I have students (in Asia) that I’ve never met in real life. I’ve been teaching them over Zoom for a few months now. It’s very striking how we’re getting a lot more work done than we did before.

“I think that all of this recording has made us listen more acutely to ourselves as musicians. There’s’ so much opportunity for reflection and there’s a lot more inward-looking action taking place—musically and in our lives in general—just because of this whole period of time.”

# # # # #

Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

The Beauty of Bach
Simone Dinnerstein, pianist and conductor
Christina Jennings, flute, and Charles Wetherbee, violin

J.S. Bach/Philip Lasser: Erbarm Dich, S721
J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, S1067
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, S1052
Brandenburg Concerto No 5 in D major, S1050

Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. Ticket may be purchased here.

OPINION: CLASSICAL MUSIC NEEDS TO CONFRONT THE WHITE-MALE FRAME

For diversity initiatives to last, classical music needs radical institutional change. 

By Izzy Fincher Nov. 11 at 1:10 p.m.

Beethoven, Bach and Brahms, the white male trinity of classical music, have finally been joined by Black composers in 2020.

Florence Price

Four in particular, both male and female—Florence Price (1881–1953), George Walker (1922–2018), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912) and Jessie Montgomery (b. 1981)—are popping up frequently in programs, as orchestras scramble to address classical music’s pervasive lack of diversity, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread calls for racial equality.

Jessie Montgomery

As welcome as they are, will these sudden attempts and inclusiveness last? Are classical musicians and organizations really confronting European male supremacy for the long-haul?

In fact, such diversity initiatives will only last if classical institutions are willing to radically reimagine and revamp an outdated framework, built by and for the white elites.

# # # # #

The lack of diversity in classical music is obvious.

James Bailey

“What I think is needed in the orchestral world is music that is diverse in terms of country, gender, race and modern(ity),” James Bailey, former music director of Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center, says. “In those four areas alone, anyone can look at the data of most orchestras and realize there is a significant lack of diversity.”

In an analysis of 120 orchestral seasons, the Institute for Composer Diversity found that 35 orchestras, including the Colorado Symphony, played no music by women or minorities for the entire 2019–2020 season. The rest mostly hover at or below 15% of the season, though the Chicago Sinfonietta notably stands out at 58%.

Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of Pro Musica Colorado. Photography by Glenn Ross.

Locally, 22 percent of the Boulder Philharmonic’s 2019-2020 season featured diverse composers (two pop concerts not included). Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra stood out. Seventy-five percent of their scheduled 2019-2020 season featured diverse composers, most notably their pre-COVID February concert, “Diverse Voices,” which featured four Black composers, two of them women.

On the whole, though, orchestral programs are filled with white, male composers. According to the League of American Orchestras, the top three composers in the 2010-2011 season were Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky—all male, all long-dead and all western European. Sound familiar?

So how do classical musicians and institutions tackle this pervasive lack of diversity?

To start, they must adopt a broader understanding of diversity as including anyone of underrepresented racial, cultural and ethnic heritages. It is not enough to chuck in a Black or female composer and declare victory for diversity. True diversity begins when institutions move beyond adding minorities for political correctness to achieve overall inclusivity, in repertoire, in personnel and in audience.

This doesn’t mean throwing out the canon entirely or “canceling” Beethoven; rather it means making programs more equal and representative of both canonical and diverse works. These changes will help to create safe, welcoming musical spaces, where non-white, non-traditional audiences feel acknowledged, represented and understood.

Then, classical musicians need to acknowledge the white racial frame governing their academic institutions and build an updated, diverse curriculum.

CU Prof. Austin Okigbo

“You can’t change it out there,” Austin Okigbo, professor of ethnomusicology at CU-Boulder, says. “People in charge are trained in the white patriarchal system. So you have to change the curricular diversity in the academy.”

This is no small undertaking. Since the 19th century, American music education has thrived on a Eurocentric, German-dominated system of training.

“America always looked to Europe as a source of their cultural inspiration,” Okigbo says. “Black composers didn’t earn the respect they deserved. There was an attitude that this is not artistic enough.”

