Posted byPeter Alexander
Posted onJune 1, 2020
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Boulder’s latest COVID-19 casualty
By Peter Alexander
Boulder’s Seicento Baroque Ensemble, a choral performance group specializing in the music of the 17th century (“Seicento” in Italian) has announced that they will suspend all performances for the coming year.
The release from the organization states:
Because of the risk to our audience, singers, and guest artists, the Board has unanimously voted not to perform our normal fall concert this year, nor our normal spring concert in 2021. Members of the choir who are on the Board of Directors have expressed relief that they won’t be asked to rehearse and perform at a time that their health could be at risk, disappointment that they won’t be able to perform the music that they love, support for prudent planning, and hope for being able to resume singing when the pandemic passes.
Locally, Seicento is the first performing organization to definitely suspend all of next year’s concerts. Most other groups have delayed announcing their 20–21 season, anticipating the possibility of late starts in the fall. There is also widespread uncertainty about when and under what conditions groups will be allowed to bring audiences together, and to what extent audiences will be willing to gather.
Nationally, Broadway theaters in New York have suspended all performances until the start of 2021 at the earliest, and there is widespread uncertainty among performing groups about what will be possible.
Coming later: a follow-up interview with Seicento artistic director Amanda Balestrieri about the group’s plan for restarting in the fall of 2021, and also life under quarantine.
“We will all work it out because that’s what we do.” —”Pat” Pearce
By Peter Alexander May 23 at 11:12 a.m.
Central City Opera (CCO) was in a better position than most summer festivals when the Coronavirus pandemic hit.
“We were in the unique position of being able to pick this year’s season up and drop it into next season,” CCO artistic director Pelham (“Pat”) Pearce says from his home office in Denver. “While we had lots of things on hold [for 2021], we had not issued the first contract.“
So rather than outright cancel the three-work season that they had announced—Verdi’s Rigoletto, Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel and Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas—they simply postponed the entire season for a year. They could do that because of factors unique to an opera festival like Central City: They own their own facilities; they had planned only three works, rotated over the summer; and many of their employees apart from artists engaged for specific roles—the orchestra, stagehands, administrative staff and so on—are the same from year to year.
The singers engaged for the three works were offered the same roles next year. “Nobody out of any of the artists has wanted to pull out,” Pearce says. “Nobody has expressed a desire not to come and do this next year. And some of them did say that they’re excited that we didn’t cancel—especially the Carousel people, because they had invested a great deal of time learning dialog.”
In the past, Pearce noted, singers were often booked many years in advance, but since the economic crash of 2008–09, that has changed. “Because everyone had to deal with (having) so many contracts out when the bottom fell out in ‘09, that time span has shrunk for everybody,” he says. Not having future contracts to maneuver around was clearly an advantage.
As for the physical productions for the three works, the set and costume designs were done but nothing had been built yet. And since CCO owns their own opera house, there was no difficulty about dates or storage of supplies.
Like most summer festivals, Central City provides housing for the artists who come from out of state, but here again they were ahead of the game. “We own most of the housing we use,” Pearce says. “We were in the process of [arranging] for additional housing, which we ended up not having to do because we never signed the contracts.”
The main question became the timing of the announcement. “We decided to wait until we could wait no longer, and see where we were at that point,” Pearce says. “We had to roll back probably 30 days from the first day that we would be working in Central City—in the time frame when people would have to make travel arrangements, giving people at least a month’s notice that they were not going to be employed with us this summer.
“We were in a spot where if we went a week or so longer, we would start incurring things that we couldn’t get out of. But the important thing was that we waited as long as we could, and we could not see that the situation was going to change for the better.”
Like literally everyone else in the performing arts, Pearce and Central City Opera don’t know when audiences will be able—or willing—to return. “Until there’s a vaccine, frankly, we don’t know that we will have the ability to gather in large numbers again without any risk,” Pearce says. “Audiences will have a reentry period, probably, where they have to get used to being around other people and not having to be fearful.
“People will be reticent at the beginning, but our desire to engage and to consume art collectively is a very strong impulse, and I think that impulse remains. I believe that for our experience—music and theater—live is the primary experience. That is the true and honest experience of humans exchanging information and telling stories.”
Another way that CCO differs from other festivals is that within their home community, they are only a very small part of a huge economic engine: tourism. “We drive between 15 and 20,000 people up there, over [the summer], but the casinos represent somewhere between 80 and 90%” of Central City’s economy, Pearce says. “That revenue is how the city’s budget is paid for. It’s going to be very difficult for them.”
