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Carnegie Hall Preview: Renee Fleming’s ‘Perspectives’ Ends; ‘Spring for Music’ Begins

Renee Fleming—Vienna: Window to Modernity

May 4, 2013
Spring for Music—Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
May 8, 2013
Carnegie Hall


Carnegie Hall’s current season winds down, with soprano Renee Fleming’s illuminating four-concert Perspectives ending as the Spring for Music festival begins.
Perspectives artists from David Byrne to the Kronos Quartet curate their own programs, often with music not usually performed (although some simply regurgitate their usual repertoire). For her Perspectives, Fleming (at right) performed a joint recital with Susan Graham, sang Blanche Dubois in the first New York performance of Andre Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire (she also sang the 1998 premiere) and last week sang a new work by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic.
Her final Perspectives concert, Vienna: Window to Modernity, gives Fleming the chance to sing chamber works she doesn’t often perform: with a focus on early 20th century music, she will sing her beloved Strauss but also Brahms, Wagner and Schoenberg. Along for the ride are pianist Jeremy Denk and the Emerson String Quartet—in one of its final appearances with original cellist David Finckel.
Fleming spoke recently about her Perspectives concerts.
Kevin Filipski: How did the Vienna concert take shape?
Renee Fleming: I’ve been exploring this period for a number of years, starting with Strauss and Korngold. This late romantic music fits with me vocally, I speak German fluently, and early in my Decca career I worked with producer Michael Haas, who wanted me to record Korngold’s operas. I would have loved to have done them, but the orchestrations are too heavy for my voice—but I have sung them in concerts. When I saw a Korngold exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Vienna along with a fantastic Mahler exhibit, this era really hit home. The influence that these composers had on American composers also interested me. It was also the heyday of the singer: the cultural importance of the opera composers and singers in this period was beyond anything in Hollywood today.
KF: How did you decide which songs you would include?
RF: The Emerson Quartet and Jeremy Denk collaborations originally came from Carnegie, but it was challenging to find appropriate music: we wanted to find music composed for soprano and quartet, but there isn’t that much. So that was our first challenge: the Strauss songs are rarely performed and Brahms’ songs are fragments, and quite different than we are used to. The Weigl, Webern and Zeisl songs are not known—and they’re really just tastes of them, since they come from larger works. So this’ll be fun for us to do.
KF: What will you take away from your Perspectives season?
RF: It’s been wonderful—each project has been so different, so completely unique. Performing Hillborg’s new work with the New York Philharmonic is a good example. It’s a substantial work, its words and imagery are immediate and musical in their own right. I think it’s a beautiful piece. And to finally bring Streetcar to New York—it was only one performance, but we brought it to New York! I didn’t have any luck getting it done at the Met, so this seemed like a good way to do it, no huge sets to construct. And what a special pleasure to sing this opera in what’s considered the best acoustic hall in the world. This was a fun way to do music I don’t perform very often.
The Spring for Music festival—comprising a week of performances by American orchestras which usually don’t play on Carnegie Hall’s vaunted stage—begins May 6 with Marin Alsop conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, continues with Albany (May 7), Buffalo (May 8), Detroit (May 9 and 10) and concludes with the National Symphony Orchestra (May 11).
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) music director JoAnn Falletta (left)—who has led the ensemble since 1999—spoke about what distinguishes Spring for Music: programs of exciting and rarely heard works, like the Russian pair, both pre-revolutionary (Gliere’s massive 3rd symphony, Ilya Muromets) and post-Soviet (Giya Kancheli’s Morning Prayers), which the BPO will play.
Kevin Filipski: How did the BPO get involved with Spring for Music?
Joann Falletta: They have a really different concept and they make it a very special event. They invite orchestras to apply based on what they’re doing in terms of repertoire, and they want very unusual programming. They liked what we are programming—especially the Gliere symphony, which is almost like a cult piece with a lot of fans and not played very often. Our orchestra does romantic music very well, because the acoustics in Kleinhans Music Hall lend themselves to that. We also have a reputation for doing new music, because of our past music directors from Lukas Foss to Michael Tilson Thomas, which is why I chose the Kancheli work: that comes from the end of the Soviet regime, while Gliere comes from the beginning.
KF: What distinguishes these two works?
JF: Both pieces seem to me mystical—the Kancheli is very spiritual in a non-sectarian way, but it’s also quite tragic, it’s about life in the Soviet Union. And the Gliere symphony is also mystical—a composer looking back at this 9th or 10th century Hercules figure whom everyone in Russia knows about. The Gliere uses a huge, lush orchestra, while Kancheli has a very minimal but powerful language. I thought to tie these two mystics together, and it works. No one in the orchestra has played these works before—but the whole Spring for Music concept is to take risks, and I’m thrilled that we’re taking a chance on these works, especially the Gliere, a long, demanding workout for the orchestra. But that’s how we grow as musicians. And we’re recording the Gliere symphony for Naxos: they wanted us to record it for awhile, and it worked out perfectly that we are recording it before we perform it at Carnegie Hall.
Carnegie Hall
7th Avenue and 57th Street, New York, NY

