Olga Neuwirth Maintains Eclectic Path in Her Music 

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(New York Times)  —  In “Trurliade-Zone Zero,” a new percussion concerto by Olga Neuwirth, the orchestra represents an irrational machine bent on the destruction of its creator. Confronted with D.J.-turntables, a megaphone and clicking metal frogs — not to mention three percussion stations — the soloist resorts to hitting a metal barrel with a giant hammer. If the sound palette seems surreal, it is no surprise coming from Ms. Neuwirth, a 48-year-old Austrian composer known for labyrinthine narratives exploring seemingly disparate influences. At last summer’s Salzburg Festival, her “Eleanor Suite” juxtaposed a blues singer and drum kit player with a contemporary classical ensemble to illustrate the social oppression of female African-American jazz musicians. “Le Encantadas o le avventure del mare delle meraviglie,” an homage to the Italian composer Luigi Nono and the writings of Herman Melville first heard last fall at the Donaueschingen Festival, where Ms. Neuwirth was the sole female composer on the roster, surrounded the audience with six interlocking ensembles while electronic samples emitted everything from lapping water to churchbells.  […]

Die Liebe der Danae, Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg: ‘Sumptuous’ 

(Financial Times)  — If any stage could prove Die Liebe der Danae to be more than a work that is by turns ravishing, by turns logistically unwieldy, it ought to be the Salzburg Festival: Richard Strauss’ penultimate opera premiered here in 1952. The Latvian director and set designer Alvis Hermanis, a regular fixture at the summer festival since his formidable production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten four years ago, now takes up the challenge. The “cheerful mythology” drafted by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and completed by Joseph Gregor tells of the rivalry between Jupiter and the donkey-driver-turned-golden-touched-Midas for the hand of princess Danae. Hermanis transports the action to a middle eastern fantasyland where oversized turbans, billowing clothing and gilded harem dancers create caricature-like tableaux. Yet with the exception of opulent costumes by Juozas Statkevičius, the production’s aesthetic could be more imaginative. […]

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Oper auf allen Kanälen

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(Berliner Morgenpost) — Live im Kino, unterwegs auf dem Laptop oder bequem vor dem Smart-TV: Der Opernbetrieb sucht nach neuen Kanälen. Die digitalen Möglichkeiten stellen nicht nur Fragen an Zuschauer und Künstler, sondern auch an die Veranstalter. HD-Übertragung oder ­Stream? Schnelle Schnitte oder Standbild? Mit oder ohne Zahlungspflicht? Ob man sich für die eine oder andere Option entscheidet, digitale Vertriebsformen sind mittlerweile Pflicht für ein großes Opernhaus, das sich auf dem internationalen Markt positionieren will. Aber das Geschäftsmodell ist immer noch in der Entwicklung. Mit der “Live in HD”-Serie bahnte Peter Gelb, Generaldirektor der Metropolitan Opera in New York, im Jahr 2006 den Weg. Die Übertragungen sollten nicht nur als Werbetool dienen, sondern auch als eine neue Art, das Publikum zu gewinnen. Inzwischen können Zuschauer in 70 Ländern Stars wie Anna Netrebko und Jonas Kaufmann mit Popcorn in der Hand erleben. Deutschland und Österreich bilden den größten Markt nach den Vereinigten Staaten. […]

In Berlin, Reinventing an Operatic Tradition

(New York Times)  — It is not every day that a stage director becomes artist in residence with an orchestra — particularly not with an institution as steeped in tradition as the Berlin Philharmonic. But Peter Sellars has an unusual stake in the Philharmonic’s recent history. In 2010, he staged the J.S. Bach “St. Matthew Passion,” a sacred work more readily associated with church services. The production, which traveled to New York, London, Lucerne, Switzerland, and Salzburg, Austria, spawned a production of the “St. John Passion” in February 2014. Riding on the success, the orchestra has welcomed Mr. Sellars back for a season-long residency. Alongside works by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and the late Canadian modernist Claude Vivier, the centerpiece is a production of Debussy’s only opera, “Pelléas et Mélisande,” which returns the mezzo Magdalena Kozena and baritone Christian Gerhaher of the Passions to starring roles.  […]

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Die Dreigroschenoper, Theater an der Wien, Vienna — ‘Driven by display, not depth’

