CU Boulder’s College of Music presents concert March 21 at Grusin Hall
By Peter Alexander March 18 at 5:45 p.m.
Violinist and CU music faculty member Charles Wetherbee touched people deeply—those he performed with, those he taught, and those who knew him only as audience members.
Wetherbee died at the age of 56 Jan. 9, 2023, following a battle with cancer. The College of Music will dedicate a faculty recital to his memory Tuesday, March 21 (7:30 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall and by live stream; details below).
In addition to his teaching and performing duties at the College of Music, Wetherbee was first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet and concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, who dedicated a performance to his memory Jan. 22. He was a frequent collaborator with faculty colleagues and other musicians in chamber concerts on and off campus.
His faculty colleague, pianist David Korevaar described Wetherbee as “the best colleague anyone can have.” Korine Fujiwara, violist of the Carpe Diem Quartet, described him as “my best and most trusted friend . . . and a beautiful example of all that is good in the world.”
In announcing the memorial concert, CU College of Music Dean John Davis wrote, “Chas Wetherbee was a beloved colleague and friend whose influence and inspiration reached far beyond the College of Music. With his passing in January, we lost a deeply valued and cherished member of our community.”
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“A Musical Celebration to the Life and Legacy of Charles ‘Chas’ Wetherbee”
CU Boulder College of Music faculty, students, alumni, and guest artists, including members of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, Boulder Piano Quartet and Lírios Quartet
Program includes works by J.S. Bach, Antonín Dvořák, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Schubert, John Gunther and Korine Fujiwara.
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21 Grusin Music Hall, Imig Music Building Free
Joshua Bell as artist-in-residence, John Corigliano composer-in-residence
By Peter Alexander Jan. 25 at 11 a.m.
The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) has announced their 2023 summer season at Chautauqua.
The formal announcement of the season was made last night (Jan, 24) at the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette, which is the sister organization of the CMF. The event was live streamed to the public.
Before the introduction of the concerts by music director Peter Oundjian, executive director Elizabeth McGuire announced that the CMF’s 2022 world premiere performance of Flying On the Scaly Backs of Our Mountains by Wang Jie had reached more than a million listeners world-wide through radio—“more than doubling the reach of the festival over its history with one performance,” she said.
Oundjian has written of the 2023 season, “We are so fortunate to bring to you some of the greatest performers alive today, including artist-in-residence Joshua Bell, along with the extraordinary talents of eight of today’s brilliant composers. It is such a thrill to hear today’s voices alongside—and interacting with—groundbreaking voices from the past, giving us a unique window into centuries of the greatest in creativity.”
Since his appointment as music director in 2018, Oundjian has made the music of today a focus of the festival. Among the living composers whose music will be performed this summer is John Corigliano, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, four Grammies and an Academy Award. As composer-in-residence, Corigliano will be present at the festival for a concert devoted entirely to his music on July 13 (see full programs below).
Premieres will be presented of works by Jordan Holloway, CU faculty member Carter Pann, and Adolphus Hailstork. All three will be performed on July 16, as the culmination of a week of “Music of Today.” A preview of music by five other living composers will be offered by Bell, who has commissioned a five-movement suite for violin and orchestra from five different composers.
The suite, titled Elements, will have its official premiere later, but all five movements will be previewed over two concerts at CMF—the final two concerts of the season (Aug. 3 and 6). The composers who have contributed to Elements are among the most important composers working today: Jake Heggie, Jessie Montgomery, Edgar Meyer, Jennifer Higdon and Kevin Puts.
Bell will also be at CMF for the first week of the festival and will play Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor on the opening program, June 29 and 30.
A highlight of the 2023 festival will be two programs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (July 6–7 and July 9). Oundjian said that it seemed appropriate in 2023 to perform works composed outside Russia, many of them in the United States which was Rachmaninoff’s home in the later years of his life. These works include the Third and Fourth piano concertos, the beloved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and the rarely performed Symphony No. 3.
Another feature of the 2023 festival of which Oundjian is particularly proud is the continuation of the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, named for the founding first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet. In addition to performances by members of the Festival Orchestra, the four-concert series will also feature guest performances by the JACK Quartet, renowned for their performances of contemporary music, and the Brentano String Quartet.
The 2023 festival will also see the return of Music Director Emeritus Michael Christie to conduct concerts on July 20 and 21. Christie was the CMF music director 2000–13.
“Not only does the 2023 season promise to be artistically stunning, I know our audiences will appreciate the way the programming weaves so many diverse, timely, and relevant voices into the fabric of classical music,” executive director Elizabeth McGuire wrote.
Performances this summer will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Sundays. As in past years, Tuesdays will be devoted to chamber music, other days to Festival Orchestra performances. In response to comments from patrons, the Family Concert on Sunday, July 2, has been moved earlier in the day, to 10:30 a.m. Other updates to the festival this year include a new ticketing system through the Chautauqua Box Office, and meals available for pre-order through the ticketing system.