Sebastian Junger Salutes the Life and Time of Tim Hetherington

Watching Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington is safer than covering combat, but the new HBO documentary by author, journalist and filmmaker Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) is not danger-free. It contains images of maimed bodies that may haunt you on a dark night.

But it also reminds you why you must miss the empathic British war photographer/filmmaker terribly. On April 20, 2011, scant 2HetheringtonandBoyweeks after his and Junger’s chronicle of American soldiers in Afghanistan, Restrepo, was nominated for an Oscar, tall, lanky Hetherington was felled by mortar during the siege of Misrata, Libya. He was 40 years old.

Which Way highlights his award-winning ten-year career in such hotspots as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Afghanistan. None of this objective journalism stuff for Hetherington. He jumped right into the soup, asked personal questions, took stances and didn't hesitate to protect lives. Stills, footage and commentary give a glimpse into the singular choices he made both behind and beyond his lens. The film’s title comments on Hetherington’s artistic compass no less than on his war zone reporting.

At a preview screening presented by HBO and the Foreign Press Association, Junger reflected on his film and much-lamented friend. Hetherington plainly excelled at his craft, but it's just as clear that, given the choice between getting the shot or engaging humanity, he’d have happily walked away empty-handed, recalled Junger.

“The point wasn’t the photography; the point was what he was doing with this other human being, and as a result, he got great photos.” The medium wasn’t the message for Hetherington. “He used video; he used audio, exhibits in studios; I think he would’ve used crayons if he could’ve gotten tim-heatheringtonaway with it to tell stories,” Junger mused. chimed in with a few questions.

Q: Your film has a lot of close-ups. How did Tim’s aesthetic and principle of human engagement influence your filmmaking and your aesthetic choices?

SJ: One thing I noticed with Tim in (Afganistan’s) Korangal Valley: we were each shooting video (for Restrepo) and had very different styles. You could always tell his footage because it very often starts in very close up; he grabs the focus and then he pulls out. What he was doing was sort of utilitarian, but it’s really quite lovely stylistically. It really gave me a taste for that. I hadn’t noticed (my close-ups in Which Way), but maybe unconsciously…3SebastianJunger

Q: How did you match music and image, and how did you avoid being maudlin?

SJ: You need a light touch. You don’t want to force people to have emotions because you’re covering them with music. You have to let people come to the music. I wanted something that was somber but not dispirited. Tim was a very joyful person. I wanted a few slightly Middle Eastern themes in there. Also there are moments where it’s more sounds than music. I wanted not quite sound design, not quite a thumping heartbeat, but something more atmospheric than a score.


John Waters One Man Show at City Winery

watersWhen you think about director John Waters, the mastermind behind Pink Flamingos and Pecker, you think of fine dining and pleasant conversation, right? On June 28 and 29, 2013, the City Winery (155 Varick St, New York) will be hosting John Waters (One-Man Show).