Lowell Mason

Lowell Mason, known as the “father of American music education,” started the trend with his elitist “Better Music Movement” in the 19th century. This movement dismissed American composers, including William Billings, Daniel Reed and Justin Morgan, in favor of European composers, especially Germans.

Music theory in academic institutions also followed Mason’s Eurocentric ideology. Influential music theorists, particularly the German Heinrich Schenker and the Belgian François-Joseph Fétis, viewed music by white, male composers as inherently superior to music by female and Black composers. Schenker wrote that “the man ranks above the woman.” In his Histoire générale de la musique from 1869, Fétis wrote, “Contrary to the other races . . . the white race . . . possesses a sentiment of beauty, of grandeur, and it is to it that we owe the creation of pure art and the progress of science.”

In his presentation “Fétis’s Racial Frame of Tonality,” Thomas Christensen argues that Fétis’s racist philosophies to a large extent shaped his definition of musical greatness. Because only Europeans could make great art, only traditional European tonality could underlay great music. Given this “historical and cultural positioning,” Christensen comments, “Maybe the whole regime of our taxonomic-centered discipline might be due a rethinking.”

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Now is a time to dismantle the racism and sexism in music theory and pedagogy and to rethink the curriculum. This begins with raising awareness of the white-male frame.

Music schools need to teach students to confront the concept of genius, masterpieces and greatness as synonymous with white European men, particularly Beethoven and Bach. They need to create a culture of inclusivity in their classrooms and concert halls through diversity in audition requirements, ensemble and solo repertoire, pedagogy, textbooks, faculty and administrators. Ethnomusicology, the study of non-Western music, needs to be cohesively integrated into mainstream music teaching.

If an updated, diverse curriculum were implemented, a new generation of musicians would become more empowered to become active crusaders for diversity in their musical communities. Once these musicians were in positions of power, as educators, conductors, directors and leaders, they would be more likely to program diverse repertoire. Diversity would become a learned habit, rather than an uphill battle against ingrained ideologies.

Yet, even if classical music can overhaul its institutions, will this idealized diverse and inclusive musical world be appealing to audiences? Will audiences pay to hear music by unknown diverse composers rather than their favorites?

“Music is hard to sell if no one’s heard it before,” Bailey says. “Music that we really love is music we have heard hundreds of times.”

The economics of the classical music industry are already tenuous at best. Large classical music organizations often operate at a financial deficit, as ticket sales from a rapidly shrinking and aging audience prove insufficient.

“Lack of diversity has to do with lack of money,” Bailey says. “Orchestras need a large donor and attendance base. If they are programming music that the audience is not familiar or comfortable with, they will lose audience and donors. They don’t want to do that.”

The barrier of conservative audience taste is difficult to overcome. Musical institutions cannot force their audience to choose novelty over comfort, especially given hundreds of years of tradition and precedence.

Imani Winds: Diverse in membership and programming

Rather than force-feeding too much diversity to their current audience, classical musicians should refocus their efforts on younger and quickly diversifying future audiences, by playing diverse repertoire in non-traditional, smaller concert venues on a lower budget. Chamber music, which is cheaper and more flexible, is already leading a shift in this direction with groups like Kronos, Imani Winds and the Turtle Island String Quartet.

One simple solution is to slip in diversity with canonical repertoire, in an effort to build familiarity over time, until diverse composers can enter the mainstream consciousness. Orchestras are trying this in 2020, but influencing the audience’s preferences could take decades.

The rapidly growing Asian and Latinx communities will be an important part of this new, younger audience. According to the Pew Research Center, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing ethnic or racial group in the US, growing 72% between 2000 and 2015, to 20.4 million from 11.9 million.

Latinos are the second-fastest growing ethnic or racial group. Their population has increased significantly to 60.6 million in 2020 from 50.7 million in 2010. In 2019, the median age for Latinos was 30, far younger than 44 for whites. And the white population is predicted to experience a gradual decline between 2018 and 2060.

This cultural, demographic shift away from whiteness will require an equivalent shift in the classical music repertoire. A younger generation of Americans are fed up with the canonical status quo and stuffy, elitist classical music. They want to shake up the white-male frame of classical music on Spotify and in the concert halls.

To attract and retain this potential audience, classical music needs to radically diversify its institutions and programming before it’s too late. “Change has been coming,” Okigbo says. “But people are scared. They don’t like change.

