Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dr. von Lyric: Pumpkins and Halloween

The bell rings insistently...I open the door. Outside in the dark only illuminated by the porch light stands a sinister group. Oh, brother...I forgot it was Halloween. A  tall girl  in a torn white garment  ,her hair disheveled....she looks mad as a hatter. A bend over youth with a malevolent grin  obviously dressed as some kind of jester. A  figure  all in black with a dress  covered with stars and a gimlet stare . And who is that child covered with blood? ....Carrie? I get it...hey kid put down that axe. tricks from this dangerous group ...and  I haven't prepared any of the usual  treats .   So for them (and you) instead of candy corn, Hershey kisses and some home baked chocolate chip cookies here is a tray full of Youtube  Halloween goodies . Enjoy....and watch out for razor blades in the apples....remember Lizzie got off and is still out there somewhere
   One of the first Disney cartoons (and still pretty extraordinary)

    Another Disney classic evocation of ghosts, ghouls, and things that go creep (or rather bang)  in the night

    Another performance of the Saint-Saens  Danse Macabre diabolically arranged by  Vladamir Horowitz played by an (unnamed ) pianist  with almost inhuman fingers of steel

Pianos, a deserted factory, terror, blood and a creepy ballad by Schubert

 What's Halloween without   a Witch? (It's the great Philip Langridge)

 Or a few singing pumpkins (why not?)  And it's always great to hear the  elegant and witty King's Singers 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lizzie B: Factoid #1

We'll be running a series of "Lizzie Bordon Factoids" over the next weeks as we get ready for her scary and eagerly awaited  in-person  arrival at the Castle on November 20th .  

Here's # 1  "The Elegance and Mystery  of Chronological Congruence "  

Is it just coincidence or some greater cosmic manifestation  that James M Barrie, Anton Chekov, Gustav Mahler , Grandma Moses and Lizzie Borden were all born in 1860. 
To say nothing of the possibly more apt Annie Oakley (both she and Lizzie were, after all , good with weapons) and the decisively less apt Juliette Low (founder of the Girl Scouts - although  in some ways  Lizzie appeared  as a   kind of  ideal Girl Scout type - kind to animals, charity work, churchgoer  etc ) 
Low also died the same year as Lizzie ...and Annie the year before  And what of the fact that Isadora Duncan died in year of Lizzie"s death - 1927 
And who was born that year? Sidney Poitier, Eartha Kitt , Gina Lollobrigida, Patty Page and Caesar Chavez

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lizzie B: costume sketches

Lizzie Borden
Margaret Borden
Here are the costumes sketches by our designer Terese Wadden. Pay attention to what period and color palette they are set in. 

Reverend Harrington

Captain McFarlane

Abigail Borden
Andrew Borden


In other news, have you heard LIZZIE BORDEN is on Facebook... are you friends with her?

Lizzie: first rehearsal and Facebook

Today is the first rehearsal for BLO's production of LIZZIE BORDEN - a newly commissioned  one act version of Jack Beeson's dramatic opera that in its original  three act version enjoyed  great success at New York City  Opera and at Glimmerglass. With the newly realized  chamber orchestration  that reveals anew  the inherent power of the score, performed in the appropriately Gothic ambiance of the Castle and directed by one of America's boldest and incisive directors, Christopher Alden, this promises to be  crucial  and unmissable part of BLO's season. To celebrate this important launching  , we today start features on Facebook and Twitter. We have been extremely fortunate to engage an intriguing  guest to help us here. The volatile , misunderstood  heroine (or murderess ?) Lizzie herself  a Facebook page - a   forum to present her  uncensored, possibly  revelatory , perhaps controversial  thoughts and musings - and a place where you can interact  (if you dare) with this most notorious, ambiguous and fascinating celebrity . 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lizzie: Signature Series and John Conklin

I go up to Boston next week to rehearse and then present BLO's  Signature Series  "Lizzie Borden took an axe"  at the Museum of Fine Arts on Sunday November 3 . This is the newest entry in a series that I have been creating over the past 4 years that deals with each of our operas in the repertory for that season but in a varied and wide range of contexts. Rather than a direct analysis of the music or a discussion of BLO's specific approach we explore how ideas or characters  derived from the opera might stretch out into novels, poetry, painting,cinema, history, popular culture. Also rather than  a lecture, we create mini -dramas, theater pieces of about an hour in length. We are lucky to be able to use the elegant and comfortable Remis auditorium at the MFA. For our LIZZIE program I am creating  a collage as it were of various views of the fascinatingly complex Lizzie herself, newspaper accounts of the murders and  excerpts from the sensational trial that transfixed the country. Mixed in with this will be the compelling  music from Jack Beeson's opera we will be presenting in the unique atmosphere of the Castle  opening November  20 (check out our Website for details ). We welcome to the Sunday afternoon event the well known Boston actress Celeste Oliva  and the dynamic  Heather Johnson who sings the title role with BLO . Together they will take  us into the tortured, ambiguous  ( still we ask...did she do it...or not?) and  highly  dramatic  excitement of the   world of Lizzie Borden . Join us
                                                                                                                                  John Conklin

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dr von Lyric: Jookin?

