Pro Musica’s ‘Heart of Hungary’ puts the spotlight on a world premiere

New Violin Concerto by Jeff Nytch will feature Edward Dusinberre as soloist

By Peter Alexander April 13 at 5:20 p.m.

Some stories just have to be told.

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Jeff Nytch. Courtesy of CU Photo Archive.

That is what composer Jeffrey Nytch thought when he heard about Sandor Feher, a violinist on the cruise ship Costa Concordia who died going back to retrieve his violin when the ship sank off the coast of Italy in 2012. “I heard this story and I was just incredibly moved by it,” Nytch says. “I felt that I had to respond to it in a musical way.”

The world premiere Nytch’s musical response, his Violin Concerto: Costa Concordia, will be presented by violinist Edward Dusinberre with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and conductor Cynthia Katsarelis. Performances will be Friday (April 13) in Cherry Hills Village and Saturday (April 14) in Boulder.

Pro Musica will also perform Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings both nights.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With Edward Dusinberre, violin

Jeffrey Nytch: Violin Concerto:Costa Concordia(World Premiere)
Béla Bartók: Divertimento for String Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13
Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Avenue,Cherry Hills Village
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14
Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder

Tickets

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Pops series, soloists and women composers highlight ‘18–19 Boulder Phil season

“Open Space” season opens with Star Wars and ends with “Space Oddity”

By Peter Alexander April 6 at 6 a.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic is booming.

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Conductor Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

That is one of the messages of the 2018–19 season, titled “Open Space,” which the orchestra is announcing today. There will be a new series of three pops concerts over the course of the season, which will run from Sept. 29 to May 5—longer than in past years. (See the entire season below.)

The additional series means more performances—six Main Series concerts, three Pops Series concerts, plus the annual Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet in November. And more performances means an expanding budget—a sign of the Phil’s success.

“It’s a modest expansion of what we’ve done in the past, and it reflects our desire to serve the community in a somewhat more expansive way,” Katie Lehman, the orchestra’s executive director, says.

pixarinconcert_previewThe concerts of the Pops Series will be “A Tribute to John Williams” on Sept. 29, with music from some of Williams’ most popular film scores; “Pixar in Concert,” an event with family appeal featuring music from some of Pixar Animation Studio’s films including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and others; and “The Music of David Bowie with the Boulder Phil,” an event presented by Windborne Productions featuring singer Tony Vincent that will be a combination rock concert and orchestra performance.

The pops series is not the only newsworthy part of the season. The roster of soloists will include two genuine classical superstars, starting in November with violinist Midori, who has chosen the Phil as a recipient of her Orchestra Residency Program grant. She will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Phil Nov. 4, and perform with the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras (GBYO) the following day.

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Midori. Photo by Timothy Greenfield Sanders.

While in Boulder Midori will present master classes and participate in neighborhood outreach activities, school events, civic presentations, and the Boulder Phil’s annual gala Nov. 3. The Nov. 5 concert by the GBYO will include the world premiere of a work for violin and string orchestra by CU assoc. prof. of composition Daniel Kellogg.

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson will return to Boulder for the first time in many years to perform Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto with the Phil on Jan. 19. Ohlsson, who rose to fame when he won the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, played at the Colorado Music Festival several times in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Other soloists during the season will be soprano Mary Wilson, singing Samuel Barber’s nostalgic Knoxville, Summer of 1915 and Mahler’s elegiac Fourth Symphony with the orchestra Feb. 9; and cellist Astrid Schween of the Juilliard String Quartet and the Juilliard School faculty, performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto March 2.

amadeus-webThe main series will conclude with a collaboration with the CU Department of Theatre and Dance, with the orchestra playing onstage during a performance of Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus April 27. While the Phil has done performances with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in the past, this will be the first theatrical collaboration in several years.

Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s music director, explains that the performance will include virtually the entire play, with extended musical interludes. “The play indicates places where music is to be played,” he says. “At the beginnings and ends of the two acts we have more extended pieces, so it becomes about 50-50 in terms of play and concert.”