“We have come a long way from 100 years ago, but we have to keep evolving. We have to be patient for however long it takes.”

SEE LA BOHÈME LIVE IN LONGMONT

Boulder Opera Company will perform La Bohème for a limited in-person audience.

By Izzy Fincher Nov. 10 at 12:45 p.m.

Are you tired of livestreams?

Live, socially-distanced opera in Longmont might be the answer.

Dickens Tavern and Opera House in Longmont. Photo by Sherri O’Hara.

The Boulder Opera Company will present Puccini’s La Bohème for a limited in-person audience on four dates, Nov. 13, 14, 19 and 22, at Longmont’s Dickens Opera House, a restaurant/live music venue. The performance will adhere to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, and audience members will be required to wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Michael Travis Risner

“We are excited to present (opera) live,” Michael Travis Risner, the Boulder Opera Company’s stage director, says. “That visceral, human experience of live performance is so valuable.”

“How long has it been since we have seen something truly live? Broadway is still dark. The entertainment and hospitality industries are almost down to zero because of the pandemic. There’s been a dearth of live performance these last eight months.”

La Bohème, premiered in 1896, is one of the most performed operas worldwide today. Based on Henri Muger’s novel, Scènes de la vie de bohème, the opera depicts the Bohemian lifestyle of an impoverished seamstress, Mimi, and her artistic friends, Rodolfo, Marcello, Musetta, Schaunard and Colline, all living in Paris during the 1830s. The tale is heart-rending and tragic, yet it is also full of passion, love, joy and humor.

Phoenix Gayles will be Boulder Opera’s Mimi

This performance of La Bohème will be set in 2020 COVID-19 times, rather than 19th century Paris. Mimi’s mysterious illness, which is later revealed as tuberculosis in the original story, will be left ambiguous—it could be COVID-19 or not. To keep her artistic friends safe, Mimi will enforce social distancing and mask-wearing for everyone as part of the staging.

“By setting (La Bohème) in a contemporary time, it is immediately more accessible,” Risner says. “I wanted to show the context in which we are all living right now.”

But staging an intimate romance while maintaining social distancing has not been easy.

“It’s a challenge getting an intimate show that is very much about love and relationships without having that physical intimacy,” Risner says. “I am asking a lot of (the singers) to really act hard, to convey what we need to without being physically close to each other.”

Nathan Snyder will play Rodolfo

Other COVID-19 related challenges have also impacted the production.

Weeks before the final performances, the pianist and music director, Steven Aguiló-Arbues, and three main singers quit, due to safety concerns about COVID-19. With no pianist, Colline, Musetta or Schaunard, Risner almost had to cancel the show.

Luckily, he soon found a new pianist/music director, Maggie Hinchliffe, and three replacement singers who were familiar with the roles, on short notice. Risner says he felt “very fortunate to find people,” especially with only five rehearsals left before the show.

“We just keep pushing forward,” Risner says. “We are 100% committed.”

Making the live performance safe for the audience and singers has been yet another challenge for Travis. During the show, singers will release high quantities of aerosols, which can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Audience members will also release aerosols while eating dinner without masks. 

To mitigate these risks, Risner has taken several precautions in collaboration with the Dickens Opera House. Dinner will be served before the performance, and masks will be required once the opera starts. The singers will be far away from each other on stage, at a significant distance from the audience. At intermission, everyone will leave the room to allow for ventilation, before returning for the final two acts. 

“I want people to feel safe,” Risner says. “I want people to feel confident. We will ask audience members to keep their masks on when they are not actively eating or drinking. We will ask them to be masked up the entire duration of the performance. The only difference from going out to a restaurant and taking your mask off to eat is that there are people singing 25-30 feet away from you.”

Despite all of the hurdles of live performances in 2020, Risner feels the Boulder Opera Company is as prepared as possible for their adaptation of La Bohème. He is excited to bring live music back and share the classic, touching love story with the greater Boulder community.

“It’s a timeless story about love, forgiveness and understanding,” Risner says. “It’s a slice of life, designed to be heightened realism.

“Hopefully, (the audience) sees a part of themselves reflected onstage and is moved in some way. That’s why we do what we do—to provide an escape from the craziness.”

