|Sunday January 6: Welcome to the post-industrial
world. In this new recessionary century, especially after 9-11, you've
got the creepy feeling that all is not well on the home front, and
you are particularly vulnerable. The Post-Industrial Players have
just the opera for your angst-ridden mindset: Fraternity of Deceit,
first produced in New York City in 1998 - predating the new century,
this is true but certainly looking towards it. This is the second
of a trilogy of chamber music dramas with music and text by Michael
Kowalski. Jeffery Johnson, who directed the premiere production at
the Eden Arcade Theater, writes, "
it's hard to deny that
the post-Cold War triumph of corporate capitalism has made it harder
for individuals to maintain their moral compass. Even faster cash
flows and relentless transformations in the nature of work have begotten
the technological man, a person strangely devoid of memory or sensual
but not yet dead to desire or conscience. Non-commercial
institutions, the family, traditions of social welfare, the practice
of medicine, and the practice of art have all gone through an almost
dreamlike decay in America, their very intentions praised and deconstructed."
Fraternity of Deceit shows us three New Yorkers who are caught up
in the nastily little intrigues of contemporary corporate American
life. This is a year 2000 Equilibrium release on two compact discs.
Sunday January 13: Although Modest Mussorgski lived only
until 1881; he is really a twentieth century composer. The so-called
"barbaric" dissonances of some of the chords he employed
in his music look forward to the dissonant sounds of composers of
a half-century later like Bela Bartok. Mussorgski's operas had to
wait until the twentieth century to be properly appreciated. He
left two operas uncompleted at the time of his death, one of which
is Khovanshchina, a grand historical panorama of his homeland fit
to rival his one complete stage work Boris Godunov. The official
premiere of Khovanshchina took place in 1911 in a version pieced
together by Rimsky-Korsakov, who also edited Boris. The Met waited
until 1950 to stage "The Khovansky Affair." The forced
modernization of Muscovy is the theme of the opera. The Old Believers
refused to accept even the most modest of reforms in Russian Orthodox.
These religious fanatics got the backing of a faction of the Russian
nobility, but all reactionaries were swept aside when Czar Peter
the Great came to power. Mass suicide closed this turbulent chapter
in Russia's tragic history. I last broadcast Khovanshchina on Sunday,
January 26, 1985 in an old Angel LP release, derived from the Soviet-era
record label Melodiya, in which you heard the musical resources
of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater. Now you get to hear the work in its
most pristine form as edited by the distinguished Russian musicologist
Pavel Lamm. Dmitri Shostakovich's orchestration restored those colorful
Mussorgskian dissonances, but purged from the opera's score is additional
music composed by Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel, and Stravinsky. Otherwise,
the entire opera was recorded uncut in 1991 with a native Russian
cast and the chorus and orchestra of the Kirov Theater of St. Petersburg,
Valery Gergiev conducting. This is a Philips CD release.
Sunday January 20: Preempted by broadcast of a University
of Hartford women's basketball team game.
Sunday January 27: Like his older colleague Bedrzich Smetana,
Antonin Dvorak composed in the new Czech national idiom. Dvorak's
symphonies are universally loved, much played in concert halls and,
one might even say, are overplayed - especially the "New World"
Symphony No. 9. Dvorak's operas, on the other hand, are rarely performed
or recorded outside his native land. Rusalka (1901) is perhaps the
best known of the ten he wrote. I broadcast it on June 16, 1996,
and I presented "The Jacobin" (1889) on June 30, 1985.
There is a new recording out of Dvorak's five-act tragic opera Wanda
(1881). Although is premiered at the Czech National Theater in Prague,
the subject of Wanda reflects upon Polish, not Czech national history.
Dvorak's music for Wanda possesses the same beautiful melodic lines
as his symphonies. A German conductor, Gerd Albrecht, has given
us what might be the most musically complete recorded version of
Wanda. It was made for Orfeo, the record label of Radio Austria,
under the auspices of West German Radio. Albrecht leads the Symphony
Orchestra and Chorus of Radio Cologne, with a cast of soloists from
Germany, Ukrainia, the Czech Republic and South Africa. If this
entry looks familiar to you long-time readers of my Program Guide
notes, you're quite right. You have indeed read it before. Wanda
had originally been scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, November
11 of last year, but was cancelled on short notice and replaced
by Keith Barrett's substitute presentation of John Adam's The Death
Sunday February 3: Today will not be the first time that
I've broadcast an opera by Anthony Davis (b.1951) the jazz pianist
and composer. To date Davis has composed four operas. The Gramavision
recording of "X": The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986)
went over the air on Sunday, February 14, 1993, as a special audio
presentation for Black History Month. As to his compositional style,
Davis seems to be following in the footsteps of Duke Ellington.
His "Opera of Abduction and Revolution," Tania (1991),
was commissioned and first produced for the Prince Music Theater,
formerly the American Music Theater Festival. It tells the story
of Patty Hearst and her curious connection with the radical group,
the Simbianese Liberation Front. The way the real events of that
story are transformed in the opera are quite ingenious. In his other
lyric theater works Davis has focused on the iconographic images
of Elvis and the slave ship Amistad. He demonstrates how rich the
American experience is in stories that lend themselves to operatic
treatment. Tania was released earlier this year on two CD's through
Koch International Classics.
Sunday February 10: Theodora is certainly the least known
of George Frideric Handel's English language oratorios. It was Handel's
personal favorite among his many masterpieces in that genre. The
composer himself declared the final chorus of Act Two, "he
Saw the Lovely Youth, " to be the very finest he ever wrote,
ranking it above the famous "Hallelujah Chorus" in the
Messiah. Theodora was a failure in its initial production. The oratorio
was given only three performances in 1750 and was revived only once
in Handel's lifetime. After his death it was completely forgotten.
In this oratorio Handel's musical inspirations and his powers of
dramatic characterization were reaching their peak. Handel responded
with passion to the story of the predicament of Theodora an early
Christian virgin and martyr. After I last broadcast this work on
Sunday, January 23, 1994 I did not expect I would ever run across
another newer recording of something so obscure as Theodora. Nicolas
McGegan had conducted a wonderful period-instrument reading of it
for the Harmonia Mundi label. Now German conductor Peter Neumann
may well have matched or even exceeded McGegan in the interpretation
he recorded for Dabringhaus Ex Grimm. Neumann directs the Cologne
Chamber Choir and period instrument ensemble Collegium Cartusianum.
Sunday February 17: Preempted by broadcast of a University
of Hartford women's basketball game.
Sunday February 24: Since the starting time of the basketball
game this Sunday is "to be announced" there is still a
possibility I will broadcast opera, but I may be preempted yet again.
The recordings heard on four of the five Sunday's when I know I
will for sure be on the air are recent additions to our ever-growing
station library of classical music on silver disc. The one exception
is Khovanshchina, which comes from my own collection.
Program Guide, 2002