New for the 2018–­19 season will be the Encore Concert, a community engagement event that gives amateur musicians the opportunity to play side by side with members of the Boulder Phil. The performance will be Sunday, Sept. 30, in Macky Auditorium. (The full schedule of activities will be announced later.)

Kristin Kuster_preview

Boulder native Kristin Kuster

The season will notably include five pieces by living composers, three of them women: Circuits by Cindy McTee and Celestial Suite by James Stephenson Oct. 13 and 14; Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds by Tan Dun Nov. 4; Starburst by Jessie Montgomery Feb. 9; and Dune Acres by Boulder native Kristin Kuster March 2.

The number of women composers is particularly noteworthy. The world of classical music has been heavily criticized for the male-dominated repertoire in the year of #MeToo and #Time’sUp. Specifically, the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra together had a total of zero women composers—in seasons far longer than that of the Boulder Phil—and the New York Philharmonic included only one. (One of many articles on this issue can be seen here.)

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Michael Butterman

Butterman identified a couple of other “subthemes” to the season. “There’s some substantial stuff for the orchestra to dig into,” he said, speaking of large orchestral works that will appeal to the traditional classical audience. These include Holst’s Planets Oct. 13 and 14; Brahms Third Symphony Nov. 4; Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony Jan. 19 and 20; and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony Feb. 9.

The world of technology shows up in various ways, including McTee’s Circuits. Tan Dun’s Secret of the Wind and Birds calls for both orchestra and audience to play previously downloaded musical passages on their cell phones—“hopefully in a way that is intentional,” Butterman says. In a similar vein, the pops concert “Pixar in Concert” celebrates the world of computer animation.

The theme of “Open Spaces” continues the Boulder Phil’s history of seasonal themes around the community’s relationship to the outdoors, and it implies the extension of that vision into outer space. Thus, the first program of the season, the pops program on Sept. 29, includes Williams’ music from Star Wars and E.T., and the final program May 5 includes Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

The Main Series opens Oct. 13 and 14 with “Infinite Space,” a concert featuring Stephenson’s Celestial Suite and Holst’s Planets. The rest of the season is sprinkled with pieces that suggest either “Open Spaces” or outer space, including Alexander Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia Jan. 19 and 20; and Montgomery’s Starburst and Mahler’s vision of heaven in the Fourth Symphony, Feb. 9.

But the most significant aspect of the upcoming season is the way recent success has led to an expanded presence for the orchestra. “We have been extremely successful with ticket sales, and we’re ending the year particularly well this year,” Lehman says.

She stresses that the expansion not only gives more choices to the public, it benefits the orchestra’s musicians as well. “We are very interested in building the loyalty of our core orchestra, our most talented, exciting musicians, and to that end we want to be able to offer them more work,” she says. “We want to offer them more projects that they have more input into, because the best orchestra is going to be the one that wants to be on the stage.

“For us, building the loyalty of musicians that we really love to have with us means giving them what they want.”

The bottom line, she says, is responding to what both the musicians and the public want and will respond to: “We are in the process of doing a careful job of listening to our people and our city, and thinking about ways that we can move into the future.”

# # # # #

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra 2018-19 Season-at-a-Glance
Except as noted all concerts are in Macky Auditorium on the CU campus.

 

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John Williams

A Tribute to John Williams—Pops Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Program includes music from Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Schindler’s List
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29

Encore Concert (Community Side-by-Side)­­
Michael Butterman and members of the Boulder Philharmonic with amateur musicians.
Sunday, September 30, time TBA

CINDY MCTEE (OP 3) MAR 25, 09

Cindy McTee

Infinite Space­—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Cindy McTee: Circuits
James Stephenson: Celestial Suite
Gustav Holst: The Planets with women’s chorus
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
2 p.m. Sunday, October 14 (Pinnacle PAC, 1001 W. 84th Avenue, Denver, without video)

Midori Plays Sibelius—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Midori, violin
Tan Dun: Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Brahms: Symphony No. 3
7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71
2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, Saturday, Nov. 24,  and Sunday, Nov. 25
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24

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Garrick Ohlsson. Photo by Dario Acosta

Ohlsson Plays Rachmaninoff—Main Series
Alexander Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1
Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19
2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 (Pinnacle PAC)

The Heavenly Life—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Mary Wilson, soprano
Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
Samuel Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Saturday, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.