Pearce acknowledges that much remains unknown about when and how Central City and other opera companies around the country will get back to what looks like “normal.” There are too many uncertainties to make solid predictions.
“There are so many things that normally are fixed that all of a sudden became very fluid,” he says. “We know that something will happen that will allow people to gather again. It always has been that way and it will go that way again. So we fully intend to be in business next summer.
“We will all work it out because that’s what we do. We’re creative people and we are creative problem solvers. We will work it out.”
Home hosts and more than 125 visiting artists add to the complications
By Peter Alexander May 10 at 1:40 p.m.
Putting together a six-week festival of concerts is complicated. So is taking one apart.
In the case of the Colorado Music Festival, which recently joined summer festivals worldwide in announcing the cancellation of the 2020 season, that decision came down to an issue of safety.
“In terms of social distancing backstage at Chautauqua, it’s very tight,” says Elizabeth McGuire, the executive director of CMF. “That’s part of what’s charming about Chautauqua, it’s not a traditional concert hall. The musicians are standing outside, but when you’re inside you’re inches from each other.
“Even with our chamber orchestras, even with the smallest version of the orchestra that we could present, we couldn’t space people apart.”
The audience is an important consideration, too. “Our audience is typically over the age of 65,” McGuire says. “We thought [if we held concerts] we were putting them at risk.”
She also pointed out the difference between a resident orchestra and a festival orchestra. “You’re bringing in probably 125 artists—orchestra musicians and guest artists,” McGuire says. “They’re coming from all over north America, a couple form Europe. Guest artists, depending on their contract, are either housed with a local host, or they’re in a hotel. Orchestra musicians are mixed between host homes and one apartment complex that houses up to 75 musicians that come and go during the summer.
“The proximity of our housing hosts to people coming in from outside” was definitely a concern she says. “It got to the point that we realized that it just wouldn’t be possible to do [the festival] safely. Not with what we know today, and assuming that not much was going to change between now and the last week of June, so far as vaccines or treatments.”
The timing of the decision and announcement of the cancellation was based largely on one issue: tickets. “It was mostly administrative and how much time did we need to sell this number of tickets” if the festival went ahead, McGuire explained.
“A couple of our marketing contracts were going to come to fruition on May 1. We could have canceled them and then like re-upped them two weeks later if we wanted to have the festival. The contracts with the players didn’t have that kind of timeline.
“We considered all of that in our timing, but the health and safety piece was much more in the forefront. We didn’t think [going ahead with the season] was the right thing to do.”
This year’s cancellation will inevitably affect future programming, but it’s too soon to know how. “There are so many artists that we want to invite back,” McGuire says. “The first thing that’s happening is that we’re trying to re-engage people. It may not work out with everyone’s schedule, because the musicians that we’re bringing in are booked out years in advance. I think you’ll probably see them at some point in the coming years.
“What remains to be seen is what the repertoire will be. There may be some duplications, but not every artist is going to have the same repertoire ready to go next summer. A violinist might have the repertoire under his fingers this summer, because he’s playing it in a few other places in the world, and then next year is a different story.”
There was one way that McGuire and the CMF staff was ahead of the game when the Coronavirus struck: They were already moving to do more work from home. “We have our network set up to offer remote access to our shared files,” she says.
“Our office space is limited, and we have a couple of people who share desk space. A lot of people were able to focus on certain kinds of tasks at home, and so we had already adopted a modern philosophy on work hours. We think about productivity and result. We have a lot of conversations, so on the virtual work front we were prepared.”
The other side of the CMF organization is the Center for Musical Arts, the music school in Lafayette that merged with the festival several years ago. Coincidentally, they had already started offering online lessons.
“We had people who wanted makeup lessons—parents like me. My child was available for a lesson, but I couldn’t get him there physically. I wanted to be able to offer people the option to have an online makeup lesson We did not see [the pandemic] coming, of course, but we responded quickly.”
McGuire has one more thing she wants to say. Many of the CMF patrons who already bought tickets for the 2020 festival have willingly donated the value of their tickets back to the CMF musician fund. While not everyone can afford to make that donation, McGuire is grateful to those who can.
“Our festival musicians and some of our season staff have been hit very, very hard,” she says. “I appreciate that people are, to the extent that they are capable, willing to donate back their tickets for the musician fund.
“I would just say how much I appreciate their thoughtfulness.”
COMING NEXT: Pelham (Pat) Pearce on the cancellation of the Central City Opera season.