Subscription tickets for the 2023 festival are available here. Single-concert tickets go on sale March 7 through the CMF Web page, or by phone at the Chautauqua Box Office at 303-440-7666. New for 2023, CMF is offering $10 tickets for youth (ages 18 and under) and students with current school identification. More information can be found HERE.
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COLORADO MUSIC FESTIVAL 2023 Performance Schedule All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Thursday June 29 and 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 30: Festival Opening Program Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Joshua Bell, violin
Carlos Simon: “Motherboxx Connection” from Tales: A Folklore Symphony for orchestra
Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel)
Family Concert: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, July 2 Festival Orchestra, Kalena Bovell, conductor With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano, and Janae Burris, narrator
Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1
Eric Whitacre: Goodnight Moon
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: “Danse Nègre” from African Suite
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 6 and 6:30 p.m. Friday July 7 Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Nicolai Lugansky, piano
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, —Symphony No. 3 in A Minor
6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9 Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Nicolai Lugansky, piano
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini —Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor —Symphonic Dances
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: JACK Quartet
Morton Feldman: Structures for String Quartet (1951)
Caleb Burhans: Contritus (2010)
Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 5 (1991)
Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte (2011)
John Zorn: The Remedy of Fortune for String Quartet (2016)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13 Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Timothy McAllister, saxophone
John Corigliano: Gazebo Dances (for orchestra) (1974) —One Sweet Morning for voice and orchestra (2010) —Triathlon for saxophone and orchestra (2020)
6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16 World premieres: Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano, and Eric Owens, narrator
Jordan Holloway: Flatiron Escapades (world premiere commission)
Carter Pann: Dreams I Must Not Speak (world premiere commission)
Adolphus Hailstork: JFK: The Last Speech (world premiere)
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 18 Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Brentano String Quartet
Mozart: String Quartet in D Major, K499
James MacMillan: Memento for string quartet (1994) —For Sonny for string quartet (2011)
Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op. 130
6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 21 Festival Orchestra, Music Director Emeritus Michael Christie, conductor With Michelle Cann, piano
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major
Florence Price: Piano Concerto in One Movement
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, op. 36
6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 23 Festival Orchestra, François López-Ferrer, conductor With Grace Park, violin
Mozart: Overture to The Impresario K486 —Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K216 —Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K546 —Symphony No. 36 in C Major, (“Linz”) K425
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 25 Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Members of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra
Benjamin Britten: Phantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings, op. 2
Francis Poulenc: Sextet in C Major for Piano and Winds
Brahms: String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, op. 36
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 28 Festival Orchestra: Eun Sun Kim, conductor With Johannes Moser, cello
Mason Bates: The Rhapsody of Steve Jobs (2021)
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, op. 107
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, op. 73
6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 30 Festival Orchestra, Hannu Lintu, conductor, With Lise de la Salle, piano
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus (1974)
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor
Haydn: Symphony No. 96 in D Major (“Miracle”)
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1 Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Members of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra
Beethoven: String Trio in C Minor, op. 9 no. 3
Debussy: Danses sacrée et profane (Sacred and profane dances)
Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, op. 81
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Joshua Bell, violin
The Elements: Suite for Violin and Orchestra (commissioned by Joshua Bell) “Fire” by Jake Heggie “Ether” by Jessie Montgomery “Water” by Edgar Meyer
Debussy: La Mer
6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6: Festival Finale Concert Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor With Joshua Bell, violin
The Elements: Suite for Violin and Orchestra (commissioned by Joshua Bell) “Air” by Jennifer Higdon “Earth” by Kevin Puts
Violinist, CU faculty member, father of three dies after battle with cancer
By Peter Alexander Jan. 11 at 12:45 p.m.
Some few special musicians go beyond the ability to reach listeners with their performances, and touch people with their generous and kind personalities. One of those was Charles (Chas) Wetherbee, concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, and faculty member of the University of Colorado, Boulder, College of Music.
Wetherbee died Monday (Jan. 9) following a battle with cancer. He was 56.
Many tributes have been stated for Wetherbee, and a common theme has been going beyond his his great musical skills to recognize his human qualities. Korine Fujiwara, violist of the Carpe Diem Quartet, described him as “my best and most trusted friend . . . and a beautiful example of all that is good in the world.” Pianist David Korevaar, with whom Wetherbee collaborated on CU faculty concerts and other chamber music performances, wrote “You were a generous, open-hearted, wise, and patient friend. You were the best colleague anyone can have.”
Announcing that the next concert of the Boulder Philharmonic on Jan. 22 would be dedicated to Wetherbee’s memory, conductor Michael Butterman wrote that Wetherbee “brought out the best in everyone. . . . He radiated generosity, kindness and a selfless spirit that anyone in his presence could feel. The impact of his legacy is impossible to overstate.”
CU College of Music dean John Davis noted that “Chas brought a wealth of expertise and experience from his varied career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral concertmaster, teacher, coach and collaborator. . . . He was also a consummate mensch, widely known and loved for his kindness, enthusiasm, unwavering optimism and overall graciousness.”
