A Santa Fe

Dear Opera Friends and Family,

So we left for the annul trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, yesterday.  For those unaware, Santa Fe hosts one of the best summer opera festivals in the world.  What does this mean?  Well, many places (such as Des Moines in my earlier posts) around the world offer the opportunity to go to a lovely place…say, Santa Fe, NM, and see one opera a night for up to a week.  Bayreuth (in Germany) is probably the best example, showcasing Wagner’s works but there are several other options.  This country actually has a number of opportunities; Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Glimmerglass Opera are two of them (and highly recommended by this author).  One of the attractions for Julie and me attending this particular event is that we took the motorcycle and spent two lovely days getting here via the San Juan Skyway through Ouray, Silverton and Durango.  If you haven’t taken this road, you must.  Only caveat is you musn’t be afraid of heights.  We stayed at a B&B in Ouray called the Black Bear Inn.  Apparently, it is aptly named as one of the guests regaled us with a story of seeing a bear rummaging in the trash bin the morning of our arrival.  I’ve seen bears up close before and while I appreciate them and wish they were friendlier, I am fine if I don’t see one in close proximity ever again.  That stated, Ouray is an amazing little town reminiscent of some I have seen in Switzerland; a small valley at just under 8,000 feet surrounded by 13 and 14 thousand foot peaks.  All at the beginning of one of the most stunning roads ever created for auto (and, better yet, motorcycle).

So…we arrived here today after a lovely ride.  Santa Fe is truly a beautiful place and the clouds do something in this part of the world that I don’t see anywhere else.  Perfectly defined and yet undefinable all at the same time.   If you are a painter, you’ll find it mesmerizing. Clearly Georgia O’Keeffe did.

So, why am I here besides it being a lovely place?  As I stated earlier, festivals are a place to see multiple operas in short order.  So, beginning tomorrow (Tuesday) I see at least three operas in four nights.  Add to this, it is the week that Artistic and General Directors from around the country are invited and treated to networking events.  Also, auditions for all the young artists this summer are arranged in the actual performance space.  So…a chance to see world-class opera, make deals with colleagues from other companies and hear the next generation of opera artists.   Should be a good week.  I’ll keep “blogging” and let you know how it goes.

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A Beethoven of Our Time: Joan Tower

As classical music fans, we’re always on the look-out to hear the latest and greatest in classical music and we wish we had had the opportunity to meet and hear Beethoven or Mozart live and in their day. Well here’s your chance to hear a Beethoven of today: Joan Tower. Ms. Tower is important not only because she’s one of just a handful of female composers who are actively composing, but mainly because she’s been a constant innovator and voice for modern classical music over the last five decades. She’s received three Grammy Awards, countless commissions and composition awards, and was the first female to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition. She’s been the composer-in-residence at several of the best orchestras in the world. Utah Symphony has enjoyed a five-year association with Ms. Tower through her tenure as composer-in-residence at our Deer Valley® Music Festival. If you want to hear the best and the brightest in classical music today, come to Deer Valley Resort this Friday.

Utah Symphony will perform her orchestral work, Made in America. This 15-minute piece is truly an American work in every sense of the word: through a partnership program between the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet The Composer, this pieces “toured” all 50 states and was featured on programs by some 65 orchestras during the 2005-07 seasons. Over a span of two seasons, this piece saw more performances in more states than the much heralded Police reunion tour! Read Joan Tower’s program notes here. Greg Sandow, a classical music icon himself, writes about this grand undertaking here.

Musician’s Note: Bringing Classical Mystery Tour Back to Utah

The last time ‘Classical Mystery Tour‘ appeared with the Utah Symphony, I needed earplugs – to handle the roar of the audience!John Eckstein

As a Beatles fan, I understand the power of their music.  And yet I still couldn’t have predicted the level of excitement reached in Abravanel Hall during those concerts.  It was as if reality was suspended, and we were all transported back in time.  I’ve never seen an audience enjoy itself more.

