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Met Live in HD in Pittsburgh: Berg's "Lulu"

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

I suspect that fewer Pittsburghers attend the Met Live in HD broadcasts than should attend the Met Live in HD broadcasts.

The series, now in its 10th season, brings live transmissions of Metropolitan Opera productions to cinemas throughout the world, including four theaters in the Pittsburgh area. The broadcasts generally take place on Saturday afternoons, with encore presentations the following Wednesday.

Between the strong casts, the big-budget productions and the quality of the broadcasts themselves, the opportunity to experience these live Met productions is enticing. While many of the works are chestnuts, Live in HD also provides the chance to see operas that probably won't appear in Pittsburgh anytime soon, such as Saturday's transmission of "Lulu," by Alban Berg.

The goal of the program is to build new opera audiences. But I have a hunch that plenty of the audience members already are opera buffs, because it takes a certain level of operatic fandom to know that these simulcasts even exist.

If my hunch is right, that's too bad, because there are aspects of the transmissions that would appeal to opera newbies. Each production has a host, who interviews members of the cast, the director and others about the opera's characters and music. 

A scene from Berg's "Lulu." Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.A scene from Berg's "Lulu." Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

During the intermissions, host Deborah Voight interviewed Marlis Petersen, Susan Graham, conductor Lothar Koenigs (who replaced music director James Levine on the podium) and others. Met general manager Peter Gelb interviewed South African artist William Kentridge, who directed the imaginative production full of animated paper, India ink and unapologetic projections. (Full disclosure: I provided musical accompaniment for Mr. Kentridge during a lecture he gave at my college.) Ms. Petersen, the German soprano, is retiring from "Lulu" after 10 productions in 18 years, and it was clear that she is leaving the title role while still on top of it.

Marlis Petersen in the title role and Daniel Brenna as Alwa in Berg's "Lulu." Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.Marlis Petersen in the title role and Daniel Brenna as Alwa in Berg's "Lulu." Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

There are plenty of HD productions left this season, including a repeat of "Lulu" at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and a holiday encore of "The Magic Flute" on Dec. 12. Tickets are $23, $21 for seniors, $16 for students. Enjoy!

 

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Pittsburgh's music community pays tribute to France

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

On Sunday, Pittsburgh's music community offered tributes to France in the wake of Friday's horrifying attacks in Paris.

Pittsburgh Opera played "La Marseillaise" prior to the final performance of "Cosi fan tutte" at the Benedum Center, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra added Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante defunte" to its Sunday program. (PSO audience members later applauded in unison to show support for France.) You can watch/hear clips of these performances on the KDKA and PSO websites

"The Star-Spangled Banner" seems to take on added weight during moments like these, and opera singer Lawrence Brownlee gave a stunning performance of the National Anthem at Sunday's Steelers game at Heinz Field. Mr. Brownlee, one of the world's best bel canto tenors (who also happens to be a big Steelers fan), portrayed Tonio in Pittsburgh Opera's production of Donizetti's "Daughter of the Regiment" last season. Here's a video of his performance (it starts at about 1:50). 

 

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In Pittsburgh, a busy week for classical music

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

I thought it would be worth recapping all the classical music activity from the last week. It's been a busy one.

From Sunday, I wrote a piece about composer-vocalist-sound artist Ken Ueno's boundary-pushing music, as well as his intriguing residency with local new music group Alia Musica Pittsburgh. I attended Thursday's performance of his vocal concerto (and artistic director Federico Garcia-De Castro's "Contrepoint" for strings) at First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh in Shadyside, which was among the more unusual musical encounters I've had in Pittsburgh. Mr. Ueno gave a lecture prior to his performance — equal parts cerebral and self-deprecating — while the concerto itself was raw, ear-tingling and visceral. Despite thinking that the highest note he could sing was C-Sharp, three octaves above middle C, he in fact hit the D a half-step higher. Quite the memorable evening.

Other live performances this week included Pittsburgh Opera's "Cosi fan tutte," directed by Sir Thomas Allen, and Smetana's "Ma Vlast," which this weekend will receive its first Pittsburgh Symphony performance since 1976. 

In other news: Opera Theater of Pittsburgh held its annual voice competition; and the PSO released its Beethoven 5 and 7 disc today.

Happy concertgoing!

Liz ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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Bernard Holland, formerly of Post-Gazette and New York Times, publishes book of music criticism

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Bernard Holland, the former chief classical music critic of the New York Times, has published a book of his criticism, called Something I Heard. It includes several of his Times articles, as well as hitherto unpublished pieces.