A GoFundMe campaign that was started in December to support Wetherbee’s family has raised more than $200,000 from 1,200 donors, indicating both the breath and the depth of affection Wetherbee had in the local community of music lovers. Donations have ranged from $20 to $15,000.
Charles Tyler Wetherbee was born in Buffalo, New York, July 14, 1966. He made his debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under Semyon Bychkov, and since then has performed with the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovitch, as well as the Japan Philharmonic, the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota (Columbia), the National Repertory Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico, the Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Virginia Symphony, among others.
A devoted chamber musician, Wetherbee was first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet and performed in recital with pianist David Korevaar of the CU College of Music faculty. Wetherbee’s first orchestral appointment was as principal second violin with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Following five years at the NSO, he served as concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony for 16 years. He joined the faculty of the CU College of Music in 2012 and became concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic in 2014. He directed the Snake River Music Festival in Dillon, Colorado, for many years
Wetherbee is survived by his wife, Karina, a professional photographer and writer, and their three children, Tristan, Sebastian and Tessa. After Wetherbee’s death, Karina wrote on the GoFundMe page, “Chas composed his final note last night. . . . I know now that his life’s work was a symphony, of the most grand and sweeping and lyrical beauty, and each note of that music was made up of all the millions of interactions he had with every person who entered his life.”
A lovely companion for your morning coffee, it is also unlike any other book on music I have read. But it is certainly one that lovers of chamber music and fans of the Takács Quartet will want to read.
Dusinberre focuses on just four composers—Edward Elgar, Antonín Dvořák, Béla Bartók and Benjamin Britten—and music by them that he has played and recorded as first violinist of the Takács. In each case, he discusses the composer’s life and what “home” might mean to them, and to him.
This interest on Dusinberre’s part grows out of his experience as a dual national who grew up in England but has lived many years in the United States. Like Dusinberre, three of the composers left their homes for the U.S. at some point in their careers: Dvořák, who lived in New York and Iowa 1892–95 before returning permanently to his homeland in Bohemia; Bartók, who was forced to flee Europe in 1940 and died in the United States in 1945; and Britten, who voluntarily moved to the US at the outbreak of war in 1939 but whose longing for home led him to return in 1942.
In contrast, Elgar lived his entire life in Britain, apart from tours in the U.S. and continental Europe, and he provided some of the most identifiably “British” music in the form of his “Pomp and Circumstance” marches and other works.
But the book is far more than an introduction to these composer’s biographies, because Dusinberre describes his own relationship with each work, both individually and as a member of a leading quartet. He begins in fact with his own childhood in Leamington Spa and his move to New York, followed by his rediscovery of Elgar, as it were, as acknowledgment of his own Englishness. That sets the theme of the connection between home and music.
The section on Elgar is best understood to those who are familiar with British geography, such as the Malvern Hills, which I had to look up. The rest is easily accessible to American readers, and it is great fun to read about life in a top string quartet—both in and out of rehearsals, which are both mundane work and distilled artistry. If you follow the Takács, these will be your favorite parts of the book. For others, it will be the insight into the specific works around which the book revolves—Elgar’s Piano Quintet, Dvořák’s “American” String Quartet, Bartók’s Sixth String Quartet and Britten’s Third String Quartet—and the related works that Dusinberre mentions.
Throughout the book, he connects the works he has played to other works of the same composer, to literary works, and to the times in which they were written. As I said at the outset, I know of no other book that manages this balancing act, combining personal experience with digressions without ever losing the thread.
In its scant 210 pages of text, I came to enjoy Dusinberre’s pleasurable company, I learned from his many insights into music, and ultimately I was sorry to put it down at the end.
Here is a partial list of musicians who passed away during the past year. Of course the list is never complete, and it reflects my own personal experience and interests. Readers are always welcome to add the names of people that you will miss that I did not include.
