New subscription series: ‘Symphonic Voices’

Pacific Symphony has launched a new subscription series focused on the human voice.

Puccini

Dubbed “Symphonic Voices,” the four-concert package is centered on the annual semi-staged production of an opera, which next season will be Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” (Feb. 21, 23, 26).

To this is added the other opera on the schedule, Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges” (May 16-18, 2019); a semi-staged production of “My Fair Lady” on the Pops series, conducted by Richard Kaufman (May 31-June 1, 2019); and the season-ending performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” featuring the Pacific Chorale, the Southern California Children’s Chorus, and soloists to be announced (June 6-8, 2019).

Carl St.Clair conducts everything except “My Fair Lady.”

For those who sign up for the subscription in the near future, a fifth concert, “Bernstein @ 100,” celebrating the centennial of Leonard Bernstein (Oct.25-27, 2018), is added free.

Subscriptions to “Symphonic Voices” are available for $270. Call (714) 755-5799 for more information or to purchase. This offer is not available online.

Miscellany

An inside look at James Levine’s lawsuit against the Metropolitan Opera….

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony have a new contract, negotiated without rancor….

John Williams’ next “Star Wars” film will be his last….

Here’s a fresh idea for a classical concert — Poems While You Wait….

Several classical titles have been named to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, including Artur Schnabel’s complete recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas….

Zack Ferriday makes a strong case for ditching the term “Maestro”….

José Abreu, founder of Venezuela’s El SIstema, has died….

That time Philip Glass was in a whisky ad

“In the Spring of 1984, I had just finished writing Akhnaten and I was getting ready for a double opening at the Houston Grand Opera and at the Stuttgart Opera. I had already used up all the commission money to pay for the preparation of the conductor’s score and the piano reduction used by the singer’s for rehearsals. In addition, I had to pay for copying the parts from which the musicians in the orchestra would play, and for that I needed about fifteen thousand dollars. Before computers, this work, an intense amount of labor, had to be done by hand, requiring three or four copyists. Out of the blue I got an offer to do a print ad for Cutty Sark, and, miraculously, they offered me fifteen thousand dollars. I was overjoyed and didn’t hesitate. A photograph was taken of me holding a glass of Scotch whisky with musical notes floating in it. I took the money and had the parts done for the opera.” — from “Words Without Music” by Philip Glass

Director’s note for ‘The Magic Flute’

“The Magic Flute” is Mozart’s final opera and one of his last compositions. It premiered in Vienna in September 1791 and Mozart died a mere two months later. Despite being sick, hungry, broke and altogether miserable, Mozart’s music is some of the most joyous and beautiful he ever wrote.

The piece is technically termed a “singspiel” — meaning that it combines singing and spoken dialogue – and that means that it’s what we today call a musical. While on the surface “The Magic Flute” and its characters can be considered a bit silly, it is actually an endlessly fascinating work of art.

So many meanings have been attached to this opera: Is it about brotherhood? The meaning of true love? The method for achieving an honorable life? Some feel the work is a philosophical tract about the Age of Enlightenment, some believe it’s a commentary on the French Revolution, some accuse Mozart of purloining Masonic secret rituals. Others argue that it’s a political diatribe aimed against a conservative Austrian government headed by Maria Theresa. There are also theories that the work is inspired by tarot cards or even by the psychosexual beliefs of Carl Jung. (Obviously, the latter is historically impossible.)

Every one of these is fascinating to research but ultimately one has to tell this story in a way that will speak to modern audiences. We like the idea of approaching this largely as an adult fairy tale but with real characters experiencing real emotions. And one of the great advantages of producing opera with the Pacific Symphony is that the orchestra can be given its rightful place as a character in the piece. It really is perhaps the character of the opera. Mozart’s amazing writing not only has the orchestra supporting the singers’ emotions, but it oftentimes tells us things that words can’t express. And without giving away too many secrets, the beauty of Segerstrom Concert Hall gives a fantastic jumping off point to offer a feast for the eyes. And when all is said and done, there always is – and always will be – Mozart’s music. A beautiful hall; a world-class orchestra, cast and conductor; this opera; Mozart. What a privilege for every one of us — performers and listeners alike — to be a part of this!

Bob Neu

Tickets here

Audio: Klemperer conducts the Overture to ‘The Magic Flute’

Here’s one of my favorite recordings of Mozart’s Overture to “The Magic Flute,” with the Philharmonia conducted by Otto Klemperer. It’s stately but never heavy, and finely detailed.

Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony give three semi-staged performances of “The Magic Flute” beginning this week. Tickets here

Miscellany

A video of one of Leonard Bernstein’s last rehearsals has recently surfaced. …

The Minnesota Orchestra will be the first major American orchestra to visit South Africa. …

The Houston Symphony has named a new CEO, someone from Orange County. …

A hologram of Maria Callas makes its concert debut and The New York Times is there to see it (her?). …

Mozart beat Beethoven as the most performed classical composer in 2017; Arvo Pärt was the most performed living composer. …

Wow, is Steven Spielberg really going to remake “West Side Story”? …

In New Orleans, they’re reviving a 19th century opera on tabasco, written by an important American composer. …

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon has written a new work for the Chicago Symphony, a Low Brass Concerto that’ll take full advantage of the orchestra’s famed section. …