Schedule includes films, a virtual symposium, performances
By Peter Alexander May 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Colorado MahlerFest has announced a virtual festival to run May 13–17, with many of the online offerings available beyond those dates.
The online festival was modeled on the original plans for MahlerFest XXXIII, which would have taken place in Boulder over those same dates. Those plans had to be canceled early in April due to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.
Like the planned live MahlerFest XXXIII, the virtual festival will culminate with a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, in this case on video.
The full schedule for the virtual festival, available here, includes performances, films, a virtual symposium and an art gallery, among other offerings. These will be made available at the MahlerFest online page, and will be released at 3:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time each day.
In a release issued May 5, MahlerFest artistic director Kenneth Woods is quoted saying, “Canceling this year’s festival was a particularly painful step. We had worked all year to put together what we felt was the most dynamic and ambitious program the festival has ever delivered. Reinterpreting those plans into something we could present online was a new challenge. We are proud of what we have assembled and excited to share it.”
Among the highlights of the online festival will be a message from former Governor John Hickenlooper; a film made for the virtual festival by Gavin Plumley, showing why Mahler is a good composer for life under quarantine; CU distinguished professor and Helen and Peter Weil faculty fellow David Korevaar performing Schubert from his home; interviews and podcasts with musicians who were scheduled to be part of the festival; and other related events.
Previously announced schedule for 2020 will be presented next summer
By Peter Alexander May 4 at 10:25 a.m.
In a release sent out this morning, Central City Opera announced that its planned summer 2020 season has been postponed to next year.
This year’s schedule was to have featured Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, Verdi’s Rigoletto and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. All three will be presented in the summer of 2021.
In the message sent out this morning, Central City Opera general/artistic director Pelham “Pat” Pearce is quoted as saying “This news is extremely disappointing, but the decision is in the best interest of our audience, artists, staff and the community. The COVID-19 crisis is drastically impacting the livelihoods of hundreds of performers, musicians and technicians who bring stories to life on our historic Opera House stage.
“We are heartbroken audiences won’t experience their work this summer.”
Current ticket holders have the option to donate the cost of their ticket back to Central City Opera’s newly established COVID-19 Relief Fund, which will support the organization’s commitment to pay all of its 2020 Festival artists and staff a portion of their contracts and assist CCO during this unprecedented time.
Donations will be matched up to $100,000 by Carousel performance sponsors and long-time CCO supporters Pam and Dutch Bansbach. Additional matching support will be provided by the Central City Opera Board of Directors. Full refunds and transfer of tickets to 2021 are also available to patrons.
The next festival will be in 2021
By Peter Alexander April 8 at 12:10 p.m.
Colorado MahlerFest has announced the cancellation of this year’ festival events. The next MahlerFest will be held May 16–23 of 2021.
This year’s festival would have been the 33rd annual MahlerFest. The planned program, scheduled May 9–17, included a performance of Mahler Symphony No. 2, as well as Act One of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre and Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, among other works.
Instead, MahlerFest will present a selection of online content during what would have been this year’s festival week. Information on ticket refunds may be found on the MahlerFest Web page.
A release from MahlerFest included this statement from artistic director Kenneth Woods:
Cancelling this year’s festival was a particularly painful step. We had worked all year to put together what we all felt was the most dynamic and ambitious program the festival has ever delivered. MahlerFest, and the sense of fellowship and discovery it brings, has come to be one of the cornerstones of my professional life, and I shall miss all our musicians and our passionate and engaged audiences this year.
Plans for next year’s festival include a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. MahlerFest will return to the program planned for this year for the 2022 festival, including the Second Symphony and Act One of Die Walküre.
CU faculty member will stream all 32 Sonatas
By Peter Alexander March 27 at 2:40 p.m.
Some people who are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic will binge-watch old TV shows. David Korevaar plays Beethoven.
And he’s sharing it with anyone who wants to listen.
Korevaar, the Helen and Peter Weill Faculty Fellow and a distinguished professor of piano at the CU Boulder College of Music, is planning to play all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas over 60 days. Each will be posted in turn on his YouTube channel.
A great musical legacy from the classical period, the 32 Beethoven sonatas have become one of the most important challenges pianists—and their audiences—can undertake. They cover just about his entire creative career, from the first sonatas, published in 1795, to the very last sonata, published five years before his death in 1827. As such, they document his stylistic development better than any other single genre.