Dec. 19, 2021: Judith Davidoff, trained first as a cellist and later master of Renaissance and Baroque stringed instruments, particularly the viola da gamba, as a member of ensembles including the Boston Camerata and New York Pro Musica, and founder of the New York Consort of Viols, a leader of the early-music movement, 94
Jan. 5: Dale Clevenger, principal horn of the Chicago Symphony for 47 years, member of the famed Chicago brass section working with a number of other renowned brass players, known for his ability to overcome the greatest challenges on his instrument, 81
Jan. 9: Maria Ewing, soprano/mezzo-soprano who appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne, The Royal Opera in London and other major houses, known for her performances as Carmen, Salome, Cherubino and Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck, among other roles, and the ex-wife of Sir Peter Hall who directed her in several roles, 71
Jan. 12: Everett Lee, African-American conductor who broke racial barriers as the music director of Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town on Broadway in 1945, and the first Black conductor to lead a white orchestra in the South (Louisville, 1953) and the New York City Opera (1955), who later pursued a career in Europe, and returned to the U.S. to conduct the New York Philharmonic on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1976, 105
Jan. 15: Beverly Ross, one of the first female songwriters of the rock ‘n’ roll era, known for songs with a bright beat and soft-core romantic themes including “Dim, Dim the Lights,” one of the first hits for Bill Haley and the Comets, and the ubiquitous “Lollipop” (1958), 87
Jan. 18: Roger Tapping, violist, former member of the Takács Quartet and the CU College of Music faculty, who also played with the Allegri Quartet in the UK and in 2013 succeeded Samuel Rhodes in the Juilliard Quartet, 61
Jan. 20: Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, rock singer and film actor whose 1977 debut, “Bat Out of Hell,” became a best seller and later spawned several sequels, and who appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as well as Fight Club, Wayne’s World and other films, 74
Feb. 1: Leslie Parnas, American cellist and silver medalist at the 1962 Tchaikovsky competition who returned to Russia to perform and teach, and later as a jurist for the Tchaikovsky competition, a highly expressive player who was also a frequent performer at the Marlboro festival and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; 90
Feb. 6: George Crumb, stunningly original American composer of works requiring careful listening and deep attention to sound, running an astonishing gambit from a nightmarish protest of the Vietnam War (Black Angels, 1970), to eerie (Ancient Voices of Children, 1970), to mysteriously evocative (Vox Balaenae, 1971), to beguiling (Music for a Summer Evening, 1974), whose scores were often visually as well as musically artistic, 92
Feb, 12: William Kraft, principal timpanist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 18 years and a composer who aimed to elevate percussion section above what he called “rat-a-tat, boom-boom” music, who worked with Igor Stravinsky, founded performing ensembles and taught at UC Santa Barbara, 98
Feb. 19: Gary Brooker: singer/pianist with Procol Harum who co-wrote “Whiter Shade of Pale,” the group’s first and greatest hit in 1967, and nearly all of the music that sustained their remarkable five-decade recording career that lasted until 2017, staying with the band as de-facto leader through other personnel changes, 76
March 8: Ron Miles, jazz cornet player who formed a trio with fellow Denver natives Rudy Royston and Bill Frisell and maintained a major career while remaining in Colorado and teaching at Metropolitan State University, of a rare blood dis order, 58
March 31: Joseph Kalichstein, Israeli-American pianist, Leventritt Competition winner, Juilliard graduate and later professor, best known as a chamber musician, particularly as a member of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio throughout its 45 years of performing and recording together, 76
April 18: Harrison Birtwhistle, an evocatively-named British composer known for music of uncompromising modernism and complex structures, a high degree of dissonance, and often intense theatricality, a one-time fellow student with Peter Maxwell Davies, 87
April 18: Nicholas Angelich, American-born pianist, winner of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in 1994, who performed mostly in Europe, and primarily German repertoire, and whose American appearances garnered admiring reviews; 51
April 17: Radu Lupu, Romanian-born pianist known for his eccentric and meditative performances and his avoidance of publicity, who launched his career with wins at the Van Cliburn, George Enescu and Leeds International piano competitions but largely avoided showy repertoire, saying he would have liked a career “playing nothing but slow movements,” 76
May 11: Alexander Toradze, Georgian-American pianist who won the silver medal at the Van Cliburn competition in 1977 and defected from the Soviet Union to the U.S. in 1983, known for idiosyncratic performances of Russian repertoire, 69
May 13: Teresa Berganza, Spanish mezzo and alto known for her performances as Carmen in Bizet’s opera and Rosina in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, who sang her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967 as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and gained acclaim in other Rossini and Mozart roles, 89
May 13: Simon Preston, English organist, conductor and composer who served at organist and choir director at Westminster Abbey 1981–87, who was first appointed organist at Westminster Abbey in 1962 and also served at St. Alban’s Cathedral and Christ Church Oxford, ad memorably directed the music for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986; 83
May 13: Rosmarie Trapp, the last surviving daughter of Baron Georg and Maria Augusta von Trapp and a member of the Trapp Family Singers, who often held sing-alongs for guests at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., 93
May 17: Richard Best, American bass who sang 545 performances at the Met, including the Met premieres of Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Berg’s Lulu; he also sang at the San Francisco Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Paris Opéra, and taught at Southern Illinois University after retiring from the stage, 87
