All Women, All the Time (Almost)

Following the fiasco in which my audio files disappeared from Live365 a few months ago, I was pretty slow in getting Postclassic Radio back up and in running order, and it sat pretty stagnant for the month of August. (By way of apology, Live365 gave everyone affected a free month's broadcasting.) But people kept adding on as listeners, and I finally took time out from other work to rev it back up. Having started with Eve Beglarian as July composer-of-the-month, the playlist took a female-intensive turn, and I thought about moving to an … [Read more...]

New Opera Demands New Singers

Interesting development at Sequenza 21. It turns out I'm not the only opera composer who feels hampered by the ubiquity of bel canto singing. Composers in general, the discussion suggests, at least those my age and younger, like their texts enunciated, don't object to amplification on principle, and are a little sick and tired of the Europe-y sound of wide vibrato, preferring something a little more pop. Some would rather use untrained singers and amplify them than settle for the usual conservatory product. Last time I staged an opera, I tried … [Read more...]

Harris, Harrassed, in the Hudson

After 36 years, I finally heard Roy Harris's Third Symphony live last night, conducted by Leon Botstein at Bard's Copland and His World festival. I had discovered the piece when I was 13, and it blew me away. The smooth sweep of the piece's organic form is masterful (or maybe just lucky, because Harris had trouble ever achieving it again), and the middle, "Pastoral" section had a deep impact on me: time stops as the orchestra floats on a directionless sea of polytonal arpeggios. In some ways I've spent my life trying to duplicate the effect of … [Read more...]

Against the Tide as Usual

This is from one of the program notes I wrote for the current Bard festival, "Aaron Copland and his World": Some of the musical intelligentsia decried Copland's return to tonality, but one of the remarkable things about Billy the Kid is how well it integrates his technical achievements of the 1920s. Bitonality is rampant: Scene 2, "Street in a Frontier Town," plays off the cowboy tune "Great Grandad" in A-flat major against "Whoopie Ti Yi Yo" in F major; and then plays the latter in major and minor at once, with some clashes reminiscent of the … [Read more...]

Academy d’Underrated, Operatic Wing

From recordings, I've known and loved Aaron Copland's opera The Tender Land for over thirty years, but I had never seen a production of it until last night at Bard's Summerscape Festival. It's true the piece is a little more stage-awkward than I'd imagined: some of the lyrics are more pictorial than dramatic, and the first love scene between Laurie and Martin takes place at an otherwise racuous party, which must be imagined silently continuing in the background. (Staging also failed to clarify Top's peculiar second-act story, which scandalizes … [Read more...]

Regina, Briefly Out of the Closet

I've seen Marc Blitzstein's opera Regina staged in its entirety. Not many people living today can say that; the number will swell another thousand or two by week's end, as the work continues to run at Bard's Summerscape Festival. Far be it from me to review a work presented by an institution which keeps me on its payroll, but it is worth reporting something about so rarely performed an opera. We have so many operas that possess some underground reputation, but that are performed less often than once per generation, due to presumed flaws whose … [Read more...]