As of Friday, March 27, Korevaar has posted performances of sonatas nos. 1 to 5—Op. 2 no. 1 in F minor, Op. 2 no. 2 in A major, Op. 2 no. 3 in C major, Op. 7 in E-flat major and Op. 10 no. 1 in C minor—with the remaining 27 to follow in order, through Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111.
Playing all the Beethoven sonatas is something that Korevaar had long wanted to do. In a way, the social distancing and self-isolation imposed by the pandemic provided the ideal opportunity. “Artists are finding ways to continue to be artists and for me this seemed like something that I could do at this moment, and share with people,” he says.
“I had been thinking about doing the Beethoven cycle, but I haven’t gotten to the point of really doing it. Here we are, we’re all stuck at home, and so I find myself in this situation of ‘Here is an opportunity to do this project and share it with whoever is interested.’ It’s a gift to myself and a gift to everybody else at the same time.”
One reason for doing all the sonatas one after another is that you can learn from playing or hearing a larger array of Beethoven’s works than from just the greatest hits that are played most often. This provides insight into his revolutionary place in music, Korevaar believes. “With his classic status, we accept Beethoven as normal,” he says. “We’ve normalized him.
“Beethoven, in his time, didn’t represent a norm. He represented something else, he represented something extraordinary. I hope the audience discovers just how wonderful and strange Beethoven is. Beethoven’s a very strange composer, and a very playful composer, and those are things that really come through in these piano sonatas.”
Another point that Korevaar stresses is that Beethoven belonged to the first generation of composers for whom the piano specifically was their natural means of musical expression. Earlier composers—Mozart and Haydn and composers before them—knew a variety of keyboard instruments, harpsichords and clavichords and organs and early pianos.
“Beethoven is the first composer we talk about a lot in music history who was native to the piano,” Korevaar says. And while there are others of the same generation—the Czech composer Jan Ladislav Dussek and the Italian Muzio Clementi for example—they are largely forgotten today. “Dussek and Clementi are perpetually underrated,” Korevaar says. “They have their strengths and charms, but the truth is Beethoven is a much better composer.”
Knowing that context helps the listener understand why Beethoven’s earliest sonatas are so difficult from the very beginning. “There’s a sense of Beethoven saying ‘Look, I can do things on the piano with my two hands that even the best of the other pianists really can’t quite come up to that level’,” Korevaar says.
Korevaar admits that the sound may not be ideal on his made-from-home recordings. “Resources are limited, and the bandwidth is limited—just the quality of video that one can post off a home internet connection,” he says. “I’m recording QuickTime videos using my laptop camera and external mic. That’s all I’m doing.
“I’ve giving myself multiple shots at these things. With the few that I posted so far, I recorded them twice and then chose the one I like better. If it’s not good I’m not going to put it up. Hopefully people agree that they’re OK.”
In the end, it’s not so important to Korevaar whether a large number of people listen to his performances. “If there are people who are interested, it’s great,” he says. “And if there aren’t, I will still have done it and learned something from the process.”
Executive Director Elizabeth McGuire: No changes yet
By Peter Alexander March 16 a 3:15 p.m.
Elizabeth McGuire, executive director of the Colorado Music Festival, issued a statement today (March 16, 2020) concerting the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the world. The bottom line: nothing for the summer of 2020 has been canceled—yet.
Here is McGuire’s statement in its entirety:
I am deeply saddened to witness the impact of the coronavirus on many of our own Festival musicians and peer institutions throughout the world, yet heartened to see so many individuals offering support to those impacted. Like me, many of you have undoubtedly made the decision to donate your ticket refunds. On behalf of the industry, I thank you for your kindness and consideration.
The Colorado Music Festival 2020 season is scheduled to open on June 25, over three months away. We are not making any changes to our planned program at this time, but the Board of Directors and I are paying close attention to the situation and standing by to make appropriate decisions if and when necessary. The health and well-being of our patrons, staff, musicians, and community is of primary importance to us.
My sincere hope is that our Festival can serve as a much-needed respite from this large-scale social and cultural void, in which case we will celebrate our time together even more. In the meantime, I will keep you updated about any changes.
We will send updates via email, though you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram or bookmark this page on our website. For any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Helpful guides from WKAR public radio at Michigan State University
By Peter Alexander March 14 at 11:45 a.m.
Readers of this page are referred to a very helpful list of live-streamed, and archived streaming performances that has been posted by Michigan State University Public Radio station WKAR. You can find this helpful list here.
The musical riches from the Metropolitan Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall are remarkable, and in addition there are many live performances from around the world that you can enjoy from home.