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(Financial Times)  — Kurt Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) was not conceived for performance in an opera house. So it may seem ironic that the Theater an der Wien has chosen “the play with music”, as the composer and playwright Bertolt Brecht coined the work, to commemorate its 10th anniversary as an opera company. With the exception of Austrian stage and film actor Tobias Moretti, as the gangster Macheath, all cast members have classical training. While their polished voices assure that no melody will be out of tune, Brecht’s streetwise characters here lack the grit and biting irony from which the stage work lives. Polly Peachum (Nina Bernsteiner), who marries Macheath, is so straight-laced that one can hardly believe she is the daughter of a man who steals from beggars, even as she strips down to a boulevard pirate costume in the song “Seeräuberjenny.” […]

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(Berliner Morgenpost)  — Das Archiv der Sing-Akademie war nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg jahrzehntelang verschwunden. 1999 wurde die Kriegsbeute durch ein Forscherteam der Harvard University in Kiew wiederentdeckt. Nach politischen Verhandlungen kehrte das Archiv 2001 nach Berlin zurück. Die Musikforscher staunten: In den 241 Kisten befanden sich Autographe, Abschriften und einige seltene Notendrucke. Es sind überwiegend Erstdrucke mit handschriftlichen Widmungen und Anmerkungen. Das ist der Notenschatz des ersten, 1791 gegründeten gemischten Chores in Deutschlands. Die Sing-Akademie hatte nicht nur das frühbürgerliche Musikleben, sondern auch das Sozialgefüge Preußens mitgeprägt. Eine Neuentdeckung ist bei den Forschungen jetzt ans Licht gekommen: Neben dem ersten gemischten Chor der bürgerlichen Welt entstand unter dem Dach der Sing-Akademie auch das Urbild aller Männerchöre: die von Akademie-Leiter Carl Friedrich Zelter 1809 ins Leben gerufene Liedertafel, die nach neuesten Forschungen sogar zum Kern des bildungsbürgerlichen Pflichtprogramms gehörte. […]

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Restoring the Legacy of a Composer

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(New York Times)  —  When Giacomo Meyerbeer died during rehearsals of his last opera, “L’Africaine,” in 1863, his style of music drama served as a model across Europe. But a combination of anti-Semitism, nationalist aesthetics and financial considerations caused the Berlin-born composer’s stage works to fall out of fashion by the early 20th century. While such singers as Plácido Domingo and Shirley Verrett rediscovered Meyerbeer after World War II, it became standard to perform his operas with substantial cuts. And until recently, this revival took place outside Germany. The Deutsche Oper Berlin hopes to reverse this development with a cycle spanning several seasons. […]

 „Was nicht digital ist, das verschwindet irgendwann“ 

(Berliner Morgenpost)  — “Platten gibt es nicht mehr”, sagt Till Janczukowicz in seinem Berliner Büro in Mitte. “Sie waren ein physisches Transportmittel, aber heute und in Zukunft passiert alles digital.” Der langjährige Klassikmanager (Columbia Artists, Vermont Classics) ist davon überzeugt, mit der Plattform Idagio.com das richtige Unternehmensmodell in einer sich wandelnden Plattenindustrie gefunden zu haben. Bei ihm sollen die Musiker stärker am Umsatz beteiligt werden als bei bisherigen Streamingportalen. […]

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The Two Kurts : Weill as avant-garde composer and populist

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(Listen)  — Whether writing for the streets of New York or Berlin, Kurt Weill sought to connect with his audience in the here and now. “If you are a theater composer, the only way to get your work produced is if an audience can understand and appreciate it,” Kim Kowalke, president of the Kurt Weill Foundation, tells Listen. And Weill’s audiences could not have been more different. While The Threepenny Opera is now canonized on both sides of the Atlantic, it wasn’t long ago that Americans remained largely ignorant of Weill’s modernist works before his emigration to the United States, while Europeans snubbed his enormous output in American musical theater.  […]

A Berlin Institution’s Lively Shift

(New York Times)  —  On a recent evening at the Konzerthaus here, audience members chatted with members of the orchestra as they tuned their instruments. The stage of the main hall had been lowered and rows of velvet upholstered seating removed, everyday chairs forming wide concentric circles around a wooden podium. “I have to make sure I can see all the musicians!” the conductor, Ivan Fischer, joked into the microphone. The concert series, “Mittendrin,” or Right in the Middle, is one of several experimental formats the Konzerthaus Berlin has introduced since Mr. Fischer’s arrival as music director in 2012. […]

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