Friday, March 17, 2017

MET OPERA LIVE HD SATURDAY, MARCH 25 12:55PM ET MOZART'S MASTERPIECE IDOMENEO IN MOVIE THEATERS WORLDWIDE

Encore Presentation Wednesday, March 29, 6:30pm local time

Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK--One of the distinct triumphs of the 2016-2017 Metropolitan Opera is the current production of Mozart's masterpiece Idomeneo, which opened March 6 and will be transmitted in movie theaters worldwide, Saturday, March 25 at 12:55pm ET with an Encore Presentation, Wednesday, March 29 at 6:30pm local time. Check local listings of visit metopera.org or fathomevents.com for further details.  The matinee performance transmission will be hosted by the Met's esteemed bass-baritone star Eric Owens, and will be seen in 2,000 movie theaters in 71 countries.

Matthew Polcenzani delivers a spectacular performance in his Met role debut as  Idomeneo, the King of Crete, who has been fighting on the side of the Greeks in the Trojan War.  with Nadine Sierra as Ilia, the captive Trojan princess, in her role debut. Elza van den Heever is  Princess Elettra, the jealousy-driven daughter of Agamemnon, commander of the Greek army, who has taken refuge in Crete after killing her mother, Clytemnestra, in revenge for her father's death. Nadine Sierra is Illia, Idameneo's love interest, and the source of Elettra's growing enmity.

Alice Coote shines in the 'trouser role' as Idomeneo's son Idamante. Alan Opic brings his rich baritone voice and dramatic gravitas to his role as Arbace, Idomeneo's confidant.

The music in Idomeneo is ravishingly beautiful. Michael Polenzani's silver-toned voice and Alice Coote's agile coloratura make for an engaging and satisfying afternoon of great opera. The singing is spectacular.

The opera itself is a difficult one to stage. It is written in the form of opera seria, a static format where the singing is bridged by lengthy recitative. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's imaginative staging, which premiered at the Met in 1982, gives the production some visual depth, that heightens the sense of drama. Revival Stage Director David Kneuss and Lighting Designer Gil Wechsler deserve a considerable amount of credit for the success of this production. The imaginative use of staging, lighting, and great singing are irresistible and make this one of the highlights of the season. All that, with the Met's legendary Music Director James Levine conducting in the orchestra pit, and you have a perfect match.

A giant image of the god Neptune looms in the background over the entire proceeding. Kudos to Met bass-baritone Eric Owens, who also doubles as the Live HD Host, and his booming voice, for a sterling cameo that provides the final dramatic note. Go see it.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

NY PHILHARMONIC CELEBRATES COMPOSER JOHN ADAM'S 70TH BIRTHDAY WITH HIS ABSOLUTE JEST AND HARMONIELEHRE

COMPOSER TAKES STAGE TO GIVE AUDIENCE A NEAR 'MASTER CLASS' IN HIS CREATIVE PROCESS

by Dwight  Casimere

 Composer John Adams (center, in glasses) with the NY Philharmonic and NY Philharmonic Strings
(Below) conducting the NY Philharmonic on the occasion of his 70th birthday/Dwight Casimere photo
 John Adams addressing the Philharmonic audience and (below) in rehearsal (Getty Images)

NEW YORK--Composer John Adams gave a virtual Master Class at the New York Philharmonic's recent regular subscription program of his Absolute Jest for String Quartet and Orchestra, which featured the New York Philharmonic String Quartet, comprised of four Principal musicians from the Orchestra, in their orchestra debut as a solo ensemble. He opened the concert by taking center stage to make remarks before Music Director Alan Gilbert conducted the performance, which marked the work's Philharmonic premiere.

"This is coming full circle for me," the composer began. "I can recall playing clarinet in a concert marking the 70th birthday of my favorite composer, Aaron Copland. Now its my own turn to have my compositions presented by this great orchestra which is celebrating my 70th birthday this season."

The composer went on to explain how the work, Absolute Jest. is a takeoff on the later string quartets composed by Beethoven. He then had the New York Philharmonic String Quartet play excerpts from  the Beethoven, and spoke of the parallels between the two. "What we hear in the Beethoven is the element of emphasis, which was new at the time. I took that emphasis and filtered it through the 'black box' of my own modernist, minimalist compositional style and arrived at Absolute Jest. I'll let you rock out on the New York Philharmonic playing it," he joked to the audience.

