November 20, 2012

Peabody Opera Theatre shows off promising talent in 'Don Giovanni'

The emergence of Lyric Opera Baltimore last year was probably the biggest news in the city's cultural scene, but the simultaneous development of a collaboration between the Peabody Institute and the Modell/Lyric Performing Arts Center ranked right up there.

The deal meant that, for the first time, Peabody Opera Theatre could present some of its work in a full-sized venue, providing a valuable learning experience for voice students, not to mention the conservatory's orchestra.

The inaugural venture came out of what, for Baltimore, constitutes left field -- Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress."

This year's choice would be considered right down the middle in most places, but Mozart's "Don Giovanni" was last staged at the Lyric in 1999, so it seemed almost novel to see it there over the weekend. (The old Baltimore Opera Company was remarkably Mozart-averse.)

Sunday afternoon's performance was, on balance, a good showing for Peabody, musically and theatrically.

Roger Brunyate, the recently retired, longtime head of the opera program, jumped back into the thick of things to direct, and his professional touch and thoughtfulness could be detected throughout.

His concept notably included a wound for Don Giovanni that, Amfortas-like, never healed. (Brunyate credited a recent Salzburg production with giving him the idea to have the antihero wounded in his opening scene duel with the Commendatore.)

The device intriguingly suggested that Don Giovanni knew his time was running out, long before a certain statue turned up in his doorway.

If a couple of questionable details also popped up in this staging -- Donna Elvira stabbing a portrait of Don Giovanni with giant hairpins was more Carol Burnett than Lorenzo DaPonte, for example, and having her join a nunnery early on seemed a wee bit odd -- Brunyate ensured that the action flowed easily and effectively.

Aiding that flow was ...

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Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

November 7, 2012

Minnesota Opera commisisons 'Manchurian Candidate' from Kevin Puts, Mark Campbell

Composer Kevin Puts, who teaches at the Peabody Conservatory, won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his first opera, "Silent Night," commissioned by Minnesota Opera.

That company has now commissioned a follow-up, "The Manchurian Candidate," which Puts will collaborate on with his "Silent Night' librettist, Mark Campbell.

The opera, slated for the 2014-2015 season, will be based on the 1959 thriller by Richard Condon that inspired John Frankenheimer's much-admired film in 1962 starring Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. (Jonathan Demme directed a 2004 remake.)

The plot concerns brainwashed Korean War vets and a communist plot to take over the U.S. government.

Minnesota Opera artistic director Dale Johnson noted that the "the term 'Manchurian candidate' has been bandied about as recently as on the [2012] presidential campaign trail," pointing to "an enduring fascination with conspiracy theories of massive proportions. Strong characters and tantalizing drama make for the best operas, and this story has those in spades."

The commission is the part of Minnesota Opera's New Works Initiative, which has raised nearly $7 million to promote contemporary works. In January, another of the initiative's projects will be premiered by the company: "Doubt," with music by Douglas J. Cuomo and libretto by John Patrick Shanley.

"Silent Night" gets its East Coast premiere in February from the Opera Company of Philadelphia.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

September 20, 2012

Peabody Institute features recent works by composer Michael Hersch

Michael Hersch writes music of astounding, even thrilling, complexity; music that can be hard to grasp, yet impossible to let go of; and music of stark, unsettling, seemingly implausible beauty.

There was an impressive demonstration of all these qualities in a concert Tuesday night at the Peabody Institute, where Hersh studied and now heads the composition department.

The long, meaty program focused on works written in the past two years, works that find the composer as uncompromisingly serious and reflective as ever.

The newest item, receiving its world premiere, was "of ages manifest," a riveting score for unaccompanied alto saxophone.

In seven movements, the piece exploits what seems to be every conceivable, or inconceivable, sonic property of the instrument.

The myriad sounds encompass breathy whispers from the threshold of audibility, as well as horn-like wails, with many a finely shaded gradation in between.

