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Stripping away Rococo excess—The Music of Monsigny-The Libretto of Sedaine.

Saturday, February 5th 230 AM Last week I made a few notes about Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the architect of the opera house at Versailles. Gabriel had mastered one style (the voluptuous Rococo of Louis XV) and created a new one (the opulent classicism of Louis XVI). Towards the end of his career he rejected the sinuous and undulating decorations of the Rococo for fluted columns and the rectangle. Gabriel celebrated the entitlement of aristocracy and his style change was not a political comment, not a revolution in that sense. Had he lived longer … [Read more...]

Opening Night at Versailles

Saturday, February 4th at 8 PM Traditions and customs differ. In France, at the Opera de Versailles the orchestra is not allowed to enter the pit, to warm up on their instruments, until 5 minutes before the curtain rises. In America we all mosey into our places, run a few scales, play a difficult excerpt, look into the audience for old friends and attractive new faces, and talk to each other as we wait for the lights to dim and the concertmaster to "chorale" us into our group tuning. On opening night at Versailles, the door to the pit opens … [Read more...]

The Little Theater of the Queen

Saturday, February 4, 2012 Of course you remember the Andy Hardy movies, or scenes from The Little Rascals in which a group of energetic, talented (Judy Garland) or bumbling (Alfalfa), amateur performers exclaimed, let’s “Put on a show”. The old barn flashes across their minds and soon the cows are out and the piano is in! While Louis XIV stopped dancing in public on turning 21, and Louis XV was pleased enough with show girls brought to his chambers, Marie Antoinette loved to BE a royal showgirl and did so to the delight of her husband … [Read more...]

Taking our place at Versailles

Saturday, February 4, 2012 3 AM Sitting in my hotel room, unable to sleep, and aware that something magnificent has happened for all of the musicians of Opera Lafayette this afternoon. We performers love what we do. We cherish the music we play, written by great geniuses and offering so much wealth for the spirit, so much understanding and meaning to our lives. We love being able to share this with audiences who are often moved, even surprised by the power of the art we recreate. We love the challenge of trying to live up to the potential … [Read more...]

Stripping away the Rococo Excesses-The opera of Ange-Jacques Gabriel

When the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel was given the project of building an opera house for the Palace of Versailles, he accepted with trepidation. The plan for a Royal Opera has been in the minds of the courtiers for almost a century yet circumstances worked to stunt each effort to build it. The price of war more than anything else delayed construction. The wars were never ending. And so, while princes around Europe boasted about their palace theaters, Versailles’ monarchs made do with the makeshift. Temporary theaters were constructed in the … [Read more...]

The Recording Sessions

Monday January 23, 2012 We all arrived at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Maryland at 1 PM after a day off, our first in a week. We were all feeling good about our performance at the Kennedy Center and came to the recording session having spent a day visiting museums, shopping, spending time with family and friends, reconnecting with our lives, refreshed. This large theater looks somewhat like an indoor football stadium or a mega church. The roof is so high, enclosing so much vertical space that … [Read more...]

Three Theaters

Friday, January 20, 2012 7 PM The Atlas Performing Arts Center The presence of an art center is a known catalyst for the renaissance of a neighborhood on the down and outs. It attracts peaceful, benign folks (artists, families) ; it fertilizes parallel businesses like restaurants, and when well considered, it serves the community, from young to old. The Atlas is a perfect example. Opera Lafayette chose the Atlas as a rehearsal home many years ago and the members of the orchestra have watched the community move from slightly frightening to … [Read more...]

Into the Pit

January 19, 2012 For the chamber musician (and the orchestra of Opera Lafayette consists of chamber musicians), the pit is a torturous music chamber, an uncomfortable dream come true. After two days of preparing the score of Monsigny’s Le Roi et le fermier with instruments and singers in a large rehearsal room at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, we are ready to put the singers on stage and work the magic of theater. For the instrumentalists, this means becoming invisible. It is part of the magic. We have examined and rehearsed each … [Read more...]

First rehearsal

January 17, 2012 at 2 PM The Atlas Performing Arts Center We are about to play the music. This is the first rehearsal. We are in our places and tuned up. Loretta O’Sullivan makes sure her cello strings are exact with the harpsichord’s—A, D, G and C. She hands that A to the violins who toss it over to the violas. The winds come last and the orchestra plays an E flat major chord so that each one of us is in harmony with the first notes of the first aria. We are ready to make this Monsigny score come to life. Against the studio room walls … [Read more...]

All Aboard

January 17, 2012 On the train from New York to Washington DC In the 16 years I have worked with Opera Lafayette I have, with few exception, driven from my home in New York to Washington DC. This is a repeated pilgrimage, three or four times a year, and certain stops along the way are woven into the tapestry. Maryland House is a preferred rest stop, and how happy we were when a crab cake restaurant opened there! Starbucks, YES! Roy Rodgers, NO! Crossing the Chesapeake water gap always beautiful, the light, water, cliffs never fail. … [Read more...]

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