For the last several years I’ve been hounding Utah Symphony Artistic Director Jeff Bram to get this ‘fab four’ back.  At meetings, parties, even at the grocery store, he hasn’t been safe.  He finally caved to the relentless pressure.

Come and join us for the music that defined an era, performed in the most beautiful concert setting you’ll ever find.

See you there!

Classical Mystery Tour
A Tribute to the Beatles with the Utah Symphony
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Deer Valley Snow Park Amphitheater
Learn more at deervalleymusicfestival.org >>

A Trip to the Heartland – part 2

As one arrives in the little town of Indianola, Iowa, home to DMMO, one sees what is a stereotypical small Iowa town: corn fields that push right up against the city limits; a grain elevator just off of the center of town; beautiful old maples and oaks leaning over the roads; and a town square. Before I can begin reminiscing on my college days, I need to get checked into my hotel. Basically, when picking a hotel in Indianola one has a whopping TWO choices. I might add that this is one more choice than was available even as recent as ten years ago. The older hotel is the quaint little Apple Tree Inn, which when I was a student was a cute, if basic, motel run by a lovely local family. Just a comfortable place to sleep that offered the major amenities of a McDonalds on one side and Country Kitchen on the other. The other choice is the Super 8 motel which is a little more on the outskirts (but still within walking distance of the Country Kitchen).

I chose the Apple Tree Inn since my parents had enjoyed it when coming to see our performances and I had used it once before many years ago. However, the lovely local family had apparently retired and sold it to “outsiders” who had let the property go a bit and were clearly more interested in the bottom line than friendly service. That stated, at $66/night, I suppose I got what I paid for. Besides, there was always Country Kitchen for breakfast. I turned the room’s air conditioning on full blast and left to head to the campus to do what my father calls, “chasing ghosts.”

Now, six weeks ago when I made arrangements with my colleagues at DMMO, the plan had been to hear half of the apprentice artists the evening I arrived. However, between the time of making said arrangements and my arrival the schedule changed. I had been trumped that day by a master class being given by none other than Carol Vaness. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Carol Vaness, she was one of the world’s leading sopranos of her generation. She basically owned all the serious Mozart roles but also was a famous Tosca as well. Most recently, I saw her do the role of the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at Seattle Opera which was quite lovely. I decided to attend a part of her master class before taking advantage of the newly found time. I am happy to report that Carol is a WONDERFUL master class teacher. She clearly loves working with young artists and has an uncanny ability to set the singers with which she is working at complete ease and even help a singer with a technical issue without using purely technical language (For the non-singer reading this, singers are often a little touchy about someone other than his/her teacher addressing technical issues; strange but true.) which is a real gift. I immediately decided I will look into inviting her to come to Salt Lake City to work with our young artists. Having had this epiphany, I decided I deserved a treat from the nearly seventy-year-old Corner Sundry. Off to the town square.

To be continued…

A Trip to the Heartland

Not enough people know it, but opera is alive and well in the middle of Iowa.  Not only do they have a long-standing opera festival but also a well-respected young artist program.  Add to this that they were presenting a rarely performed work, Marc Blitzstein’s Regina – a work Utah Opera will present this coming January – and I couldn’t stay away.  Now, I must confess, the company I was visiting – Des Moines Metro Opera – is situated on the campus where I went to college, so there were extenuating circumstances for my wanting to visit.  That stated, it turned out to be a much more productive trip than I first expected.

Any of you who have flown into Des Moines’ airport know that incorporating the word “International” into the title feels a little bit of a stretch.  It has two concourses total, and about ten gates a piece.  The bright side: when departing from Des Moines, I don’t know if a shorter and easier security line can be found in a city airport.  When I arrived, I went to the car rental counter where I had a reservation and their computers were down.  (Mind you, I believe this particular counter only got computers last year, but you can imagine how much challenge this creates.)  Once we did all the paperwork by hand, I was rewarded with a lovely upgrade that included satellite radio.  Bonus – the radio never came off of the Metropolitan Opera’s 24/7 station.  But enough of this, we were ready to go.