What followed was a dramatic, cacophonous piece of music with a continuous, pulsing percussion, and a series of bouncing lines from the string quartet, that Adams characterized as "lie a rabbit, or a hare, leap with great alacrity." The piece contains a number of musical 'jokes' and humorous, melodic winks to the works of Beethoven and others. Its a delight to the ears and one which commands the listeners attention from beginning to end. There are no dull moments, not even in the brief blow movement, which is layered with textures of sound and melody from both the orchestra and the string quartet.

Harmonielehre is a similarly orchestrally complex and interesting piece of music, with added dynamics from a specially tuned piano, two harps, cowbells, xylophone, chimes, sizzle cymbals, celeste, crash cymbals, tam-tams and celeste. Its a parody of a piece that with explosive energy and bright tonal colors. The overall impact is satisfying on so many levels and made for one of the most vibrant concerts of the current season.


Friday, March 10, 2017

MET LIVE HD VERDI'S LA TRAVIATA SATURDAY, MARCH 11 12:55PM EASTERN

MORE THAN 2,000 MOVIE THEATERS IN 71 COUNTRIES TO TRANSMIT VERDI'S CLASSIC

by Dwight Casimere
Photos courtesy Metropolitan Opera


One of the world's most popular operas will be transmitted live in select movie theaters around the globe.  Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata will be transmitted live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturday, March 11 at 12:55pm with an Encore Performance in theaters Wednesday, March 15 at 6:30pm local time. The opera is sung in Italian with English subtitles. Visit metopera.org or fathomevents.com for theater locations and tickets.
Starring Met soprana Sonya Yoncheva, reprising her hit role as Violetta, the doomed heroine of Verdi's most treasured masterpiece. Popular Met tenor Michael Fabiano is her frustrated lover Alfredo and ever-popular veteran Met baritone Thomas Hampson is his disapproving father. Nicola Luisotti conducts the sterling Metropolitan Opera orchestra from the pit in an eye-popping minimalist production by Willy Decker. which created a sensation at Salzburg in 2005.
The story of La Traviata is based on a French play adapted from the novel Camille by the great Alexandre Dumas. It tells of the famous courtesan Violetta Valery, who, in the opening scene, gives a party to celebrate her recovery from an illness. Gaston, a viscount, brings to the party a good friend, Alfredo Germont (Michael Faviano), who as long admired her from afar.
Violetta's current lover, Baron Douphol, is asked to give a toast, but declines.  The crowd turns to Alfredo, who agrees to sing a brindisi – a drinking song (Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Libiamo ne' lieti calici – "Drink from the joyful cup"). Before the first plaintive strains of music are heard in Verdi's "La Traviata," a gentleman with long white hair and beard to match takes his seat next to a giant clock at the side of the Metropolitan Opera stage. This is the character, Doctor Grenvil, performed by veteran Met bass-baritone James Courtney. The character sits silently throughout the opera, as if an ominous precursor for the tragedy to come. His character, and the giant clock, loom over Violetta as her story of feigned gaiety devolves into tragedy. Doctor Grenvil is  the specter of fate.
This production of Ls Traviata is fast-paced and exciting with dazzling choreography by Athola Farmer, visually exciting costumes and sets by Wiolfgang Gussmann and mood-setting lighting by Hans Toelstede. This production is what modern opera is all about and definitely worth seeing live on Saturday, March 11. You might want to get tickets to bring a friend whose never seen opera, This would be a great introduction.
The HD broadcast of "La Traviata," starring soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Violetta, tenor Michael Fabiano as Alfredo and baritone Thomas Hampson as his father, with Nicola Luisotti conducting, will be shown starting at 12:55 p.m. EST on Saturday. A list of theaters can be found at the Met's website: metopera.org/hd.
In the U.S., it will be repeated on Wednesday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m. local time.




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

JOYCE THEATER NYC PRESENTS SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY MARCH 7-12



AUSTRALIAN COMPANY IN NEW YORK PREMIERE OF THREE CONTEMPORARY WORKS

by Dwight Casimere





Kinetic energy, explosive energy and supreme creativity marked the opening night performance of the Sydney Dance Company at New York's  Joyce Theater March 7-12. The performance included the works of three contemporary choreographers in their New York Premieres; Wildebeest,  by Australian choreographer Gabrielle Nankivell, in her first collaboration with the company, Raw Models, by the internationally acclaimed Italian choreographer Jacopo Godani,  and Frame of Mind, by Sydney Dance Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela. 

