Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Music and Mozart

Already June... 2010 is almost halfway over--and it seems like it just recently began...

Today's post is about Mozart's Clarinet Concerto (as promised), Emmeline at Cinnabar Theater, and my upcoming concert with the Vinaccesi Ensemble--part of BFX 10.

First, I heard a beautiful, precise rendition of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto a few weeks ago--performed by Kent Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony's Akademie performers--along with some spectacular singing by soprano Christine Brandes--the first time I've heard her live, although I have been hearing wonderful things about her for quite some time. The clarinetist of the Mozart and composer of the piece Brandes sang were one and the same, the gifted musician Joerg Widmann. A sparkling evening that included (as noted in my last post), one of my favorite pieces in the concerto literature.

More recently, I went to opening night of Cinnabar Theater's West Coast premiere of Emmeline, by Tobias Picker. Based on Judith Rossner's loose retelling of a real story, Emmeline is a dark tragedy that has opera written all over it... Picker wrote the piece for Santa Fe (where it was premiered in 1996, with Patricia Racette in the lead role); he was on hand for a fasinating Q&A session after Cinnabar's opening night, rounding out a great evening.

Plot summary: Set in a Puritan pre-Civil War New England, the piece mines a granite-like New England ethos to retell the Oedipus tale from Jocasta's point of view. Unbeknownst to the eponymous heroine, the man she falls in love with and marries as an adult spinster--after having gotten pregnant while barely a teenager and giving her baby up for adoption without ever having seen him once he is born (she lives for roughly 20 years thinking she had a girl child)--turns out to be her own son. In the aftermath of this revelation, she spends the rest of her life shunned by her community.

In today's world, Emmeline's seduction by the factory owner's roving son-in-law and her subsequent pregnancy might well have caused lurid headlines, TV talk-show appearances, a book deal, a sexual harassment suit, and an investigation for child-labor. Instead, in an earlier environment that was much harsher towards its young women, Emmeline was shuttled off to have her child in private.

Seduction, deceit, lies, tragedy due to a lack of direct communication: it's a tailor-made tale for opera.

Carrie Hennessey sang the title role, embodying Emmeline beautifully and the rest of the cast (Cary Ann Rosko; Melody Caspari; Kimberly Anderman; Robert Stafford; Brian Rosen, Eileen Morris; Will Hart Meyers, and others) supported her with marvelous characterizations. Nina Shumann's chamber orchestra played the reduced score with verve, as always.

The regular disclaimer moment: a large number of the singers as well as musicians in both of the previous two performances are friends and/ or acquaintance.

More on BFX shortly. All this blogging takes my breath away!
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