I stepped out the door…OK, so lately it has been hot here in SLC, but I was reminded what a fantastic thing we have in our lack of humidity; what do I have in Iowa?  The same temperatures at home but with the added benefit of about 90% wetness in the air.  I needed a change of shirt before I got to my car!

So…in the car with the Met’s station blaring (it was a Strauss marathon…yes!) and the air conditioning on full tornado mode, I make my way towards the home of Des Moines Metro Opera.  Now…here’s the thing, Des Moines Metro Opera isn’t actually in Des Moines.  The aforementioned campus where I will see performances is actually in a sleepy little town nearly 15 miles south of the Des Moines city limits…and I must add: there is LITTLE in between save corn fields.  It’s eerily like the movie, Field of Dreams; somehow, they built it…thirty-six years ago…and people came…and continue to come.

To be continued…

Company Picnic in the space to Deer Valley

Last weekend the Department heads of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera hosted a company picnic in Sugar house.  The food was fantastic, and the cooks were entertaining with costumes to boot to entertain the summer theme.  It was a nice break as we are still working hard to get the summer season at Deer Valley prepared and ready to go!  There was great socializing that ended in a water fight breaking apart the various conversations, and games of croquet that had begun.

Kirsten Brochinsky headed up a food drive as a competition between the company at Abravanel Hall and the Production Studios.  It was a race to the finish, and Kirsten even collected a few more items at the picnic itself but Production Studios had them beat by over one thousand ounces as the winners were announced after lunch.  The prizes were bubbles and small water guns for everyone at the winning building which were used in abundance during the water fight.  The afternoon was great fun!

Pictures can be found http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23046&id=6381784924

Bachauer International Piano Competition

If you didn’t see Sunday’s Tribune article entitled “Piano prodigies prepare for elite competition” you can find it at SLTrib.com. And we are pleased to note that both of the two Utah pianists selected to participate in the Junior (Weiyi Le) and Young Artist (Song Choi) Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition are members of the Utah Symphony Youth Guild

You’ll enjoy reading the Tribune article and we hope you will take advantage of this splendid opportunity to hear some of the competition in the next two weeks.  Scheduling information can be found in the article or at the Bachauer website at http://www.bachauer.com/.

Good luck to Weiyi and Song!

Musician’s Note: When Larry Meets Joey

Hi!

I’m Larry Zalkind, Principal Trombonist of the Utah Symphony, and on Friday and Saturday nights, May 30th and 31st, I’ll be performing the Trombone Concerto by award winning American composer Christopher Rouse with the Utah Symphony and Joseph Silverstein (former Utah Symphony Music Director, 1983 – 1998).

The Rouse Concerto is considered the most significant piece of music ever written for the trombone, and its demands and musical depth take trombone playing to a new and exciting level. In 1993 the Rouse Trombone Concerto was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, one of the most prestigious prizes in the field of music.

This concerto was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the orchestra and was to be premiered by its own world renowned Principal Trombonist, Joseph Alessi. At the time Rouse was told Leonard Bernstein would conduct the premiere, but as Rouse began composing this piece in 1990, Bernstein passed away. With Rouse’s deep connection to Bernstein and the timing of his death, Rouse decided to dedicate the concerto to the memory of Bernstein.

The premiere of the Rouse Trombone Concerto took place in December of 1992, with Leonard Slatkin conducting Alessi and the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall. While references to Bernstein are apparent throughout the concerto, the most powerful reference comes at the very end, with a direct quote of the beautiful theme from Bernstein’s Symphony number 3, the Kaddish Symphony.

Bernstein composed the Kaddish Symphony in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The Kaddish is a Jewish prayer, mostly recited in memory of the dead, and Bernstein wrote his Kaddish melody to express his profound grief at Kennedy’s untimely passing. Rouse, in turn uses the same poignant and beautiful prayer melody at the end of his Trombone Concerto to eulogize Bernstein.