 A little dancing (and some really  fancy footwork ) to celebrate the arrival of fall (or just have some fun) 

   Jookin?   check out...
       The Baryshnikovs Of Jookin

     More Yo Yo Ma and some more  unusual dancers ?   Check out...

    Sublime tango?    Check out....

        Another  "Dying Swan"  (and perhaps its most famous embodiment after Pavlova) ?  Check out...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dr Von Lyric: Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi
The congruences of chronology have always fascinated me. Coincidence or cosmic planning ?  But surely the overlapping birthdates of  both Verdi and Wagner in 1813 must show some   divine organization. When one adds  the birth of  Georg Buchner (German playwright of WOYZECK source of Berg's opera ) the situation grows complex - and furthermore  it was the year of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI and the year of Kierkegaard's death
Moving on 100 years we can add Benjamin Britten to our anniversary celebrations. But we must also include the unlikely duo of birthday boys Richard Nixon and Albert Camus...and this was the year of  PYGMALION, DEATH IN VENICE and THE RITE OF SPRING. How will we look back on 2013?
We've missed the celebration of the actual  birthday by a week or so but no are a few of my choice Verdiana Youtube moments  

Leontyne Price
One of my favorite  Verdi arias sung by one of my favorite sopranos Leontyne Price (I play this for my opera class at NYU as an example of the  quintessential  expression of the spirit and  soul and heart of "Opera"  itself )

My favorite Verdi ensemble (a whole opera compressed into a few  sublimely dramatic minutes)
two versions:

My favorite Verdi chorus

My favorite Verdi finale

and really one couldn't do a Verdi page without Callas

Happy Birthday  Viva Verdi 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Magic FLute: Opera Gala

On Opening Night, we had our OPERA GALA. Here are a few shots of our glamorous event. You can also find some more on our facebook page

gala co-chairs Lynn Dale, Ann Beha and Jessica Donohue
Magic Flute cast members Michelle Trainor and Meredith Hansen with Music Director David Angus
The Wang Center

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dr Von Lyric on Magic Flute

 I 'm glad to be back on the BLO Blog after a bit of time away - traveling, reading, listening, looking . I hope that with due diligence I'll be able to post every Wednesday with items operatic and musical....funny ....serious... unusual....stimulating. A couple of weeks ago I attended a quite fascinating program at the MFA presented by BLO's Signature Series entitled ""The Magic Flute Variations" where among many other rarely performed works all related to FLUTE (including excerpts from Schikaneder's  sequel  DAS LABYRINTH and a few bits  from Goethe's version of the story )  we heard  the relatively  more familiar Beethoven Variations on Papageno's aria "Ein Madchen". So here are some other  takes by various composers on the irresistible music from Mozart's opera  (The BLO production of FLUTE has only a few more performances this week. Catch it if you can)

  Here is the Beethoven with the superb cellist Lynn Harrell

Two more sets of FLUTE explorations  by two  Spanish virtuosos and composers:  guitarist   Fernando Sor (1778 -1839) and the  world famous - in his time  more or less known  the Liszt of the violin-   Pablo de Saraste (1844- 1908)


   For a much more modern take check out this striking  Berio piece where the theme has been totally taken apart and reassembled so as to be almost unrecognizable.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Magic Flute: costume sketches

After a wonderful opening on Friday, and fantastic performance on Sunday, we would like to share with you some of the costumes sketches by our designer Nancy Leary.

Pay attention to how richly detailed they are. This allows the costume shop to build accordingly.

Papageno- Andrew Garland
Sarastro- David Cushing

First LadyMeredith Hansen
Second LadyMichelle Trainor
Third LadyNicole Rodin
Queen of the Night -So Young Park

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Magic Flute: A Conversation with Professor Neal Zaslaw, from Cornell University

Magda Romanska, BLO Dramaturg and Associate Professor of Dramaturgy at Emerson College, talks to Professor Neal Zaslaw about Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Prof. Zaslaw is a world-renowned musicologist and the leading expert on Mozart. Between 1978 and 1982 he supervised recordings of all of Mozart’s symphonies by Jaap Schroeder, Christopher Hogwood, and the Academy of Ancient Music. Time magazine called the results “one of the most important projects in the history of recorded sound.” A decade later Professor Zaslaw was dubbed “Mr. Mozart” by the New York Times for organizing the 1991–92 Mozart Bicentennial at Lincoln Center, which staged performances of all of Mozart’s works.


MR: The Magic Flute libretto has undergone many rewrites and re-interpretations. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of some of these rewrites?