A native of Norfolk, Va., Mr. Holland got his start at a freelance music writer for the Post-Gazette. He left Pittsburgh for the Times in 1981, and was named that paper's chief critic in 1995, succeeding Edward Rothstein. He took a buyout and retired from the Times in 2008.

His book jacket reads:

For twenty-plus years, music critic Bernard Holland heard it all. He reviewed and interviewed many of the most celebrated classical artists - singers, conductors, instrumentalists, composers and the avant garde - of the twentieth century for the New York Times.

Reporting both sides of the culture war between music history and radical change, Holland writes critiques on Philip Glass to Verdi, Messiaen to Bach, Peter Sellars to Zeffirelli, and Linda Ronstadt to The Three Tenors.

Throughout, Holland changes the discussion from 'will classical music survive?' to 'what classical music really is' and, in the process, destroys the myth of 'high and low art'. He also asks what a music critic really is.

Along the way, the reader chats with Herbert von Karajan, takes a plane trip with Yo-Yo Ma, joins in with the boos at Bayreuth, and walks the slow walk with Robert Wilson.

"No one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recalls the heyday of Virgil Thomson." -The New Yorker

For those interested, the book is available on Amazon

 

Correction (posted Nov. 23): Bernard Holland did not teach piano at Carnegie Mellon University. 

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David Stock, 1939-2015

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

RIP David Stock, the founder of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, a true Pittsburgher, an eminent composer and a vital advocate for new music.

david-stock 420David Stock at his home studio in 2008. Mr. Stock died Monday morning. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

Check out this YouTube playlist, which includes some of his chamber music, symphonies and concertos and features the Seattle Symphony, violinist Andres Cardenes, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, PNME flutist Lindsey Goodman and many others. It also includes interviews with Mr. Stock. (A lot of his music is also available on Spotify.)

The tributes to Mr. Stock have been pouring in. They demonstrate what a permanent and important – and that's a true understatement – impact he had on Pittsburgh's music scene, and on the world of new music.

PNME's executive artistic director Kevin Noe sent along the following tribute, which I only briefly quoted in Mr. Stock's obituary, and which captures the composer's qualities — personal, creative and professional — that touched the lives of so many students, listeners and musicians

How can one put into words the incalculable impact David Stock has had on the arts, on his friends, on his family, on Pittsburgh, on all of us? Impossible.

I'll never forget the day the phone rang when I was still a student at Rice and I first encountered his enthusiastic voice: "Hello Kevin. This is David Stock from Pittsburgh. I'm with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and on the search committee for a new Director of Orchestras at Duquesne University. Do you have a minute to talk?"

Nearly everything that I've been able to do in the arts and the life that I've been able to lead has been a direct result of that call and his subsequent influence on my life and thinking. My wife, my friendship circles, my professional circles, the cities I've lived in, the things I've truly loved — almost all of them point to David Stock. I've heard the same thing said by countless people who encountered David at similar moments in their life. Of course the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble would not exist today without him, but his legacy of almost 300 world premieres and commissions so far...(there will be more, many more) and the indelible relationships that PNME has built with its audiences through decades of countless performances is but one of his innumerable contributions to our planet.

You see, David was much more than a creator of music, he was a creator of culture. David was the elder statesman of the arts in Pittsburgh, an unwavering champion of young people, a soul filling teacher, a generous and kind colleague, the very definition of an arts lover, a mentor in the truest sense, an aficionado of the world's great Chinese restaurants, a world traveler, a people person, and an ambassador of music and good will. Perhaps above all, David was most loyal and and friend that ever walked the earth.

His judgment-free way of looking at the world, his unerring support of his friends and family, and his belief in the healing power of music was second to none. If there was a performance of music, anyone's music, anywhere, at any time...somehow David was there. Period. He'd be cheering it on with that inescapable smile of his that went from ear to ear, and he always had time after the performances to stay and talk with the audiences and the performers. David always had time for you. David was one of a kind. David is, without question, irreplaceable.

I'm sure there will be plenty of additional tributes to Mr. Stock occurring in various venues throughout Pittsburgh. Duquesne University's "Schubert on the Bluff" series happens to be featuring his music this season. 

Here are some additional articles about David and his impact on the music community in Pittsburgh and beyond:

From this summer: PNME celebrates 40 years of charting new music territory 

PNME lists top commissions 

From 2013: Symphony superb with Stock and Orff

From 2008: David Stock to retire from Duquesne, not from composing

 

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