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Boulder Opera Company
La Bohème at Longmont’s Dickens Opera House

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov.14
7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19
1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Purchase in-person tickets for La Bohème here.

Livestream access for the Nov. 14 performance available here.

KEEPING INSTRUMENT REHEARSALS SAFE DURING COVID-19

CU-Boulder researchers investigate aerosols from wind instruments

By Izzy Fincher Nov. 1 at 1:45 p.m.

Is playing wind instruments safe during COVID-19?

It can be. But it requires a layered safety approach.

Researchers at CU-Boulder recommend masks with mouth slits, bell covers, efficient ventilation and social distancing protocols. These guidelines are intended to reduce wind instrument’s aerosols, a key to safe music-making during the pandemic.

CU Prof. Shelly Miller

The CU team, led by mechanical engineering professor Shelly Miller, began researching aerosols and music earlier this year. Miller’s initial research focused on the Skagit Valley choir rehearsal in Washington State as a COVID-19 super-spreader in March, showing that singing unmasked indoors spreads COVID-19 via aerosols.

In June, Miller and her team began to study wind instruments and aerosols in collaboration with researchers at the University of Maryland. This study was commissioned by an international coalition of over 120 performing arts organizations. Lead funders for the study include the NAMM Foundation, National Federation of State High School Associations, D’addario Foundation and College Band Directors National Association.

Aerosol emission from clarinet

The study’s preliminary results, released in October, include aerosol research for four instruments, clarinet, flute, horn and trumpet, and a soprano singer. Analyzing aerosol emission concentrations and flow pathways, the researchers confirmed that wind instruments produce aerosols as predicted.

“What we have been seeing in our data recently has been confirming what we saw earlier,” Tehya Stockman, a graduate student in mechanical engineering and clarinetist, says. “We just have more data now.”

Stockman has been working in Miller’s lab since the study began. She measures quantities of aerosol emissions, often using her own clarinet as she works, and compares different risk mitigation strategies including bell covers. She admits creating guidelines to reduce risk of aerosol transmission has been challenging with so many unknown factors.

“When you are thinking about the risk of getting COVID-19 from people playing music, there are so many different factors,” Stockman says. “It’s not just how far away you are from someone else. What does the ventilation system look like? Are you playing inside or outside? Are people wearing masks? There are so many factors that you can’t know for each situation. These guidelines are more strict, so it can be applied to a wider range of situations.”

Aerosol emissions from trombone

Whether rehearsing indoors or outdoors, basic guidelines apply: six feet of distance, masks and bell covers. Using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), meaning air flow simulations, researchers in Maryland confirmed the effectiveness of social distancing with six feet apart. Twelve feet for wind instruments and singers is a conservative estimate, to keep musicians even safer.

In order to reduce aerosols, two types of masks are recommended for rehearsals. A mask with a slit should be used when playing, and at all other times, especially when moving or talking, a normal mask should be worn.

Nylon bell covers decrease aerosols significantly, according to Stockman. Larger aerosols, which usually move in a straight line, are trapped by bell covers. Bell covers are especially important for straight-shaped instruments, such as a trumpet or clarinet, which have higher aerosol emission than curved instruments. Although smaller aerosols can follow air streamlines out of key holes, the quantity is much lower. 

Clarinet with full instrument cover

Further research on key hole aerosols will be included in the next round of results.

In terms of location, outdoor rehearsals are recommended. However, as winter arrives, this is no longer possible. When indoors, musicians should have HEPA filters installed and must consider the efficiency of the room’s HVAC systems. HVAC efficiency will affect the air exchange rate—the number of times air is replaced in a room each hour. 

To calculate the risk of a specific indoor rehearsal space, musicians can use CU’s Risk Estimator Tool. On average most spaces will have three air exchanges per hour. Using this assumption, researchers in Maryland created CFD simulations of risk for an hour in an indoor space. They found that infection risk increases little from 0 to 30 minutes, followed by a sharp increase of risk from 30 to 60 minutes. Thus, they recommend rehearsals should include 30 minutes of playing, followed by a 15 minute break, where musicians leave the room, allowing for nearly an entire air exchange to take place.