NZ: The Magic Flute’s dialogue is never delivered uncut from the stage or on audio or video recordings. It can be found whole only in earnest scholarly publications. Between 1793 and 1798 The Magic Flute was staged in more than sixty central European cities, from Aachen to Saint Petersburg, from London to Zagreb. In none of these productions, the librettos of which I’ve been able to examine, was Schikaneder’s text left unaltered: the dialogue was always cut and revised, and even the texts that Mozart set were sometimes changed. As early as 1794 the play was systematically reworked by Christian August Vulpius for Goethe’s theater in Weimar. Just as interesting is the fact that following Mozart’s death some five weeks after the première of The Magic Flute, and probably even before that, Schikaneder himself was altering the text. Schikaneder revived the show on and off over some two decades, during which time he felt free to 'update' the libretto. You have to remember, at that time, the wealthy would go to the theatre every night, often to see the same show. They knew the most popular productions by heart and so they would recognize each alteration to the text. Those who have dealt with the 18th-century opera and operetta writ large know that such practices were the norm. Stage works were commonly revised for each new production, to update them and to deal with local musical and theatrical resources, local audience tastes, reigning ideologies, and the quirks of patrons.

MR: Our new adaptation focuses on the story of self-discovery: the hero’s quest for enlightenment and autonomy. It is an allegorical representation of a young man’s process of growing up, of becoming a man. There is a personal story about Mozart’s own life that suggests that The Magic Flute might be a parable of his own life story. Can you tell us about it?

NZ: Mozart’s family collected everything having to do with his childhood, every scrap of paper, diaries, literally everything. One of the reasons was that Mozart’s father, Leopold, intended to write a book about Mozart’s childhood, in which he was planning to portray himself as the wise man who raised a perfect child. The book never was written, because at the age of twenty-four Mozart ran away from home. It’s not that he didn’t love his father, but his father was such a powerful figure in his life that he wasn’t able to establish his own identity without gaining independence from his father. The model for the intended book was Christian Gellert’s epistolary book, Geistliche Oden und Lieder (1758), a compilation of letters from a wise father to his son. That book inspired Leopold to write his own.

MR: Can we say that it was meant to be an earliest form of Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story, chronicling the moral, emotional and psychological growth of the young protagonist? Or, more specifically, Künstlerroman, a story of an artist’s coming to maturity?

NZ: Yes, it was meant to be such a story of education. There is a famous letter from Mozart to his wife, in which he describes how he decided to go to the theatre to see The Magic Flute to see how it’s doing. He sits in the box of a man who clearly seems unimpressed. When the  story gets to the crucial moment at which Tamino is standing in front of temple's three portals, marked Reason, Wisdom and Nature, Mozart attempts to explain the scene's underlying meaning, and when the man simply laughs, Mozart calls him a jackass and leaves the box in a rage. The reason the plot of The Magic Flute seems so inconsistent is that we see it through Tamino’s eyes, and the world for him is inconsistent. In the first act, he sees the world one way, and then, things change, and he sees them the other way. The only scene for which we have a sketch is that scene with Tamino standing in front of the doors. It means that Mozart had thought long and hard about how he was going to do it. It was an important scene.

MR: Can we say that this moment of Tamino’s choice is the climactic moment of the story?

NZ: Maybe you are right. Maybe this scene at the end of the first act is the climactic scene. In the first act, you have to represent the hero’s confusion and his naïve idealism and inability to figure things out. In the second act, he becomes enlightened. In Bergman’s film version, the story is presented as a custody battle between divorced spouses (the Queen of the Night and Sarastro), with the daughter, Pamina, trapped between them. This is one of the best adaptations, which captures in light and color the essence of the story.

MR: The story is allegorical; that is, it requires the suspension of disbelief for us to be carried away by it. Different elements have contributed to its reception. Can you tell us about it?

NZ: Is Magic Flute a grand opera, a Singspiel, a Hanswurst farce, a fairy tale, a morality play, a magic show, a Bildungsroman, a coded political message, Trinitarian symbolism, the Orpheus story retold, or a Masonic allegory? Because of its complexity and its hybrid nature, The Magic Flute can support any number of interpretations. It is a fairy tale with a serious subtext. The music is a whole other element that makes things emotional and believable, which wouldn’t happen without music. The tension is melodramatic—you have to suspend disbelief at the terror of trial by water and fire. Schikaneder’s theatre was equipped with machines for supernatural effects, such as flying, volcanos, storms, waves, waterfalls, infernos, and rapid set changes.  These effects, these illusions, apparently could be surprisingly realistic in the dim lighting of the 18th-century theaters. The curtain never went down between scenes, so the mutations must have been the equivalent of 'slow fades' in movies.  The music is the element that makes things emotional and 'believable.' The tension is melodramatic—for instance, to experience it you must not only suspend disbelief, but also identify with the tender young protagonists, empathetically channeling their terror and courage as they pass through their trials.  The Magic Flute was, and is, a popular entertainment serving as the sugarcoating on a serious message, but we can never know precisely what the message was. But even though it made Mozart angry, his immortal work can also be considered simply a delightful excuse for an evening of glorious music.