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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera
Your "Lyric Theatre" program with Keith Brown
Programming Selections for the Months of January and February 2002

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 experience…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 of Klinghofer.

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.

Copyright©WWUH: January/February Program Guide, 2002

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