At CU’s College of Music, musicians are following these guidelines for the fall semester. For band and chamber music rehearsals, students can be seen with two masks and bell covers, playing six to 12 feet away from each other.

For Stockman, seeing the impact of her research for CU and the broader music community has been encouraging. As a musician herself, she knows the importance of in-person music-making and is happy that her research can help facilitate that.

“Some music programs were going to be cut completely from schools,” Stockman says. “Once they are cut, they are hard to bring back. But now quite a few of them didn’t have to be cut.

“Our research showed there are ways to play music safely.”

Takács Quartet livestream will be available to all

Nov. 1 concert will feature music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn

By Peter Alexander Oct. 30 at 10:50 a.m.

The next live stream of a CU campus concert by the Takács Quartet will be available to the public worldwide.

This is a change from their previous concerts this fall, which, due to contractual restrictions, were made available online only to prior subscribers to their CU performances. In this case, they will again be performing from the stage of an otherwise empty Grusin Hall in the Imig Music Building, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1.

Takács Quartet

Virtual admission may be purchased through the CU Presents Web page. The performance will remain available online to ticket purchasers through 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29.

The program will comprise three works by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Fanny’s String Quartet in E-flat major and Felix’s string quartets No. 6 in F minor, op. 80, and No. 2 A minor, op. 13.

The Takács Quartet will play two more online concerts from Grusin Hall this season, Jan. 10–11 and April 11–12, 2021. If conditions allow, those concerts will be performed before a live audience and single tickets will be sold as available. If live performances are deemed not to be safe, online access will only be available to previous season ticket holders.

The same will be true for a guest concert by the Jupiter String Quartet, March 7–8, 2021. Their concert was originally scheduled in October, and was postponed due to the pandemic.

The Takács Quartet has not announced their programs for the spring. The Jupiter String Quartet, which is the resident string quartet at the University of Illinois, will perform music by Mendelssohn, Schubert and Michi Wiancko.

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Takács Quartet

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: String Quartet in E-flat Major
Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80
    String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1: Live stream from Grusin Hall on the CU Boulder campus (program available through 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29)

More information and tickets available from CU Presents 

Santa Fe Opera announces reduced 2021 season with extensive safety measures

Four operas, to be played for 30–80% capacity houses

By Peter Alexander Oct. 26 at 9:15 p.m.

The Santa Fe Opera (SFO) has an advantage these days over most other summer opera festivals: they perform outdoors.

Santa Fe Opera’s open-air theater. Photo by Kate Russell.

In the time of COVID, of course, outdoors is the safest place to be. That fact made it easier for SFO to plan for the coming season. 

“The single greatest advantage that we have given the challenges of the coronavirus is that that we are an outdoor venue,” Robert Meya, the SFO’s general director, says.“ Even if we have to reduce our social distancing way down, it’s still going to be a lot safer than any indoor theater.”

Meya announced the summer 2021 season in an online press conference Oct. 21. The season will be reduced—four operas instead of the usual five—to decrease crowding on the grounds of the SFO during rehearsals and work hours for backstage crews. The four operas on the schedule provide an interesting variety of styles, with one each from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Robert Meya announces the SFO 2021 season from the stage of the John Crosby Theater.

The season will comprise Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream—ideal for an outdoor summer venue!—and the world premiere of The Lord of Cries by John Corigliano and Mark Adamo. All four had been part of the long-term plan for the coming summer.

A fifth opera that calls for a very large chorus and many extras would have been next to impossible to produce with safe distancing of cast and crew, and was dropped from the schedule. 

The open-air “lobby” of the Santa Fe Opera. Insight Foto.

It was important to preserve as much of the 2021 schedule as possible because of contractual commitments by the SFO. “Most of the contracts had been issued,” Meya explains. “Certainly verbally, we had agreements with all of the artists for that season.”

All of the productions planned for 2020 have been moved to 2022 or ‘23, including the world premiere of M Butterfly by Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang, the return of Wagner to the SFO with Tristan und Isolde, and the company’s first production ever of Dvořák’s Rusalka. “Because we wanted to preserve all of these projects, we had to leapfrog over 2021,” Meya says.