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Astrid Schween. Photo by Steve Sherman.

Elgar & Beethoven—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Astrid Schween, cello
Kristin Kuster: Dune Acres
Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2

Pixar in Concert—Pops Series
Gary Lewis, conductor
Program includes music from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23

Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Directed by Bud Coleman, with the CU Department of Theatre & Dance and choir
Music from Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, “Haffner” Symphony, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Gran Partita, Requiem, and more
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27

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Tony Vincent in ‘The Music of David Bowie’

The Music of David Bowie with the Boulder Phil—Pops Series
Brent Havens, conductor, with Tony Vincent, vocalist
David Bowie hits including Space Oddity, Changes, Under Pressure, Heroes, Fame, and China Girl
7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5

Tickets and more information: Five- and six-concert main series packages are on sale now. New subscribers save 50% off single ticket prices. Pops series subscribers receive 10% off three concerts. Click here or call 303-449-1343.

Single tickets go on sale June 4, 2018.

 

Longmont Symphony offers “spectacularly beautiful music”

“Tales from the Sea” features pieces by Mendelssohn, Elgar and Rimsky-Korsakov

By Peter Alexander April 3 at 5:10 p.m.

One of the things Elliot Moore has heard most about since becoming conductor of the Longmont Symphony is the 2013 flood.

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2013 Flood in Longmont (Matthew Jonas/Times-Call)

Moore was first interviewed for the position with the LSO in November of 2016 and he was hired the following spring. The current 2017–18 season is his first with the orchestra.

“I heard over and over that the flood of 2013 was a pivotal moment for Longmont,” he says. “Hearing so many stories about the flood, and how it’s still affecting life today, was the impetus behind this program. Because everyone had a story about the flood, I thought a program around water stories would speak to a Longmont audience.”

Elliot Moore at Lake McIntosh - credit - Photography Maestro (1)

Elliot Moore. Photo by Photography Maestro

The program in question will be performed 7:30 p.m. Saturday (April 7) in Vance Brand Auditorium. There are many pieces of music about water, but Moore decided on two short pieces before intermission, and one longer one after: Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides to open the concert; Sea Pictures by Edward Elgar, with mezzo-soprano Sarah Barber; and filling the second half of the program, Rimsky-Korsakov’s popular Arabian-nights tone-poem, Scheherazade.

The Hebrides are a group of rugged island off the west coast of Scotland. Mendelssohn visited the islands, and a particularly picturesque cave carved from hexagonal columns of basalt known as “Fingal’s Cave” (another name for Mendelssohn’s overture).

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Fingal’s Cave in the Hebrides

“The Hebrides could be described as a postcard that Mendelssohn wrote when he visited the Hebrides,” Moore says. “As an outsider coming into Longmont, all the feelings that people were conveying to me are things that are (in) Mendelssohn’s overture. It’s a nostalgic and lonely piece, but it also includes a communal feeling.”

If Mendelssohn’s overture will be familiar to many in the LSO audience, the same cannot likely be said of Elgar’s Sea Pictures. In fact, it was not well known to Moore before he started preparing for the concert.

“I didn’t know the piece that well when I programmed it,” he admits. “So it’s been a real opportunity for me to get to know the music, and I have fallen in love with this piece. On the program, this is the piece I’m most looking forward to conducting.”

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Sir Edward Elgar at the beach

The Sea Pictures are five short movements, settings for mezzo and orchestra of five different poems by five different poets. “The water represents many things in Sea Pictures,” Moore says.

“It can represent the passage of time, and the feelings and the dangers for people when they’re around water. The third song is about a ship, and it’s a metaphor. The ship is essentially a congregation, and how we relate with other people and survive the challenging moments in our lives.