Melodic lines leap wildly one moment, center on long, slow crescendos the next (the latter starts to sound a little too like an etude in the fifth movement).

Aggressive, almost martial rhythms (the fourth movement) are balanced by episodes of mournful song (the sixth).

Some of the wildest movements seem to rush toward a cliff and emit one last, primal yell that is eventually answered by just two or three soft notes, like a faint echo, or a message trying to make its way from another galaxy.

Out of all of this emerges a riveting kind of sound-poem that the soloist, ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 5:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

March 16, 2012

Robert Ward's 'The Crucible' gets vivid staging by Peabody Opera

Peabody Opera Theatre is on a roll. In the same season that saw worthy productions of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress" and Dominick Argento's "Postcard from Morocco," the company has successfully tackled another demanding 20th-century work, Robert Ward's "The Crucible."

Based on the Arthur Miller play, "The Crucible" does not always have a distinctive ring to my ears. I find some of it too obvious or heavy-handed; the orchestral thump at the first mention of the word "witchcraft" is but one example.

And I confess to wondering if Ward was thinking of another American opera when he wrote the big scene between John Proctor and the wicked young woman who once had his heart -- it sounds like it could easily turn into a duet called "Abigail, You Is Not My Woman Now."

That said, "The Crucible" reveals a good deal of craftsmanship and, above all, packs quite a theatrical wallop ans it rushes toward the dispiriting conclusion of this story about bewitched, bothered and bewildered folk in colonial Massachusetts.

Roger Brunyate, directing his final Peabody Opera main stage production as head of the company, seizes on that propulsive element and zeroes in tightly on the drama. He also designed the economical set, which is subtly lit by Douglas Nelson.

Brunyate got impressively intense performances from Thursday night's cast (this group also performs Saturday; another was heard Wednesday and will be onstage Friday). The singers did not ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 3:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

March 14, 2012

Peabody Opera offers 'The Crucible,' Roger Brunyate's last staging as artistic director

The years after World War II, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy launched his crusade against suspected communists in the government, were filled with intimidation, false accusations and rushes to judgment.

That reminded Arthur Miller of the Salem witch trials, prompting his acclaimed play “The Crucible” in 1952.

Nine years later, all of the intense issues raised in Miller’s work found new expression in an opera by Robert Ward. His version of “The Crucible,” which won a Pulitzer Prize, quickly became one of the most performed American operas.

Its advocates include Roger Brunyate, the artistic director of Peabody Opera Theatre who is retiring from the post after 32 years. He directs the company’s first production of "The Crucible," which opens Wednesday.

“The opera is very close to the Miller text,” Brunyate said, “but is also much more gut-wrenching. It enhances the play enormously, concentrating ruthlessly on the emotional clashes of the characters.”

Ward’s work played a role in the Northern Ireland-born Brunyate’s own career. A few years after joining the Peabody faculty, he was ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:15 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

March 1, 2012

Leon Fleisher conducts all-Brahms concert with Peabody Symphony, Yury Shadrin

Leon Fleisher brings an air of authority into a concert hall, whether he walks over to a piano or a podium.

The latter was his destination Tuesday night, when he led the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in a program devoted to Brahms, a composer who has played a significant role in Fleisher's storied career.

Symphony No. 3 found the conductor in an expansive mood, but within his broad tempos, he had phrases crackling and surging.

It was a beautifully sculpted interpretation, if not always a beautifully played one.

The orchestra sounded a couple notches below the technical level I heard earlier this season. Intonation in the brass and woodwinds proved unreliable; the strings didn't always summon a cohesive tone.

But ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 9:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

February 27, 2012

Leon Fleisher Scholars Fund gets $1 million from Robert Meyerhoff, Rheda Becker

Baltimore philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker pledged  $750,000 Monday to the Leon Fleisher Scholars Fund for piano students at the Peabody Conservatory.

This gift, to be paid over the next few years, will bring the total contribution from Meyerhoff and Becker to $1 million by 2016.

