Small world

It was over four years ago that I wrote about my choral doppelgänger (aka doppelsänger), Scott Allen Jarrett, who directs the Back Bay Chorale among other musical responsibilities in Boston. In the meantime I’ve never actually met him. Until last night, when I was introduced to him by a fellow TFC member in Lenox.

The introduction, coming as it did after a marathon day of rehearsals that ended at 10:30, was an unexpected capper to the evening. Until I realized that on the other side of the restaurant were the guys from Chanticleer, whose performance I had been unable to attend because of the aforementioned rehearsals.

So, a red-letter evening: a successful (ultimately) series of rehearsals for Onegin, a great dinner when by all rights all kitchens in town ought to have been closed, finally made the connection with Scott, and got to greet the guys from Chanticleer. At this point, the only thing left is for me to bump into David Weinberger, who’s spending time out this way this summer, and the nexus of coincidences would be complete.

The gloaming


So here I am back in Lenox. It’s beautiful but ominous skies and a day of Russian ahead; our residency for Tschaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin has begun.

I’m currently flashing back to my one encounter with the language, a class in 1986, and am very grateful that I was exposed to the soft consonants ahead of time. Some of our Boston-bred palates are having real difficulty with the vowel sounds, though you can’t tell en masse, thank goodness.

It’s always a crapshoot, the lodging that our fair parent organization provides. Usually it’s just fine, but tonight my roommate isn’t here, they almost mixed up my room with a bunch of sopranos next door, and I had to manually configure my IP address so that I could get on the motel wireless. But I’m on now. (And it’s a good thing I’m not doing demos anymore; it’s slow, slow, slow.)

Mahler 2nd with Haitink, from afar

I wasn’t at Tanglewood this weekend, though I would have liked to be. You never get too many shots at Mahler’s Second, and the repertoire that I heard for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus’s Prelude concert was superb.

I’ve only seen two reviews so far, both of which make me even sorrier I wasn’t there. The first was the review in the Daily Gazette (Schenectady, NY), which gives the TFC a nice callout for Prelude, calling the chorus “so good by now that it can show off early in the summer. It opened the weekend with a virtuosic Prelude program Friday — all 20th-century, all appealing…”

The Gazette (which has had good coverage of the festival so far this year) also had nice things to say about the Mahler, as did the Berkshire Eagle, which wrote, “John Oliver’s festival chorus was made to sing music like this. The magical first entrance of the chorus, embracing resurrection, came through in an awed hush. When the roof blew off in the ending, the large audience, deprived of opportunities for applause between linked movements, erupted.”

(I wrote about my experience singing the piece under Seiji in 2006.)

A farewell to Troyens

I leave Berlioz’s massive magnum opus, which we gave our final Tanglewood performance this weekend, with reluctance. It’s such a tremendous work, full of enormous dimensions of art, drama, mythology, and humanity.

As I bid my farewell (aside from the reviews, which are rolling in and will show up in my daily links), a few thoughts about the work and our performances:

I previously called the opera a beast, but this description is, strictly speaking, only applicable to the first half (the capture of Troy). The first act plays the ill-fated celebration of the Trojans against Cassandra’s foreknowledge of the city’s doom, and the music continuously underscores the comparison–slashing punctuation from the orchestra under sunny arias, rising chromatic chords under the chorus’s premature victory march–until the terrible truth of the horse is revealed. The second half is a love tragedy, and has a broader palette on which to play out its psychodrama.

The whole first half hinges on the characterization of Cassandra. The soloist must strike a balance between portraying her fear and anguish and her love for Chorebus. In our Symphony Hall performances, Yvonne Naef gave a magnificently dramatic reading of the prophecy but was less convincing in convincing the audience that the love of Dwayne Croft’s Chorebus was more than a distraction. Anna Caterina Antonacci’s Cassandra was more equally passionate in both sides of the role, and her performance lent a warmer color to the love duet that deepened the calamity of the fall.

Berlioz may have intended the work to be performed in a single monumental evening, but there are so many parallels between the first and second halves of the work that the opera’s division works well in concert. There are repeated themes and motifs–the Trojan March is the most obvious example, but a more subtle and chilling parallel can be found in the descending chromatic scale sung by the Ghost of Hector in Part I and by Dido as she contemplates her suicide in Act II, as well as the muted French horns and piccolos denote the appearances of ghosts throughout the entire work.

The thing, then, with Les Troyens is that it more than adequately repays the listener for working through all its complexities (and in fact its sheer bulk). I hope I have an occasion to see it again in my lifetime. I would sing it again in an instant.

Lenox rhythms

lenox ma downtownIt can be really beautiful out here in the summertime before the crowds come. That’s what yesterday was like. While the chorus and symphony were here, there weren’t any concerts going on, just rehearsals, and the only people about were a few symphony families and one or two odd visitors who wanted to get a preview of the weekend’s concerts.

Not only the grounds at Tanglewood were quiet (as you can tell from yesterday’s photos) but so was downtown Lenox (as you can tell from this shot). There were no crowds, it was easy to get a parking space even at lunchtime, and it was generally nice and quiet.

That changes tonight when James Taylor rolls into the Shed for a two night residency.

Already this morning Lenox was a mess. Tourists asking three or four times whether the local businesses took credit cards, parking and pedestrian hassles, long lines at the coffee shop. None of the wi-fi hotspots in town are actually functioning due to the large presence of freeloaders. It’s all kinds of fun, really.

The shop owners are looking a little wild eyed as the crowds come and they prepare to make some serious money. The guy at the bagel shop says, “I wish it were Monday already and I survived this weekend.”

We’ve got rehearsal this afternoon on grounds–it’s going to be a mess. But that’s the rhythm of Tanglewood. There’s always a different flood of people to share the town with.

Heading for Tanglewood

It’s always hard to get on the road for a bunch of days away from the family; this time I have the compensation of what’s on the other end of the road. It’s time for the Tanglewood season opener, where the BSO and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus will reprise this spring’s performance of Berlioz’s magnificent Les Troyens in its sprawling entirety. Should be a fun time, and there are already signs that the BSO front office is having fun with the production. Witness: the 10-foot-tall Trojan Horse (no doubt stuffed with a pair of ninjas) that will grace the opening night gala. Now all we need is someone to play the role of Cassandra and predict great doom should the caterers wheel it into the tent.