“It is spectacularly beautiful music that is rarely performed. I’m excited we’re bringing it here.”

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Mezzo Sarah Barber

Barber is a graduate of CU Boulder who has performed extensively in the front range area. She has sung with the Eklund Opera at CU, at Central City Opera, Opera Ft. Collins, the Colorado Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and the Black Hills Symphony, among others. Twice a regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera Guild Competition, she has won other awards in college and professionally.

While the first half of the concert expresses feelings Moore encountered when people talked about the flood—feelings of danger, of uncertainty, of loss—the music of the second half is more exotic and less exclusively about water. Scheherazade is based on the 1001 Nights, in which a young bride keeps herself alive by telling ever more gripping tales to her bloodthirsty husband.

R-3804352-1374178228-1240The piece has four scenes that Rimsky describes in brilliant music that conveys a mood without being too literally programmatic. The first and last scenes are related to water and the sea. The movements are: ”The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship”; “The Kalandar Prince”; “The Young Prince and the Young Princess”; and “Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship breaks apart against a Cliff surmounted by a Bronze Horseman.”

There is one aspect of the story behind the music that Moore wants the audience to notice. “Over the course of the symphonic work, in many ways it becomes more critical that she tell a great story,” he says. “She’s coming to the end, and the question is, what will the end be? Will it be death?

“You can hear the voice of Scheherazade, which is the violin playing, as it becomes more and more urgent. And the sultan is so dying to know the end that he’s completely wrapped up in this story. So throughout the course of the work there is an evolution of the characters.”

You should also listen to the soloists within the orchestra, because Scheherazade is one of the great orchestra showpieces of the 19th century. “There are a lot of solos, and one of the things that I like about it is that it features all the principal winds—it’s very virtuosic for so many players of the orchestra,” Moore says. “And of course, there’s the violin and there’s the harp as well!

“It’s quite a virtuosic piece for the orchestra.”

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“Tales from the Sea”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Sarah Barber, mezzo-soprano

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Elliot Moore with the Longmont Symphony

Mendelssohn: The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave)
Elgar: Sea Pictures
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

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

Tickets

 

 

 

 

CU Presents Artists Series 2018–19 features Venice Baroque, Sarah Chang, Tafelmusik

Dates announced for Takács Quartet, Eklund Opera performances, other events

By Peter Alexander April 1 at 11:40 p.m.

CU Presents has announced its 2018–19 season of music, dance and theater, including significant classical music performances by guest artists and CU organizations.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra

The return of the Venice Baroque Orchestra to Macky Auditorium  will lead off the schedule of classical guest artists Nov. 2. Violinist Sarah Chang will present a solo recital Nov. 16, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto-based historical-performance group, will present “The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House” March 4.

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Sarah Chang. Photo by Colin Bell for EMI

There is also good news for those interested in world music. The Silkroad Ensemble, founded 20 years ago by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, will perform in Macky Jan. 31, and the remarkable Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo is scheduled for Feb. 16.

Boulder audiences have long relished the world-renowned Takács Quartet. With new second violinist Harumi Rhodes, they will present two performances each of five programs September through April. The Carpe Diem Quartet, featuring CU assistant prof. and Boulder Philharmonic concertmaster Charles Wetherbee as first violinist, will appear on another pair of concerts on the Takács series in November.

Finally, the Eklund opera program will feature two Macky Auditorium productions—a work celebrating the Leonard Bernstein centennial Oct. 26–28, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin March 15–17—and Benjamin Britten’s setting of Henry James’s creepy ghost story Turn of the Screw in the Imig Music Building Music Theatre April 25–28.

The full listing of classical music events is below. Season ticket sales begin at 10 a.m. Monday, April 2, and single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 20. A listing of all CU Presents events, including theater and dance, popular attractions, and Holiday performances, can be found at the CU Presents Web page.

Tickets are available here,  or by phone at 303-942-8008.