The couple launched the endowed scholarship fund, named for the famed pianist and 53-year veteran of the Peabody faculty, with a $250,000 donation in 2009.

“We hope this gift will raise the profile of Peabody and help the school compete with other top conservatories for the very best piano students worldwide,” said Meyerhoff in a statement released Monday.

Fleisher, who in recent years resumed limited two-hand performances after focal dystonia prevented the use of his right hand for several decades, had high praised for the donors.

“When strewing her seeds of talent among the young, ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 5:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

February 20, 2012

Two Maryland opera singers among winners of George London Awards

Among the six young winners of the 41st annual George London Foundation Competition are two native Marylanders -- Frederick-born soprano Corinne Winters and Annapolis-born baritone Zachary Nelson.

The winners each received $10,000 at the conclusion of the competition Friday night at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

The George London Awards are named for the great bass-baritone, who was one of the most valued vocal artists of the 1950s and '60s and later worked in management, including a stint as director of what is now Washington National Opera.

Over the years, the competition has recognized several blossoming talents who went on to enjoy major careers, including Christine Brewer, Joyce DiDonato, Renée Fleming, Catherine Malfitano, James Morris, Matthew Polenzani, Sondra Radvanovsky, Neil Shicoff, and Dawn Upshaw.

In addition to Winters and Nelson, the 2012 winners are bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, contralto Suzanne Hendrix, mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa and soprano Chloé Moore. They were chosen from a field of 90 singers.

Winters, 28, earned her undergraduate degree at Towson University, her master's at the Peabody Conservatory. She is also a graduate of the ... 

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

February 19, 2012

Peabody Chamber Opera's 'Giulio Cesare' at Theatre Project

If you have a chance to catch Peabody Chamber Opera's presentation of Handel's "Giulio Cesare in Egitto" at Theatre Project -- the final performance is Sunday afternoon -- take it. 

Peabody doesn't produce baroque operas every day, and the other local companies that used to dip into this repertoire have folded up their tents. UPDATE: As readers have pointed out, the observation about Peabody and baroque opera is not quite legit. In my carelessness, I think I got a wee bit confused. It is fair, I think, to say that the conservatory has not put much focus on Handel operas. But I will be promptly set right, if I am off on that point, too.

This is one of Handel's greatest scores, filled with colorful, richly expressive arias. Within the rigid structures of baroque opera, the aria-after-aria progression, the composer proved wonderfully creative.

All the while, he revealed something meaningful about the characters and their relationships. This is not a case of mere vocal show.

This opera has a good story, too, of course. Director Timothy Nelson has put a provocative contemporary spin on it, from the "Mission Accomplished" sign to assorted acts of torture. This is not exactly Handel's Middle East, but he would still recognize the place and the issues as Caesar and Cleopatra find love and danger.

I'm not convinced by all of Nelson's ideas (in a program note, he writes that ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 7:23 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

February 16, 2012

Denyce Graves to join Peabody Conservatory faculty

Denyce Graves, the much-admired mezzo-soprano whose portrayals of Carmen and other alluring characters have been celebrated in the world's leading opera houses, will join the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory in the fall.

The D.C-born singer will be on campus next week to listen to prospective students.

In addition to her operatic career (her Met debut was in 1995), Graves has been a familiar presence on concert stages.

She also reached millions as a soloist during the televised memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral a few days after 9/11.


Posted by Tim Smith at 4:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

February 10, 2012

Peabody Chamber Opera sends colorful 'Postcard From Morocco'

Some works of art pull you in by the clearest, most direct of means; you know why you're hooked at the start and you know what you've been through when it's all over.

Some works engage you for reasons you can't entirely explain and fill you with more questions than answers when you walk away, but you still feel satisfied somehow.

"Postcard From Morocco" is one of the latter type. Although this 1971 opera by Dominick Argento is nothing if not elusive, it manages to leave quite an imprint -- on singers as well as audiences, I imagine.

Peabody Chamber Opera has an effective staging of the piece well worth catching at the Theatre Project through Sunday.