After the premiere, conductor Leonard Slatkin was quoted as saying the second movement of this concerto is the most difficult piece he had conducted. Because of its difficulty, the concerto is rarely performed. Along with putting unprecedented technical demands on the soloist, he places the same level of demand on the players in the orchestra, showcasing the musicians in solo roles, and in interesting combinations with the solo trombone.

Don’t miss this exciting musical event, featuring the Trombone Concerto by Christopher Rouse, with the Utah Symphony, under the direction of Maestro Joseph Silverstein.

I hope to see you at this weekend’s concert – our 2007-2008 season finale!

When Larry Meets Joey
May 30 & 31 (Fri. & Sat.) @ 8:00 PM
Abravanel Hall
Concert Details

Concert for Autistic Children: Both Entertaining and Inspirational!

Last night I went to a special concert, FREE for children with Autism and their families, featuring the Utah Opera Ensemble Artists as they performed favorite Opera scenes with the Utah Symphony.  

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They had a light dinner right of snackables and chips right before the concert.  It was delightful to see the children flood in snatching up the brilliant idea of enclosed peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches.  There were smiles all around on the kids faces on the choice of catering.

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The concert was only 45 minutes, a perfect length for them AND me, consisting of upbeat songs in which the audience would burst out clapping along with the beat as well as highly entertaining opera numbers full of choreography and costumes!  Looking around I watched the children moving around to the music, dancing in the isles, and quite a few even leading the musicians from their own seats and doing quite a remarkable job!

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It was also quite impressive to see the Symphony performing on the set that is up for the current Opera, Don Giovanni. The stage is at a slant and so all the musicians were performing crooked, as it were, compared to a normal flat stage.  It was a beautiful set and ambiance for the whole concert.

A couple parents wrote of the concert:

Dear Ms. Fowler, Staff, Musicans, and Singers:

I just wanted to thank all of you for the free performance tonight for children with autism and their families.  This was a wonderful experience that we could have not enjoyed otherwise.  It was so comforting to be able to enjoy the performance with other families in our situation and not have to worry if our son moved around in his seat too much or talked to loudly.  My son, age 11, has always loved listen to classical music, but this was his first time actually seeing it performed.  The look on his face was priceless….even though he is non-verbal, his expression clearly said, “OH, that’s how they make this music”.  I saw so many children clapping and dancing to the music…..it was heartwarming.  So, thank you, thank you, thank you for giving these children (and their families) the opportunity to experience something fun and new.

Debbie Joplin
South Jordan, UT

I just wanted to thank you and everyone involved with the orginizing and perfect performance last night at Capitol Theatre. Me and my two kids had a wonderful time and from the way all those great kids around us were acting I could tell they were having fun as well. So THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!Trevor Saiz

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It is wonderful to be a part of an organization that provides children of all ages and their families such an opportunity to catch the fever of the Utah Opera or Utah Symphony when they might not be able to otherwise. 

To support programs like these or catch the fever of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera go to www.utahsymphonyopera.org

Vivace Wins Best of Utah Award

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s Vivace group, a funkified bunch of 20,30,40 somethings – single/partnered/married – who just happen to get their groove on to classical music and opera, was awarded a Best of Utah Award by City Weekly! Basically this means that as we all already knew, Vivace is the coolest thing ever since sliced bread. Specifically, Vivace was awarded with “Best Classical Night on a PBR budget.” If you’re acronym challenged like myself, let me elaborate. No, it’s not a typo for PB&J, but it means essentially the same thing. PBR is Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that apparently tastes really good but has a low impact on the budget. Sounds just like Vivace: intoxicating, leads to a great time, sounds great (i.e. tastes good), and is CHEAP.Check out the story at: http://www.slweekly.com/

How will Vivace celebrate the illustrious award? By doing what we do best – partying it up big time at our next event: Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Click here for info on the next event: www.usuo.org/vivace