Gabrielle Nonkivell's Wildebeest is an evolutionary journey through physical morphosis, time and physical landscape. In the choreographer's own words "the wildebeest as image morphs easily between living animal and fanciful creature." The dancers move in lightning quick fashion in a series of movements that at once transmit inner thoughts and sensory perception through a series of landscapes punctuated by flickering lights and the background sounds of an impending storm. The persistent writhing and shape-shifting movements manifests the transformation of the dancer's physical being as they move through space and time. Individual performances were punctuated by imaginative and, at times, disturbing ensemble dancing. The Opening Horse Solo by Bernhard Knauer set the tone for the evening. The audience was in for a night of the unexpected and extraordinary. Charmene Yap in the Wildebeest Solo displayed movements that can only be described as super-human. The work is a commentary on how every moment in time is separate and distinct from its predecessor and how our thoughts and physical beings are simultaneously transformed.

Jacopo Godani's Raw Models similarly uses dance as a means to explore deep psychological conflicts between our alter egos; the ones that live inside our minds that reflect our core values and those that are shaped by the principles and ideas of others. The restless movements of the dancers depict the struggle of the individual to move instinctively through a system that forces structure and suppresses creativity. 

Frame of Mind by Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela showed off the strengths of the company and its individual dancers with flair. The work developed from his own experience of wanting to be in two places at once and the inner conflict and complexity that it creates. The work celebrates strength, but also communicates the vulnerability and fragility of us all.  Once again, Bernard Knauer dazzled with his undulating, athletic moves. Todd Sutherland, as well, displayed the type of athleticism that makes watching Sydney Dance a mesmerizing experience. The performers in the Sydney Dance Company are robust and energetic with a physical vocabulary that often defies the conventional wisdom of body structure and movement. Indeed, several of the dancers could easily be mistaken for athletes on any number of playing fields. They are a marvel to behold and challenge are own perceptions of the boundaries that separate our inner thoughts from our outer actions. 

Sydney Dance Company  has been led since 2009 buy its Spanish-born Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela and resides and performs in its studios at The Wharf inn Sydney's Walsh Bay, a stone's throw from Sydney's famed Harbour Bridge and Opera House. They perform at The Joyce through March 12. Visit joyce.org. for information.









 

Monday, March 6, 2017

WENDY WHELAN/BRIAN BROOKS/BROOKLYN RIDER IN SOME OF A THOUSAND WORDS AT THE JOYCE THEATER

Veteran dance duo presents a tour de force of contemporary dance that summarizes their vast experience

by Dwight Casimere

Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks with Dwight Casimere (c)
Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks in performance of Some of a Thousand Words



NEW YORK-- The Joyce Theater in Chelsea was the setting for a landmark performance of an orginal work, Some of A Thousand Words, a collaborative project of veteran dancers Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks with the musical accompaniment of the astonishing Brooklyn Rider string quartet. The work is a co-commission of The Joyce Theater Foundation's Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New York, along with The Knetucky Center for the Arts,  the Modern Centr for the Arts at University of Richmond and The International Festival of Arts and Ideas New Haven. Featuring music by Philip Glass, John Luther Adams, Colin Jacobsen, Tyondal Braxton and Jacob Cooper, Some of A Thousand Words clearly shows the power of dance to communicate deep emotions and complex human inter-relationships.

Both Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks bring a wealth of dance experience to the table in their performnce. She, a veteran principal dancer with New York City Ballet in a career that spanned 30 years, 23 as principal dancer. Her resume includes work With Jerome Robbins and performances of virtually every major Balanchine role. A Dance Magazine Award winner in 2007, she has received both the Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance.

Brian Brooks has an equally laudable career as Choreographer, Director and Performer. Recently appointed as the Inaugural Choreographer in Residence at Chicago's prestigious Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Brooks is also the recipient of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Brooklyn Rider is a contemporary string quartet  which toured with composer,/singer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Kahane last season with music from their 2016 collaborative album The Fiction Issue. This season, Brooklun Rider releases their new CD So Many Things with mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, an album of contemporary music featuring pieces composed by John Adams,  Colin Jacobsen and Elvis Costello, among others. Easily, the group could have presented their own concert and received the rapt attention of the audience.

The combination of Whelan, Brooks and Brooklyn Rider was mesmerizing. Brooks and Whelan used their fluid movements to evoke a series of complex moods and  story lines that explored the dynamics of relationships and the solitary journey of souls seeking to connect even in the face of complex emotional obstacles.The work was presented in a seamless uninterrupted hour that seemed to fly by in an instant. The combination of music and movement was all-engrossing and ended much too soon. At the conclusion of Fast Fall, with music composerd by Philip Glass, in his String Quartet No. 3 (Mishima), the audience reaction was a stunned silence, followed by a rapturous ovation.