It's a nice nod to Argento, who turns 85 this year. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at the Peabody Conservatory in the 1950s and went on to become one of this country's most successful and respected opera composers. He deserves plenty of attention any year.

Which reminds me -- the University of Maryland School of Music will salute Argento's 85th with productions by Maryland Opera Studio of "Postcard From Morocco" and "Miss Havisham's Fire" at the Clarice Smith Center in April. Argento will take part in discussions of his work during the April festival, which also features chamber music concerts, master classes and more. An all-Argento concert on March 30 will be at the center as a prelude to the fest.

OK, back to Peabody, Theatre Project and "Postcard from Morocco."

With a libretto by John Donahoe, the piece offers something of ...


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Posted by Tim Smith at 10:07 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

November 19, 2011

Peabody Opera Theatre delivers colorful 'Rake's Progress' at the Lyric

Forgive the abbreviated report (ever the slothful one, I do try to take a day off every now and then), but I wanted to get a little something on the record about Peabody Opera Theater.

The company made its first venture into the Lyric Opera House Friday night with a production of Stravinksy's "The Rake's Progress" that gets a repeat Sunday afternoon.

Catch it if you can -- this work will not be back around soon. (This is quite the week for rarities in Baltimore; the BSO just presented an Honegger oratorio for the first time.)

In brief, the Peabody staging by Garnett Bruce (director) and Luke Hegel-Cantarella (set) provides a colorful, often clever framework for this fable about a young man's descent into ruin and madness.

The orchestra, dynamically led by Hajime Teri Murai, revels in the neo-classical piquancy of Stravinsky's ingenious score. It's great to hear the musicians in the resonant acoustics of the Lyric. The strings, in particular, sounded terrific.

And the young cast ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

November 7, 2011

Weekend review: Pro Musicia Rara, conductor Lee Mills, composer Jake Runestad

My Sunday afternoon musical outings included a delectable Pro Musica Rara program and a Peabody concert that showcased some very promising talent.

Pro Musica Rara, an organization that deserves much more support, put together a colorful selection of vocal and instrumental items from the personal collection of Jane Austen, supplemented by some items she and her set may well have encountered.

There's a lot to be said for a concert that puts aside weighty matters in favor of good old-fashioned entertainment, especially when the musicians are as engaging as they were on this occasion at Towson University's Fine Arts Center.

Pro Musica was fortunate to have guest artist Julianne Baird (pictured) back for this event; the soprano is a major artist who knows not just how to delivered historically informed performances of early music, but how to eliminate even the slightest trace of the academic while doing so.

Accompanied by Pro Musica's Eva Mengelkoch on the fortepiano, Baird started things in silvery-toned fashion with ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 1:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

October 27, 2011

Peabody Trio program offers youthful and mature Mahler

Thanks to the Mahler centennial year (he died, much too young, in 1911), his music has been performed even more often than usual. No complaints about that, of course. We diehard Mahler-ites never entirely get our fill.

The composer has been getting a lot of attention at the Peabody Institute lately.

On Saturday, the Adagio from the Symphony No. 10 received quite an effective performance.

Tuesday brought a welcome opportunity to hear the single surviving movement of his A minor Piano Quartet, composed when he was about 16; and the "Kindertotenlieder," one of Mahler's most personal and affecting works.

The quartet fragment reveals very little of the composer Mahler would become, but it sure does proclaim a very serious talent.

All of about 16 at the time, Mahler had absorbed the harmonic language of the German romanticists and had a good grasp on the principals of thematic development. In this fascinating memento of his youth, Mahler may have ... 

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Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

October 25, 2011

Weekend review roundup 1: Peabody Symphony Orchestra

It probably would have been a good idea to set up an anti-depressant concession stand in the Peabody Institute lobby Saturday night.