May 17: Vangelis, self-taught Greek composer of the Academy-Award winning scores for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which made him internationally famous and was followed by scores for Blade Runner and other films, 79
May 18: Anne Howells, English mezzo-soprano who came up through the ranks at Glyndebourne from chorus member to Dorabella and Meg Page, among other roles; she also sang at Covent Garden, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Met, and later taught at the Royal Academy of Music, 81
June 6: Jim Seals, half of the soft-rock duo Seals and Croft with Dash Crofts, whose Baha’i faith lead them away from the harsh and loud sound of 1960s hard rock to a gentler style characterized in hits such as 1972’s “Summer Breeze” and 1973’s “We May Never Pass This Way (Again),” 79
July 1: Richard Taruskin, a musicologist and scholar of Russian music who ascended to the level of pubic intellectual through the pages of the New York Times, who was the author of the magisterial six-volume Oxford History of Western Music (2005), and who was known for his contentious style of argument on topics from performance practice to the politics of Soviet music—most famously the honesty or dishonesty of the putative Shostakovich memoir Testimony—and just about anything else to which he turned his attention; emeritus professor at UC Berkeley, 77
July 2: Peter Brook, creative English stage director who directed works in several genres, including numerous landmark Shakespeare production; Truman Capote and Harold Arlen’s House of Flowers on Broadway in 1955; a nine-hour stage adaptation of The Mahabharata in 1985; and several operatic productions including the condensed Tragédie de Carmen in 1983 and Magic Flute in 2011; 97
July 22: Stefan Soltesz, an Austrian conductor who collapsed on the podium during a performance of Richard Strauss’ Schweigsame Frau at the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) in Munich, and died later at a hospital, 73
Aug. 8: Olivia Newton-John, star of the mega-hit pop musical Grease and much-loved singer of amiable pop music, including seven top-10 hits on the country chart and four records that sold more than two million copies each in the 1970s and ‘80s, and who was known in recent years for her long battle with breast cancer; 73
Aug. 25: Joey DeFrancesco, a jazz organist and the son of a jazz organist, credited with reviving jazz organ in the 21st century, who toured with Miles Davis while still a teenager and who also played trumpet, saxophone and piano, but preferred the Hammond B3 organ, 51
Sept. 5: Lars Vogt, German pianist and conductor known for his solo performances, his recitals with singers Thomas Quasthoff and Ian Bostridge, and the chamber music festival he founded in Heimbach, Germany; he was appointed music director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris in 2020, and was scheduled to be artist-in-residence with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern for 2022-23, 51
Sept 9: Jorja Fleezanis, American violinist, the daughter of Greek immigrants, who served as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra for 20 years before joining the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in 2009, and also played the premiere of Johan Adams’s Violin Concerto in 1994, 70
Sept. 10: Paul T. Kwami, longtime director of the Fisk Jubilee singers, the choral group from the historically Black Fisk University that was formed a year after the end of the Civil War and that was known for its performance of African American spirituals, 70
Sept. 12: Ramsey Lewis, jazz pianist whose professional life spanned more than 50 years, leader of the Ramsey Lewis Trio and later the Urban Knights, who unexpectedly broke into the pop music Top 10 in 1965 with “The ‘In’ Crowd,” and was named a Jazz Master by the NEA 2007, 87
Sept. 24: Pharoah Sanders, American saxophonist and composer who played with Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra and John Coltrane and was known for playing highly individual, spiritual free jazz as well as jazz standards and Caribbean-inflected music, 81
Oct. 4: Loretta Lynn, the “coal miner’s daughter” who became one of the most beloved country singers on the basis of both her powerful voice and her life story that was chronicled in her autobiography and the Oscar-winning film based on it; 90
Oct. 19: Joanna Simon, American mezzo-soprano, oldest sister to Lucy (see below) and Carly Simon, whose operatic career took her to the New York City Opera as well as “The Dick Cavett Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and who occasionally sang backup for her sisters, with whom she remained close throughout her career; 85
Oct. 20: Lucy Simon, sister of Joanna and Carly Simon, with the latter of whom she sang in a duo as the Simon Sisters in the 1960s folk revival, later released her own solo albums and also wrote the Tony-nominated score for the musical The Secret Garden, 82
Oct. 28: Jerry Lee Lewis, rockabilly singer and pounding pianist whose hits in the 1950s, including “Great Balls of Fire,” shot to the top of the charts, but whose personal life including his marriage to a 13-year-old cousin, cut short his rock stardom until he was able to revive his career as a country musician in the late ‘60s and ‘70s; 87
Nov. 6: Don Lewis, electronic music pioneer who in the 1970s created and performed with the Live Electronic Orchestra from his collection of keyboards, synthesizers and drum machines all joined together, the only one of its kind, which offered a remarkable choice of sounds in one package before the later invention of the MIDI keyboard; 81
Nov. 18: Ned Rorem, Pulitzer prize-winning composer noted for his art songs and other vocal works, as well as one-act operas, chamber music and three symphonies; whose published diaries gave insight into the gay musical and artistic circles from the 1960s onward; 99
Dec. 18: Elayne Jones, a timpanist who joined the San Francisco Symphony under Seiji Ozawa in 1972 as the first black principal player in a major US orchestra but had to fight a legal battle over racial and sexual discrimination when she was denied tenure by the orchestra, in spite of rave reviews from critics and public, and who continued to play in the orchestra of the San Francisco Opera until 1998; 94
Dec. 19: Stanley Drucker, orchestral clarinetist who played with the New York Philharmonic under five of its music directors, from Leonard Bernstein to Lorin Maazel and for more than 60 years, 1948–2009, and taught at the Juilliard School for 30 years; 98
Summer 2023 will feature Shakespearean subjects, June 24–Aug. 6
By Peter Alexander Nov. 16 at 10:50 a.m.
