Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Johann Schrammel (1850-1893)
Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Sun Ra (1914-1993)
George Tintner (1917-1999)
Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008)
Claude Ballif (1924-2004)
John Browning (1933-2003)
Peter Nero (1934)

and

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014)

and from the New Music Box:

On May 21, 1893, in an lengthy article published in the New York Herald titled "Real Value of Negro Melodies," Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak, during his three-year sojourn in the United States, prognosticated that the future of American music should be based on "negro melodies" and announced that the National Conservatory of Music, where he was serving as Director at the time, would be "thrown open free of charge to the negro race." It was to be the first of a total of seven articles in the Herald in which Dvorak expounded these ideas which provoked comments ranging from incredulity to denunciation by composers and performers around the world including Anton Bruckner, Anton Rubinstein and John Knowles Paine.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Thomas "Fats" Waller (1904-1943)
Gina Bachauer (1913-1976)
Heinz Holliger (1939)
Rosalind Plowright (1949)
Linda Bouchard (1957)

and

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989)
Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981)
George Hurst (1926-2012)
Karl Anton Rikenbacher (1940-2014)
Tison Street (1943)
Joe Cocker (1944-2014)
Cher (1946)
Sue Knussen (1949-2003)
Jane Parker-Smith (1950)
Emma Johnson (1966)

and

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)
Nellie Melba (1859-1931)
Kerstin Thorborg (1896-1970)
Sandy Wilson (1924-2014)
Pete Townshend (1945)
Stephen Varcoe (1949)

and

Malcom X (1925-1965)
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)
Nora Ephron (1941-2012)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1886, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (11 selections) was given during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The next documented performance (12 sections) was given in Boston on February 27, 1887, by the Handel and Haydn Society, with Carl Zerrahn conducting a chorus of 432 and an orchestra of 50. In both the 1886 Cincinnati and 1887 Boston performances, the famous 19-century German soprano Lilli Lehmann appeared as one of the soprano soloists. The first complete performance of the work was apparently given either at the Moravian Church in Bethlehem on Mar 17, 1900, by the Bach Choir under J. Fred Wolf, or at Carnegie Hall in new York on April 5, 1900, by the Oratorio Society, Frank Damrosch conducting.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Superb singing in Portland Opera's Rigoletto

Stephen Powell as Rigoletto | Photo by Cory Weaver.
Exceptional performances by the principal singers highlighted Portland Opera’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto on Thursday evening (May 8) at Keller Auditorium. Presented with traditional scenery and costumes, the story of the humpbacked jester, his lovely and naïve daughter, and a lascivious Duke resonated with an audience that has been well-numbed by current scandals involving famous people in business, entertainment, and politics. With Stephen Powell in the title role, Katrina Galka as his daughter Gilda, and Barry Banks as the Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto proved its evergreen status once again, making one wonder if humanity has learned much of anything since its premiere in 1851.

Powell’s marvelous interpretation revealed a wide palette of emotions from brusque bullying humor when he protects the Duke to pitiable sadness when he realizes that his daughter is dead. And he delivered it all with a gorgeous baritone that never had a rough edge, even at the loudest moments.

Galka, a graduate of Portland Opera’s Resident Artist Program, went beyond all expectations with a wonderfully vulnerable Gilda who nonetheless summons an inner strength that causes her to sacrifice herself for the reprehensible Duke. Galka and Powell were superb in their duets, such as “Sì! Vendetta, tremenda vendetta” in which Rigoletto cries for revenge while Gilda pleads for her lover.

Banks strutted about as the Dune of Mantua, peeling off high notes with the carefree nonchalance of a playboy. He extended final note of “La donna è mobile" effortlessly, and it should have made the highlight reel for the evening news.
Barry Banks as the Duke and Katrina Galka as Gilda | Photo by Cory Weaver.
Scott Conner cut a dangerous Sparafucile and Hannah Penn a seductive Maddalena. However, Penn’s voice was difficult to hear whenever she was paired with others. Reginald Smith Jr was a forceful Count Monterone with demonstratively thunderous voice that gripped the audience and didn’t let go until he exited the stage. Helen Huang as Countess Ceprano flirted shamelessly with the Duke while her husband, Shi Li as Count Ceprano, fumed in frustration.

The chorus of the Duke’s retainers sang lustily and left no doubt that they would do anything to protect him. The orchestra, conducted by George Manahan, got off to an anemic start, but revved up the dynamic range as the opera progressed.

The scenery, designed by Sarah J. Conly and J. Michael Deegan for The Atlanta Opera, was used by Portland Opera when it last produced Rigoletto in 2009. The staging revealed the interior of a stone palace for the Duke’s residence, a stony courtyard and steps to Rigoletto’s home, and the lowly lodgings of Sparafucile and his sister. Patrons who sat on the far left-side may have missed the entry of Rigoletto and Gilda in a boat because of a wall in the final scene.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667)
Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876)
Karl Goldmark (1830-1915)
Ezio Pinza (1892-1947)
Henri Sauguet (1901-1989)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Sir Clifford Curzon (1907-1982)
Perry Como (1912-2001)
Boris Christoff (1914-1993)
Mikko Heiniö (1948)

and

Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Walter Gropius (1883-1969)
Frank Capra (1897-1991)
Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991)
Tina Fey (1970)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Werner Egk (1901-1983)
Sandor Vegh (1905-1997)
Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005)
Dennis Brain (1921-1957)
Peter Mennin (1932-1983)
Taj Mahal (1942)
Paul Crossley (1944)
Brian Rayner Cook (1945)
Bill Bruford (1949)
Ivor Bolton (1958)

and

Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957)
Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959)
Gary Paulsen (1939)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 17, 1846, Belgian-born instrument builder and clarinetist Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone, an instrument that would have a profound impact on American jazz. Over a century later, on May 17, 1957, a computer was used to make music for the first time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Richard Tauber (1891-1948)
Ivan Vishnegradsy (1893-1979)
Jan Kiepura (1902-1966)
Woody Herman (1913-1987)
Liberace (1919-1987)
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000)
Betty Carter (1930-1998)
Donald Martino (1931-2005)
Robert Fripp (1946)
Monica Huggett (1953)
Andrew Litton (1959)

and

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)
Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)
Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912-2008)
Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 16, 1907, Miller Reese Hutchison filed an application at the U.S. Patent Office for his invention, the motor-driven Diaphragm Actuated Horn and Resonator, for use in automobiles. The patent was granted on May 3, 1910. The carhorn would later be used as a musical instrument by numerous composers ranging from George Gershwin in An American in Paris (1928) to Wendy Mae Chambers who developed a Car Horn Organ in 1983.