Inside Friedberg Hall, an audience was treated to a Peabody Symphony Orchestra program packed with downers -- Tchaikovsky's wrenching "Pathetique"; the angst-driven Adagio from Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony; and "Malleus," a turbulent tone poem by Peabody doctoral student Douglas Buchanan referencing the horrific fate of those executed for witchcraft in Salem.

Too much of a brood thing? Perhaps. But I must say the concert proved involving from the get-go.

Hajime Teri Murai seemed even more fired up and expressive than usual. Aside from an occasional smudge of articulation or, primarily in the Tchaikovsky work, intonation, the orchestra turned in a very impressive effort. There was a palpable feeling of players fully connected to the music.

"Malleus," which won this year's Macht Orchestral Composition Competition at Peabody, got things started with a jolt. Buchanan has a knack for ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

September 26, 2011

WYPR-FM to launch all-classic HD channel Oct. 3; programming includes Peabody recitals

WYPR, 88.1 FM, will launch an all-classical, HD channel on Oct. 3.

One Baltimore-centric element of the programming involves what is being called an "unprecedented partnership" with the Peabody Institute. At noon on weekdays, Peabody director Jeff Sharkey will ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 4:15 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

September 10, 2011

Baltimore Symphony's assistant concertmaster gets top post in Hong Kong Philharmonic

Igor Yuzefovich, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's assistant concertmaster since 2005, has been named concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

He starts in January, but is scheduled to perform as guest concertmaster in Hong Kong on several occasions before then. He is also expected to play for some BSO programs during the fall.

The Moscow-born Yuzefovich has a long connection to Baltimore. He did a good deal of his musical training at the Peabody Institute, where, in the Preparatory Division, his teachers included the late,  much-missed BSO violinist Leri Slutsky.

Yuzefovich continued into the Conservatory, earning a B.A. and graduate performance diploma.

The violinist frequently worked as a sub or extra player in the BSO prior to being appointed assistant concertmaster by music director Yuri Temirkanov. Yuzefovich has been ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 9:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

September 9, 2011

Denyce Graves to give master class for Peabody Conservatory voice students

As Terrence McNally's hit play "Master Class" affirms, the combination of a seasoned vocal artist and budding students eager for fine-tubing can be quite electric.

Of course, not every master class could be as wild as the one in the play, which has the divine Maria Callas dispensing wisdom in between reminiscing about her fabled career.

For that matter, the classes Callas actually gave at Juilliard were much saner than the version McNally created for his play, which is back on Broadway featuring Tyne Daly in a terrific performance as Callas.

Ah, but I digress. Denyce Graves, the popular and glamorous mezzo-soprano who has enjoyed a major international career, will give a two-hour master class at the Peabody Conservatory on Monday, starting at ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 3:42 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

June 27, 2011

Theatre Project's 40th season to feature local companies, pass-the-hat performances

Founded in 1971 as a free-admission venue, Theatre Project will give a nod to that practice during a typically diverse 40th anniversary season that features several local companies and new or new-to-Baltimore works.

A totally free policy wouldn't fly economically, of course, but "to celebrate our beginnings as a free theater, all of our productions this year will feature at least a rehearsal or performance where there is no admission and we’ll 'pass the hat' after the show," says producing director Anne Cantler Fulwiler.

Another element of the 2011-2012 season involves residencies by local companies, which will spend several weeks at Theatre Project. The Generous Company, for example, which made quite an impression there last year with "I Am The Machine Gunner," will be on hand most of January with a festival of new works.

In the fall, Iron Crow Theatre Company will offer "Parallel Lives" by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney (who performed the work at Theatre Project in 1986); in the spring, "The Soldier Dreams" by Daniel MacIvor.

In time for Halloween, Factory Edge Theatre Works will presents its version of ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 9:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens, Opera, Peabody Institute

March 26, 2011

Your last-minute weekend musical suggestions

Having been out of town for several days, I quickly fell far, far behind when I got back to work on Friday. Among the many tasks left undone was a list of suggestions for your weekend listening pleasure.