# # # # #

CU Presents Classical Guest Artists 2018–19
Performances in Macky Auditorium

Venice Baroque Orchestra
With Anna Fusek, recorder
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2

Sarah Chang, violin
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16

Tafelmusik
“The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House”
7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4

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Tafelmusik. Photo by Sian Richards.

Takács Quartet
Sundays sold out by subscription; Mondays have limited availability
All performances in Grusin Music Hall

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept 24

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29

Sunday, Nov. 25, 4 p.m. (featuring the Carpe Diem String Quartet)
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26 (featuring the Carpe Diem String Quartet)

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13
7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14

4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10,
7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11

4 p.m. Sunday, April 28
7:30 p.m. Monday, April 29

Eklund Opera Program

Title TBA*
Music by Leonard Bernstein
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium
*Due to contractual obligations, the title of this production will not be announced until May 1, 2018

Eugene Onegin
By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16
2 p.m. Sunday, March 17
Macky Auditorium

The Turn of the Screw
By Benjamin Britten
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25; Friday, April 26; and Saturday, April 27
2 p.m. Sunday, April 28
Music Theatre, Imig Music Building

World Music Events

Silkroad Ensemble
7:30 p.m.. Thursday, Jan. 31
Macky Auditorium

Kodo
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Macky Auditorium

Boulder Phil collaborates with Cleo Parker Robinson for ‘Lark Ascending’

Emerging superstar violinist Stefan Jackiw plays Prokofiev on the same program

By Peter Alexander May 1 at 5:50 p.m.

“The idea of connecting orchestral music with other art forms has been very much on my mind.”

That statement from Michael Butterman, conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic, is clearly reflected in the orchestra’s recent seasons. Concerts have included projected visual images, and there have been collaborations with Boulder Ballet, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance and Central City Opera.

 

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Dancers from the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Now you can add Denver’s Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble to the list, with Robinson’s original choreography for Vaughan Williams’s Lark-Ascending for Saturday’s concert (April 7). The performance will feature the orchestra’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee, playing the solo violin part, with the dancers arrayed on the front of the stage.

Two other works will complete the concert program: Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5, and the emerging superstar violinist Stefan Jackiw playing Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto.

The collaboration with Robinson is one that Butterman has been planning for some time. “I wanted to work with Cleo’s company since I first came to Boulder,” he says. “It was just a question of (finding) something that would be a good fit for them and for us.”

The Lark Ascending came to mind as a suitable piece. “I thought it was a captivating piece of music, and it certainly has a sensibility that invited storytelling and choreography,” Butterman says. “So I approached Cleo about coming up with her own approach to this.”

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Cleo Parker Robinson

Robinson loves the celebrated choreography that Alvin Ailey created for the piece, but she had no trouble finding her own interpretation. She was inspired in part by the writing of Maya Angelou, she says: “As soon as I began to hear the music and think about the theme, (I remembered that) she wrote ‘I know why the caged bird sings.’

“I had seen choreography with the lark being female, but I shifted it, (because) we’re seeing so many young people incarcerated. Usually it’s young Black men, brown men, and those without resources. I was overwhelmed with this.”

Robinson visualized a piece that was universal at the same time that it portrays an unjustly imprisoned Black man. “Who do people listen to once they are in such a dark place?” she asks. Her answer involves a quartet of dancers: the prisoner and three women.

“We have the mother coming to him as a voice of compassion,” she explains. “Then his sister comes to him as a voice of hope. And the woman that he loves comes to him as a voice of love, sharing that she carries his child. Their child, if nothing else, (gives him) a purpose to live.”

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Michael Butterman. Photo:  Jiah Kyun

The Fifth will be the first Sibelius symphony that Butterman has performed with the Phil. “It seems like time to do one,” he says. “If you’re doing the Fifth you naturally think of the association of the last movement with swans. Sibelius wrote about being on the edge of a lake when an assemblage of swans flew overhead. He wanted to somehow capture that moment in the last movement.”