Central City Opera returns to their pre-COVID schedule of three Mainstage productions in their main house for the 2023 summer festival season, with three different works all based on Shakespeare: Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod, Otello by Rossini, and Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s 1948 Broadway spinoff from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
The six-week summer season also features the return of CU graduate Ashraf Sewailam to Central City, but in this case as the stage director of Otello, rather than as a singer. Another CU graduate, bass Wei Wu who was recently featured in the CU Eklund Opera production of La Bohème, will have a role in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.
The season will open June 24, 2023, with the three productions running in rotating repertoire through Aug. 6. All three will be sung in their original language: Otello in Italian, Roméo et Juliette in French, and Kiss Me Kate of course in English. Season tickets will go on sale Dec. 1. Single ticket sales will begin March 1, 2023. Visit the Central City Opera Web page for more details, including cast and production credits.
Written in 1816, when the composer was only 24, Rossini’s Otello is the earliest of the three works on the 2023 season. It is not often performed today, partly because of the difficulty of casting three difficult tenor roles: Otello, Iago and Rodrigo.
Unlike Shakespeare’s play and the Verdi’s better known opera on the same subject, Rossini’s Otello takes place entirely in Venice. In another departure from the other works, in Rossini’s opera Rodrigo is a major character, the son of the Doge of Venice. He had been promised Desdemona’s hand in marriage, but before the curtain she and Otello had been married in secret. A major dramatic turning point is her father’s disapproval of the marriage.
As in Shakespeare and Verdi, Iago deliberately uses Rodrigo to stir up Otello’s suspicions of his wife. All three versions end with Otello stabbing Desdemona, and then his own death when Iago’s treachery and his wife’s innocence are revealed.
Gounod’s opera was premiered in Paris in 1859, and had more than 300 performances by 1868, including its first performance in the US. The story and the incidents are similar to Shakespeare’s well known play, with Roméo and Juliette falling in love and getting secretly married. There is a duel between Roméo and Tybalt, who is killed by Roméo. The story ends with the familiar scene at Juliette’s tomb.
The story of Porter’s Kiss Me Kate is less a re-telling of Shakespeare than it is a comedic spinoff. The plot revolves around a company presenting musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, with ongoing feuds between the actors playing Petrucchio and Katherine, who are also ex-spouses. The musical includes portions of the play set to music, but also rehearsals, backstage scenes, a side-plot involving gangsters, and a happy ending with lovers united and re-united. Among the songs remembered from the show are “Another Openin’, Another Show,” “Where is the Life that Late I Led,” “Always True to You in My Fashion” and “Brush Up your Shakespeare.”
Kiss Me Kate is considered Porter’s response to Rodger and Hammerstein’s groundbreaking, fully-integrated musical Oklahoma! The winner of the very first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949, Kiss Me Kate was Porter’s only show to run more than 1000 performances. Although very much a show of its time it has never lost its popularity, and has been revived several times to great success. The most recent Broadway revivals were in 1999 with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie, and 2019 with Will Chase and Kelli O’Hara.
CORRECTION: 11/21 The automatic spell corrector change of Ashraf Seawila’s name to “Ashram” was corrected. The correct spelling of his given name is Ashraf.
Now a guest artist in same role, same opera, same set, same stage, ten years later
By Peter Alexander Oct. 20 at 10:10 p.m.
Wei Wu left Beijing in 2008, a young bass singer with his eyes on a career in opera. The first place he came outside of China was Colorado, to study with Julie Simpson at the CU-Boulder College of Music.
He remained in Boulder for five years, singing in most productions during those years, and graduated with a master’s degree in 2013. The first full opera role he sang anywhere was on the Macky stage, in the role of Colline in Puccini’s La Bohéme.
This weekend he returns to the Macky stage, in the role of Colline in Puccini’s La Bohéme—and in the very same set as ten-plus years ago! (You can read about the opera and the current production here.) He will appear in all three performances presented by the Eklund Opera program, Friday through Sunday (Oct. 21–23; details below).
“It’s been like 10 years and that was the first production I did, and I’m so happy to be back,” Wu says. “Boulder has been so special to me and to my wife too, because Colorado is the first state I came to. I just love Colorado.”
Indeed, he loves Colorado so much that he has moved back to Boulder permanently. His operatic career is well established, he has an agent who can land roles for him with opera companies around the country, his wife has a job in Boulder, and he still has many friends here who are “more like a family member to us,” he says. After several years in New York, he was happy to return to a place he loves.
Leigh Holman, the director of the Eklund Opera Program and stage director for La Bohéme is equally happy to have him here. “It’s been great for the students for him to work right alongside of them,” she says. “They have the opportunity to ask him questions and get to know him as a person, but also ask him about his experiences as a young artist.”
Wu’s experiences after leaving CU have been a model for rising young singers. After graduating, he landed a position in the Domingo Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. From D.C. he moved to New York for several years, in order to be close to auditions and agents that could help him launch into the professional world.