However, this means that I can actually recommend one of the items from first-hand experience -- the Baltimore Symphony's program, which I heard Friday night at the Meyerhoff. There's a repeat at 8 on Saturday night at Strathmore, so, if you feel you can beat the onslaught of snow (oh, please, they've GOT to be kidding about that), the drive will be worth it.

For one thing, you'll get to hear a wonderfully refined, yet still passionate, account of the Grieg Piano Concerto from soloist Orion Weiss. There's something quite distinctively poetic in his tone and his phrasing; the evergreen music seemed to reveal lots of fresh growth as he played. The pianist enjoyed smooth rapport with conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, who drew warm, dynamic playing from the BSO. Cello, flute and horn solos purred beautifully.

The program also offered terrifically animated, nuanced performances of two prismatic masterpieces: Ravel's "Valses nobles et sentimentales" and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. The orchestra really does sound great these days. That sound would benefit from more strings (the BSO remains under ideal personnel size for budget reasons), but there's still an admirable richness, clarity, polish and, above all, expressive weight from these musicians on a regular basis.

If you're staying in Baltimore Saturday night, the Peabody Institute looks like the place to be at 8 p.m. There, Edward Polochick will lead his Concert Artists of Baltimore in a Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a work likely to bring out the best of this engaging conductor's gifts. The concert also includes the "Emperor" Concerto, with soloist Clinton Adams, so this means one big Beethoven blast.

Sunday's many options include two choral events in Baltimore churches that should be well worth checking out -- or Czeching out, in one case. At 4 p.m.,  Christ Lutheran Church in the Inner Harbor will be the site of a world premiere presented by  ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Peabody Institute

March 16, 2011

Peabody Opera presents double bill of fanciful Poulenc, Ravel works

Peabody Opera has been on a French kick this season. Judging by the fine production of Massenet's "Manon," things ought to be quite interesting when the company turns this week to a really great pair of unusual works -- Ravel's "L'enfant et les sortileges" (The Child and the Sorceries) and Poulenc's
"Les mamelles de Tiresias" (The Breasts of Tiresias). Performances are Wednesday through Saturday.

The 1944 Poulenc opera isn't quite as, um, titillating as it sounds, but is stacked with fabulous surrealist fancies. Based on a play by Apollinaire, the work tells of a wife who changes her gender and her husband, who gives birth to more than 40,000 children in one day. Amid all the nonsense, the music conveys a subtle eulogy to a France devastated by two world wars.

Ravel's prismatic opera, with a libretto by Colette, deals with a nasty kid prone to hurting animals and things. He gets his comeuppance when his victims, including a clock, a tea cup, a tree and a poor cat, come to life. In the end, the boy develops a conscience and a heart.

Here's a snippet of the Poulenc piece to get you in the mood for Peabody Opera's cool double bill:

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Posted by Tim Smith at 3:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

February 28, 2011

Peabody Chamber Opera returns to the '50s via works by Bernstein, Hoiby

There was quite an operatic outbreak over the weekend in Baltimore and D.C. It started Friday night (for me) with Peabody Chamber Opera's double bill at the Theatre Project.

The focus of this production was on the '50s -- a work written during that era, Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti"; and a work evoking it, Lee Hoiby's "This is the Rill Speaking." (Talk of movies and movie-going pops up in both items, a little connective thread that adds to the aptness of pairing them.)

The Hoiby opera from 1992, inspired by a Lanford Wilson play, provides a slice of '50s Americana, with quick-moving vignettes introducing assorted rural characters. The piece sometimes seems to be trying too hard to be cool and contemporary (a four-letter word gets tossed around; there are references to masturbation), but stylistically it's firmly in conservative, mid-century idioms -- the shadows of Copland and Barber are in the air.

Hoiby is best known for his songs, which have been championed by some great American classical vocal artists. The opera reflects the composer's melodic gifts, especially in the wistful closing moments. It isn't quite a seamless package, the net effect is quite effective.

The Peabody staging, directed with a mostly light touch by Jennifer Blades, featured

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute
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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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