That beautiful tune he wrote to represent the flight of swans has made the symphony popular, but in other ways, Butterman says, Sibelius can be difficult for performers and audience both. “Many composers present a theme in its fully formed state, take it apart in what we would call the development section, then put it back together,” he says. “We don’t have that overview in most of Sibelius.

“His approach is to present a series of ideas, not apparently related, over the course of a movement or an entire symphony. He begins to put the pieces together, and we then see the big picture toward the end. It’s like uncovering puzzle pieces or little glimpses of an idea, maybe excavating something and over time you’re able to reveal the treasure underneath.”

Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto was written around the same time as the composer’s popular ballet Romeo and Juliet, and on the surface it has some of the same lyrical, accessible qualities as the ballet. Jackiw, however, hears darker elements below the surface.

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Violinist Stefan Jackiw

“There are certainly lyrical moments, like the second theme of the first movement,” he says. “And the second movement is one of the most beautiful things Prokofiev ever wrote. But I wouldn’t say that the piece on the whole is genial. I think actually there’s a lot of menace and nihilism as well.”

Jackiw points particularly to the opening theme for solo violin, which is flowing and lyrical but written in a five-beat pattern, and to the following orchestral entrance, which is tonally disorienting. These together, he says, “contribute to a sense of un-moored-ness and ungrounded-ness and discomfort. There’s a lot of this eerie quality in the first movement.

“The third movement also has the sense of throwing the performers and the listeners off kilter. It starts as a wild dance, and the road of the piece is a descent into madness. So while there are sweet moments, there’s a lot of demonic chaos.”

But the combination of sweetness and chaos, Jackiw believes, is what makes the concerto worthwhile. “A lot of this piece is about the dramatic tension between darkness and light, despair and hope,” he says.

“Listening out for that dramatic tension and seeing how that arc travels throughout the piece—that’s really what this is about, and a big part of what makes this piece special.”

# # # # #

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Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

“A Song for Swans”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
With Charles Wetherbee, violin, and the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
With Stefan Jackiw, violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

Boulder Chamber Orchestra returns to Mozart’s Requiem with Boulder Chorale

Performance will be more transparent than before—and ‘happier’

By Peter Alexander March 29 at 10:15 p.m.

bconew_1Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra are returning to old territory and making new discoveries.

Friday and Saturday(March 30–31) Saless and the BCO are performing the Mozart Requiem, which they first performed in 2011. But there will be a number of differences from that earlier performance: then they performed with Ars Nova singers, now they will perform with the Boulder Chorale Chamber Choir under Vicki Burrichter. Then they had about 50 singers, now they will have 40 singers and a smaller orchestra.

Then Saless left the choral preparation and the coaching of the soloists entirely to Ars Nova’s conductor, Thomas Edward Morgan; now he is taking a larger role in both. And, he says, he performance will be more transparent and more polished.

He almost makes it sound like a different piece. But it’s not the piece that has changed; it’s Saless, who admits to having been intimidated by the work the first time.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Mozart: Requiem
Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chorale
Bahman Saless, conductor
With Ekaterina Kotcherguina, soprano; Clea Huston, mezzo-soprano; James Baumgardner, tenor; and Malcolm Ulbrick, bass

7:30p.m. Friday, March 30, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
8 p.m. Saturday, March 31, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Boulder

Tickets

 

Boulder Opera’s ‘Così fan tutte’ is baptism by fire for director Ron Ben-Joseph

Production set in the 1960s aims to be relevant to the women’s movement

By Peter Alexander March 22 at 9:00 p.m.

Opera is a world of its own. Singers and conductors have their own inside language, they have traditions that seem arcane to outsiders, and they know the works intimately.

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Ron Ben-Joseph, stage director of Così fan tutte. Photo courtesy of Big Fish Talent.

Stepping into that world from outside can be intimidating, but that’s the position stage director Ron Ben-Joseph finds himself in. With a background in theater, but not opera, he was engaged to direct this weekend’s performances of Mozart’s Così fan tutte for Boulder Opera (Friday in Longmont, Sunday in Boulder).