He sang with several companies, but his breakthrough came in 2017 when he sang the role of Kōbun, Steve Jobs’s guru, in the world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Mason Bates at the Santa Fe Opera. I reviewed that production on the Sharpsandflatirons blog, writing that he “sang with a deep resonant bass as Kōbun. In a role filled with both wisdom and wry humor, he captured the changing nuances perfectly.” (See the full review here.)
“That was my career turning point, singing in Santa Fe,” Wu says. “The world premiere brought me many other world premieres, doing more new operas. And on that they did a live recording that won the Grammy!”
His Chinese family has come to visit him in Colorado, but he has not been able to return to Beijing since the pandemic hit. His family played a large role in his interest in music: his grandfather played trumpet in jazz bands in the 1950s, and when he was growing up in the ‘80s, his father had cassette recordings of classical music.
Wu admits to a certain amount of culture shock when he first arrived in the US, and credits Holman with helping him adjust. “She was definitely one of my big mentors during my student years, who opened up my mind and helped me develop a lot,” he says. “She gave me a lot of opportunities to touch something as me.”
His sang roles that certainly were not stereotyped for an Asian singer, including Jigger in Carousel and the sexually predatory southern preacher Olin Blitch in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. Asked about his mastery of Southern English, he said that he has a good ear for accents, then sang out, “Howdy Brethren and sisters!” with a good touch of twang.
After the production of Bohéme in Macky, Wu has some exciting professional engagements coming up. Next will be Tosca in Los Angeles in November and December, and Bellini’s Norma at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in February and March. And The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs continues to pay dividends: he will sing in a new production that was co-commissioned by several companies around the country, including the Utah Opera, where you can see him May 6–14, 2023 in Salt Lake City.
Now that he lives in Boulder, there may be more guest appearances with the Eklund Opera as well. “As long as the schedule works out, I would love to,” he says.
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Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème CU Eklund Opera, Leigh Holman, stage director Nick Carthy, conductor
Tenor Patrick Bessenbacher, a 2020 graduate of the CU-Boulder College of Music who went on to graduate studies at Juilliard, is featured in the “Sound Bites” column in the October 2022 issue of Opera News.
Bessenbacher, who studied voice with assoc. prof. Matthew Chellis at CU, appeared in several productions of the CU Eklund Opera. He was Lurcanio in Handel’s Ariodante in the spring of 2018, Tony in West Side Story in Macky Auditorium in the fall of 2018, George Bailey in Jake Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life in Macky in 2019, and Benedict in a COVID-influenced online production of Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict in 2020.
Opera News reports that Bessenbacher performed this past summer with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and will join Florentine Opera in Milwaukee, Wisc., as a Baumgartner Studio Artist for the current season.
The October 2022 issue of Opera News has only just arrived in mailboxes this week, and is available online to subscribers only.
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Cliburn Competition gold medalist will play solo recital Monday at Macky
Pianist Yunchan Lim, who at 18 became the youngest gold medalist in the history of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June of this year, will play a solo recital featuring the music of Brahms, Mendelssohn and Liszt at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in Macky Auditorium.
Lim’s recital is part of the CU Presents Artist Series at Macky.
In addition to the Gold Medal, Lim won the Audience Award and the Best Performance of a New Work at the 2022 Cliburn Competition. A native of Korea, he was accepted at age 13 into the Korea National Instituted for the Gifted in Arts, where he began studies with Minsoo Sohn. He is currently in his second year at the Korea National University of Arts, where he continues to study with Sohn.
Lim’s complete program will be:
Brahms: Four Ballades, op. 10
Mendelssohn: Fantasy in F-sharp Minor, op. 28 (“Scottish Sonata”)
Liszt: Deux légendes —Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata
The 2022–23 season features “Christmas in the Late Renaissance” and J.S. Bach
By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 11:32 a.m.
Changes in leadership for performing organizations happen all the time, but Seicento—Boulder’s semi-professional chamber choir and Baroque performance group—has pulled a double switch that is at least unusual.
They just recently announced a change in the artistic director position, but to fully understand, you have to go back to the founding of the group in 2011.
Seicento was founded by Evanne Browne, an experienced early-music singer who served as artistic director until 2018, when she moved to Arlington, Virginia—“for love,” she says, moving to “explore a relationship that ended up wonderfully.” Amanda Balestrieri, a long-time friend who had performed alongside Browne in early music groups in the D.C. area and later moved to Boulder, took over and directed the group through COVID.
Now Browne and her husband, John Butterfield, have returned to Boulder, and by a total coincidence it’s Balestrieri who is moving to Virginia at the same time. It’s love again, but in this case a daughter and a grandchild.
Newly returned to Colorado, Browne told Seicento’s board, “I’m available!” And so she is returning to the organization she founded.
Have you got that? Today the artistic director is whichever of the two is not living in Virginia. Mostly.