There's no substitute for deeply rooted experience and both Whelan and Brooks have it in spades. Their collaboration is unique in terms of its depth and creativity. It is deeply absorbing and lingers long in the psyche, well after the sound of the applause has died and the lights have dimmed onstage.


  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

OSCAR NOMINEES FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) RAOUL PECK'S I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO AND AVA DUVERNAY'S 13TH

TWO FILMS BARE THE RAW TRUTH OF RACIAL INJUSTICE THROUGH THE EYES OF AUTHOR JAMES BALDWIN AND THE FILTER OF REPRESSIVE SENTENCING LAWS

REVIEWED AT THE NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL
BY DWIGHT CASIMERE

Dwight Casimere at the 2016 New York Film Festival
 Author James Baldwin (l) and Director Raoul Peck
 Raoul Peck and Ava DuVernay (below) are interviewed at the 2016 New York Film Festival




NEW YORK--Two films that lay bare the raw roots of racism are nominated in the category of Best Documentary (Feature) by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences at this year's Oscar Awards.
Ava DuVernay's 13th exposes the history of mass incarceration and criminalization of blacks in America, which has its roots in the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment sparked mass incarcerations of freed slaves. The former slaves were then assigned to road gangs which were used as construction crews to rebuild the defeated South. The situation was exacerbated in 1994 with passage of the bi-partisan "three strikes" crime bill, signed by President Bill Clinton, which sent thousands of black men to prison for excessively long sentences for relatively minor crimes.

The film begins with an ominous quote from former president Barack Obama; "The United States is home to 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's prisoners." For 100 minutes that will have you riveted to the screen, the film artfully intercuts scenes from D.W. Griffiths Birth of A Nation,which charts the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, with footage of lynchings, newspaper headlines from the Emmett Till murder, and present day police shootings and brutality.

Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro is based on author James Baldwin's  fragment of a treatment for an unfinished film on the assassinations of his three close activist friends, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Baldwin said their deaths "rocked my universe." Baldwin only completed 30 pages of the project before his death in 1987.The film skillfully uses the voice of actor Samuel L. Jackson, in a masterful and unusually subdued performance, which speaks almost as the 'inner voice' of Baldwin's sub-conscience as the film opens with shockingly graphic shots of the three slaughtered leaders and progresses through a litany of violence directed at blacks, from lynching in the South and Emmett Till to the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots right up to today's police shootings and Black Lives Matter. Scenes from archival footage Baldwin's acerbic commentary on the Dick Cavett show and at university lectures lends the author's own powerful and outspoken voice. 

It took Raoul Peck more than five years to complete his film, which clocks in at a slim 95 minutes, but despite its brevity, it packs a wallop. Unfortunately, Baldwin's harsh words in his tv interviews and lectures ring as true today as they did at their inception.




Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New York Philharmonic Tchaikovsky Festival: Pianist Kirill Gerstein Shines in the Piano Concerto No.1

by Dwight Casimere


 Kirill Gerstein performs
Conductor Semyon Bychkov




New York Philharmonic's Beloved Friend-Tchaikovsky and his World: A Philharmonic Festival was punctuated by an unusually vivid performance by Kirill Gerstein, the enigmatic Jewish-American/Russian pianist who has become the proponent of the composer's own 1879 version of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, which was premiered in the Urtext edition with the New York Philharmonic in its Tchaikovsky festival. 

Gerstein , winner of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, is known for his piston-like attack and harsh, brittle sound, devoid of any romanticism. These qualities served him well in the Concerto No. 1. Every note in the Allegro con spirito of the first movement was crystal clear. His thundering octave passges in the Allegro vivace assai rang with equal clarity. Most surprising, and gratifying, was the sincere emotion he displayed in the preceding Andantino semplice, which contained the concerto's most recognizable romantic themes. Conductor Semyon Bychkov showed his considerable skill at reigning in the advancing themes and complex inner voices of Tchaikovsky's brilliant orchestrations. In many ways, the performance was a true collaboration of conductor, orchestra and soloist. The thunderous applause was well deserved for the efforts of both men to bring this sometimes unweildy, but inspired work to fruition. Those who attended this series of concerts were witnesses to a significant moment in musical performance history.