“We were able to save all five projects by slotting them into ‘22 and ‘23. That created a little bit of a domino effect, because we had those plans laid out. We had already built three of these (2020) productions. In March [they were] almost ready to go on stage.”

The dates of those future performances postponed from 2020 will be announced later. “I’m hoping we can go forward with the season announcement for 2022 this coming spring, in the normal pattern of announcing about 14 months out,” Meya says. Stay tuned.

Costume sketch for Lord of Cries. Courtesy of Santa Fe Opera

Of the four operas slated for 2021, the premiere of The Lord of Cries is sure to attract the most attention from the opera world. The 17th world premiere at the SFO, The Lord of Cries is based on two classic works of literature, The Bacchae by Euripides and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

According to the description in the SFO’s news release, “Separated by 24 centuries, The Bacchae and Dracula tell virtually the same timeless story, with the same subversive message: We must honor our animal nature lest it turn monstruous and destroy us. The Lord of Cries begins with a strange, androgynous god returning to earth to offer a mortal three chances to ‘ask for what you want’ or risk the consequences. He materializes in Victorian England in the guise of the eponymous ‘Lord of Cries,’ . . . the irresistible antihero of Dracula.”

The Lord of Cries is the second opera by Pulitzer Prize winner Corigliano, after his 1991 Metropolitan Opera commission, The Ghosts of Versailles. Librettist Mark Adamo is himself a composer who wrote librettos for his own operas, including the 2013 Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was revised in 2017 for a “CU NOW” workshop production in Boulder.

John Corigliano

Ticket information and full information on all four operas, including casts and synopses, is available on the SFO Web page.

The SFO’s various health strategies, for artists, staff and the public, have been worked out in partnership with CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, as well as a Reopening Advisory Group comprised of SFO Board members, staff, and public health experts. Steps to protect the health of the public during the 2021 season include seating reduced to between 30 and 80 percent of capacity, depending on conditions; ticketless entry and staggered arrival times; electrostatic disinfection of high traffic areas; and enhanced ventilation and air purification in elevators and restrooms. 

The usual preview dinners and backstage tours will not take place, and the SFO Cantina, a popular gathering place before performances, will be closed. Tailgating picnics will still be permitted in the parking lot, with appropriate distancing.

SFO Tailgaters. Photo by Chris Corrie.

Protecting the health of the artists and others working at the SFO is both a high priority and a complex challenge. Meya explains the steps that will be taken: “The musicians in the orchestra, all of the singers, and of course that includes our apprentices who comprise our chorus—[everyone] rehearsing and performing in close proximity is going to be quarantined upon arrival in the state for 14 days. During that same period they will receive the CCR test as well as the antibody test.

“Once they’re admitted to rehearse on campus, we will have frequent [testing]. All the singers, musicians and apprentices will be tested three times weekly, the backstage crew who can still socially distance to some degree will be tested two times weekly, and everyone else on campus will be tested once weekly.

“Those tests will be the rapid test. We are actually in the process of sourcing those—something like 12,000 tests. We will do the tests on site. We’ll set up a testing station [with] six machines that are going to be running approximately seven hours a day, six days a week with three operators, in order to conduct something like 1000 tests per week.”

The SFO outdoor campus. Photo by Peter Alexander.

In addition to those precautions, the SFO campus is mostly outdoors, with open air rehearsal spaces. But of course the visiting artists and their families will be out in the community as well. “We’re going to ask all of those people to sign a stringent out-of-workplace agreement about what they’re not going to do, like go to bars or restaurants.”

The Santa Fe Opera is one of the very first summer operas to announce full details for their 2021 season. Central City announced long ago that they would move their entire 2020 schedule to 2021, but details of health precautions have not been released. Opera Theater of St. Louis announced Oct. 19—two days before SFO—that they will proceed with an open-air, socially distanced 2021 season. 

Considering the dangers posed by the coronavirus, Meya feels very fortunate that the SFO is operating in its unique environment. “We are in that environment that is the perfect marriage of nature and art,” he says. “We’re in such a fortunate position in so many ways. We’re determined to put on a season, and we have been able to announce with a good deal of confidence.

“I feel very positive that we can make this happen and that we can do it safely.”

Santa Fe Opera. Photo by Robert Goodwin