That has worked out quite well, since Browne and Balestrieri have worked together enough that they know each other and trust each other explicitly. “That’s the beautiful thing about the two of us having both led Seicento,” Balestrieri says. “Even though Evanne or I leave Seicento, it’s going to be led the way that we both think it should be.”
The two musical partners arrived at this mutual respect from different backgrounds: Balestrieri from England, where she studied German and French at Oxford, and also studied voice in London and in Milan, Italy; and Browne from a musical education in the U.S., including voice studies at Rice University and post-graduate work in choral conducting.
“We come from different emphases and knowledge bases,” is the way Balestrieri puts it. But “the groundwork is always the note.”
In early music performance, not everyone always agrees even about the note, because the mists of time have left a lot to the interpretation of the performer. That’s where the shared background puts Browne and Balestrieri in agreement about the note, and much more. Their common professional experiences have led them to a mutual understanding of early music styles, and a shared interest in exploring the repertoire.
Balestrieri and Browne ended up in the Washington, D.C., area largely by chance, performing with early music ensembles including the Folger Consort and the Smithsonian Chamber Players. As they sang together in the same groups, they soon found great compatibility as singers. In fact, Browne says, “There were times where we could adjust our voices to be so similar that even I would sometimes go, who’s on which line?”
For a while their careers went in different directions. Balestrieri’s singing career took off, while Browne worked at the Smithsonian in Washington, picking up business skills that she has used with Seicento. Then it was again mostly by chance that they both ended up in Colorado.
“That’s the beautiful thing, because we were not singing and performing together for quite a while,” Balestrieri says. “I wasn’t even assuming we’d see each other again musically, but it was lovely to reconnect, because we did have that background—even though it was not a continuous one.”
The best part of the saga is Balestrieri’s move to Virginia. She was well settled in Boulder, and had an ongoing relationship with Charley Samson of Colorado Public Radio. They both kept their homes, hers in Boulder and his in Denver, but were often together.
“I have two daughters, one was living in Virginia and one in San Francisco,” Balestrieri says. “The one in San Francisco said ‘Mom, are you going to move here?’ What was I supposed to do, choose? And so she moved to Virginia to call my bluff! She had a baby last December and bought a house. I was visiting her and the house next door came up for sale.”
Thinking that she would like to have a place to stay in both Colorado and Virginia, Balestrieri bought the house next door to her daughter. “I was struggling with leaving (the house in Boulder),” she says. “So I called (Samson) from Virginia and said, ‘Guess what I did! But I have this great idea.’
“So what we’ve done is, Charley sold his house, I bought the house next door to my daughter and I’m selling my house to Charley!”
Just like that, Balestrieri will have a base of operations in both places. She hopes to return to singing in D.C., where she still has many friends and professional contacts, and she has plans to perform in the Boulder area as well, both as a visitor with Seicento in the coming season and with other people she knows in this area.
In the meantime, Browne is going full steam ahead for the coming season of Seicento. The repertoire for two concerts—one in December and the other in May—has been set. The holiday concert, scheduled for December 2–4 with a venue tbd, is titled “Seicento’s Roots: Christmas in the late Renaissance.” The program will illustrate the transition from the choral style of the late Renaissance to the more ornate style of the Baroque period. The program will feature carols that are still familiar today, including “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” by Michael Praetorius.
The spring concert, scheduled for May 5–7, will be a 300th anniversary performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, with Balestrieri as featured soloist. As far as Browne knows, this will be the first performance in Colorado of this passion setting with original instruments. This is by far the greater challenge, since it requires hiring specialist performers on the instruments of Bach’s time, but Browne is unafraid.
“Seicento needs to do this because when we do something that everybody wants to come see, and sing, then you get the response that you want,” she says. “I could have picked something very obscure that didn’t have Baroque oboes or Baroque flute players, but the joy of Seicento and the passion for the music is to find these pieces.”
In the meantime, Balestrieri and Browne both believe that Seicento has put the travails of COVID behind them and can return to the level they had achieved before. “I’m excited to see Seicento get the energy back after COVID,” Balestrieri says.
The group’s most recent concert this past April, which she directed, “had a very good feel,” she says. “The cohesion and spirit was back. The audience reviews were great. I’m just excited to see it and to be there when I’m in town.”
NOTE: The announcement of concert venues and tickets for Seicento’s 2022-23 concerts will be available on the group’s Web page.
Central City Opera has released the following statement, cancelling all performances through July 24:
In consultation with our medical partners and in order to protect the health and safety of patrons, artists and staff, all Festival performances scheduled for Tuesday, July 19 through Sunday, July 24 have been cancelled.
Due to recently reported COVID-19 cases in the company, Central City Opera has made the difficult decision to cancel all festival performances for this week. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we navigate these challenging circumstances in order to protect the health and safety of our community.
We sincerely apologize for this disappointment and inconvenience. We are working with our medical consultants to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps when we resume performances. We hope that we can reseat as many patrons as possible for the following week’s performances, but we may not be able to guarantee that all patrons will be reseated.
Details for ticket holders may be found on the CCO Web page.