Ben-Joseph did bring some skills to the job: As a singer he can read music and follow the score, and he has worked in musical theater. He has taken voice lessons from Dianela Acosta, the artistic director of Boulder Opera and one of the singers in the cast, and in turn he has helped coach her acting in arias that she has learned. But even with that background, it’s not easy to dive into directing an entire opera.

How is he handling this baptism by fire? “I’m learning, I’m learning,” he says.

“One of the first things I did (was) research where theater directors that jump into opera mess up. I do not want to make those mistakes! So I plunged into music theory and the history of opera, and I tried to watch two or three operas a week. I tried to get the sense, the style, just to be respectful and not come in there and go ‘Oh, I know what to do!’

“I didn’t want to be that guy.”

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Dianela Acosta, Boulder opera artistic director Dorabella) and Josh DeVane (Guglielmo) in Così fan tutte. Photo courtesy of  Boulder Opera.

The task was not made easier by the fact that Così is a difficult opera to get right. The plot is artificial and frankly unbelievable on the surface, but at the same time it deals with very basic and deep human emotions that are powerfully expressed in the music. The cast and director have to reconcile these two elements, relishing the humor and silliness of the onstage action without losing the emotional depth of the music.

If you don’t know the opera, it is about two pairs of lovers, two soldiers and a pair of sisters. The men have been bragging extravagantly about their girlfriends’ faithfulness, but a cynical older bachelor, Don Alfonso, challenges them to prove their claims. At Don Alfonso’s direction, the men pretend to march off to war. After leaving the scene, they don disguises and are introduced to the women as foreigners. Each then tries to woo the other’s girlfriend.

Over the course of the opera, the women resist, come to grips with temptation and their own weakness, and ultimately succumb. At the end the rather cruel ruse is revealed. Both men and women realize they have much to forgive. In the traditional ending, the women return to their original partners, but today other ways of ending the story are common as well.

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Michael Hoffman (Ferrando) and Ekaterina Kotcherguina (Fiordiligi) in Così fan tutte. Photo courtesy of Boulder Opera.

“You have two guys who put their girlfriends through torment emotionally, and I think that comes from a very deep insecurity,” Ben-Joseph says. “That was one of the first things I saw. I could judge these guys for being misogynist, but I had a girlfriend once that I was insecure about, so I could kind of see it. Once I saw that personal hook, I really felt for the women, especially with the #MeToo movement.”

With that insight, Ben-Joseph wanted to find a time period that would make the story more relevant today. “This reads to me as if it were set in the late 1960s,” he says. “We’re about to start the female revolution, empowerment and women’s lib. That’s how it started taking shape, and I couldn’t not tell that story, and set it in that world.”

One part of that world was the Viet Nam War, which adds a darker element to the moment when the soldiers seemingly march off to war. Nevertheless, Ben-Joseph aimed to be sensitive to the artwork. “We always stayed true to the libretto, to the score,” he says. “We don’t impose anything. All we’re doing is using a lens for people to view this in a different way.”

Ben-Joseph is extremely complimentary to the performers. “They’re so talented, and they’re doing such a good job of honoring the score and being truthful to it,” he says. “I don’t know that anyone’s going to walk away from this production saying, ‘Oh my goodness! The direction!’ I think they’re going to walk away saying, ‘Those are phenomenal singers! That is a phenomenal orchestra!’

“These performers are starting to have fun and free themselves from feeling structured. You’re seeing real people, and that’s something I’m very proud of. There are a lot of genuine moments that are beautifully acted. That is what I want people to connect with—people that are alive and communicating real emotions in a deep, organic, authentic way.

“That’s what makes it badass.”

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Sarah Parkinson-2119

Music director Sara Parkinson

Mozart: Così fan tutte
Boulder Opera
Sara Parkinson, music director
Ron Ben-Joseph, stage director

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, Stewart Auditorium Longmont
3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder

Tickets