No details have been released about the general theme for the show, but if it is anything like Waters' past talks and one-man-shows at various universities, it is certain to be witty, urbane, and utterly filthy.

And for those of you looking for something more intimate, the City Winery is also selling tickets for a special Meet-and-Greet Dinner with Waters. This is a great opportunity to enjoy some fine wine, quality dining, and to hear one of America’s greatest film makers discuss the quiet beauty of transvestites, pubic hair, and Baltimore trailer parks.

To learn more, go to

John Waters (One-Man Show)
June 28 – 29, 2013

The City Winery
155 Varick St.
New York, NY 10013

Music Preview: 'Fiorello!' at Encores!; Kirchschlager and Bostridge at Lincoln Center

Encores! presents Fiorello!
January 30-February 3, 2013
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, New York, NY
Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge
February 3, 2013
Alice Tully Hall, 65th Street and Broadway, New York, NY
Rutigliano (center) as Fiorello! (photo: Joan Marcus)

When Encores! began in 1994, the first musical resuscitated was Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiorello!, the immensely entertaining show about New York City’s legendary mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Now, Encores! begins its 20th anniversary season with seven performances (through February 3) of that very same musical, starring Kate Baldwin, Shuler Hensley, Erin Dilly, Emily Skinner and, in the title role, Danny Rutigliano.
Between rehearsals, veteran Broadway performer Rutigliano recently discussed starring as Hizzoner in Fiorello! and how Encores! has changed over the past couple of decades.
Kevin Filipski: This is your fifth Encores! show. As a veteran, describe how different it is now from then: more performances and fancier stagings compared to concert versions with everyone flipping through their books.
Danny Rutigliano: I started back in the early days of Encores! I did One Touch of Venus with Melissa Errico, The New Moon directed by Fiorello! director Gary Griffin, Kismet with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie, and Bells Are Ringing with Kelli O’Hara. It’s definitely gotten bigger each time. Back then it was so bare-boned: it was all about the music. So what we’re doing now is making it simple, not elaborate and exorbitant—it suggests the physical production but with fully staged blocking and musical numbers. It’s getting back to what we’re about—Encores! is a very unique treasure. Kismet was more elaborate—and in Bells, Kelli was so inspiring, she tackled the lead as if she’d been doing it 8 times a week for months. The bar has been set higher—the performances have a level of expectation.
KF: How does it feel bringing back this show?
DR: Fiorello! is a great show—it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, let’s not forget that. The characters and the story are so rich: he was so fascinating, he was celebrated about being a great 3-term mayor, but the show ends when he is first elected. That’s how full his life and career were. The score is so terrific, it’s got many great tunes, so this is utter bliss for me, a role that I’ve wanted to play. It’s also timely about politics and how history repeats itself. And this is a terrific cast—Erin and Kate are fabulous. Encores! always puts together the best talent in town, it’s a little jewel that it isn’t so little—in the acting community everybody wants to do one of these shows.

Bostridge and Kirchschlager perform Wolf

When Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge take the stage for their duo recital at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday, February 3, they will not be singing anything by such obvious candidates as Schubert or Schumann or Brahms, instead devoting their program exclusively to the exceptionally artful lieder of Austrian composer Hugo Wolf.
Specifically, the talented pair will perform 34 selections from Wolf’s voluminous and wide-ranging Spanisches leiderbuch (Spanish Songbook), with the stylish pianist Julius Drake accompanying them. Although he is considered one of the master songwriters (to my mind, he’s right up there with Gabriel Faure, with whom he shares the elegance and refinement that separate them from the pack), Wolf isn’t programmed as often as he should be.
Similarly, since the lovely Austrian mezzo and lanky British tenor don’t perform often enough in New York—Kirchschlager has especially been scarcely seen and heard on local stages, at least when compared to other top-flight female singers—this concert should be a must-attend for those who appreciate such musical artistry.
Encores! presents Fiorello!
Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge

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