SUNDAY NOVEMBER 4TH: Halloween is merely the night before
"All Hallows" or All Saints' Day in the traditional Roman Catholic
calendar, followed by All Souls' Day, also known in Catholic Latin
America as "The Day of the Dead." A Requiem mass is called for to
honor the dead. I have come up with a Requiem composition that combines
traditional and non-traditional elements. I remember the name Karl
Jenkins in connection with the British jazz rock ensemble Soft Machine.
He wrote a lot of beautiful material for one of the bands last recordings
Softs (1976). Karl Jenkins went on to perform as a progressive jazz
keyboardist at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival in our
country. As the years passed in his own country and wrote award-winning
advertising music, then in time music for the Royal Ballet and London
Symphony Orchestra and most famously for the international musicmaking
project he created called Adiemus. The queen made him a knight in
the Order of the British Empire. In 2001 he was the subject of a
BBC TV documentary. Jenkins' Requiem is set to his own text in Latin,
English, and Japanese. For its 2005 world premiere recording for
EMI, Jenkins himself conducted the orchestral and choral forces.
Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel is one of the vocal soloists. Keep listening
for In These Stones (2004), to a Welsh/English text featuring Terfel's
voice. It was commissioned for the opening of the new home of the
Welsh National Opera. In pre-Christian Europe there is the mythological
figure of Charon the boatman, who ferries the souls of the dead
across the river Styx to their eternal destination. Imagine if you
can that sombre personage, along with the figure of the Grim Reaper,
transformed into puppets who sing. There is a tradition of puppet
opera going at least as far back as the eighteenth century. Haydn
provided music for his patron Prince Eszterhazy's marionette theater.
On Easter Sunday, April 20, 2003 I interviewed, live in our WWUH
air studio, puppetmaster Ken Berman of the University of Connecticut/Storrs
puppetry program about his puppet opera The Painted Rose. Soprano
Teresa Dmovski of UConn's opera department sang two excerpts from
the score. She was the voice of the Rose in the then upcoming production.
Two years previous to The Painted Rose, a puppet opera Euridice
y los titreres de Caronte ("Euridice and Charon's Puppets"), was
staged in Barcelona, Spain: Joan Albert Amargos wrote the music
to a libretto by Toni Rumbau which gives us a modern take on the
ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridice. That story certainly
involves the transition from life to death. The Armargos/Rumbau
Euridice was recorded in festival performance for Spanish Harmonia
Mundi. It came out on a single HM silver disc in 2003.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 11TH: Who would now believe that at the
premiere of Puccini's immortal Madama Butterfly (1904) the audience
at La Scala jeered and heckled Rosina Storchio, the very first Cho-Cho-San!
A hostile clique in the opera house seems to have made the opening
night such a terrible failure. Every performance Storchio sang thereafter
brought onlookers to tears and ended with hysterical applause. Many
great sopranos have made Butterfly their own special role. We're
fortunate to have so many Butterflys preserved for posterity and
recordings. I have chosen the first of two recordings, the well-remembered
Italian soprano Renata Scotto made for EMI/Angel. My predecessor
in this timeslot, Joseph S. Terso, recommended this one to me highly,
in part I'm sure because it's musically complete. It was also the
first complete recording of any opera that British conductor Sir
John Barbirolli ever made. Barbirolli presided in the tapings of
Puccini's masterpiece in Rome in 1966. He led the chorus and orchestra
of the Romen Opera House. Besides Scotto, the cast includes tenor
Carlo Bergonzi as Pinkerton and baritone Rolando Panerei as Sharpless.
Fanfare magazine's James Camner recently reviewed EMI's CD reissue
of the Scotto/Barbirolli Madama Butterfly. He concurs with Joe Terzo
that it is perhaps the single finest interpretation on disc. You
hear it today in its original stateside release on three Angel LPs.
It was last broadcast on Sunday, October 7, 1984. Bob Walsh substitutes
for me in this afternoon's presentation.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 18TH: Camille Saint Saens' Samson et Dalila
is the French opera par excellence, yet (incredibly!) it premiered
at Weimar in the heart of Germany in 1877 in German language and
did not reach Paris until thirteen years later. Samson et Dalila
is the classic French opera because Saint Saens was very much a
classicist. Although living in the thick of the Romantic era, he
never liked its overblown emotionalism. He insisted upon form and
balance in artistic matters. No operatic score could be better crafted.
The music has stood the test of time. Samson et Dalila has been
performed at least a thousand times at the Paris Opera. You'll hear
again this Sunday what is likewise a classic stereo recording of
the work, taped in 1962 for EMI. Georges Pretre leads the Orchestra
of the national Opera Theatre of France. Tenor John Vickers is the
Hebrew strongman, opposite mezzo Rita Gorr as the Canaanite seductress.
Samson et Dalila last went out over the airwaves on three Angel
LPs on Sunday, October 10, 1993. I draw upon the same old vinyl
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 25TH: On Sunday, November 9, 2003 my substitute
David Schonfeld presented the world premiere CD release of Paul
Hindemith's last opera Die Harmonie der Welt (1957). David worked
from his own copy of the Wergo three disc set. Now that our station
has acquired that same recording, I am eager to present it again
myself. The opera was recorded complete for the first time in Berlin
in 2000. Merek Janowski directed the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
and Chorus in the studio undertakings. The subject of the opera
is Germany's illustrious seventeenth century intellectual Johannes
Kepler, who must face the threat of war in general narrowmindedness
in his pursuit of a true understanding of "The Music of the Spheres."
With him medieval astrology transits into what we today understand
as the modern science of astronomy. In the lengthy program note
that David Schonfeld wrote for this publication four years ago he
explained why we ought to revere Hindemith's effort in writing his
twentieth century meisterwerk. Hindemith wrote most of Die Harmonie
der Welt right here in Connecticut while living in exile in the
United States during World War Two.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 2ND: Reberto Devereaux (1837) was the fifty-seventh
of Gaetano Donizetti's seventy operatic compositions: a remarkable
output that was halted only by his tragic incapacitation due to
paralysis and mental collapse at 50 years of age. Donizetti regarded
Reberto Devereaux as a jinxed stage work. It had a brilliant premiere,
to be sure, but thereafter the fortunes of this bel canto jewel
were decidedly mixed. Before the end of the nineteenth century it
had passed out of the repertoire, returning from limbo in 1964 with
a stunning staged revival in the composer's hometown Bergamo. The
late great soprano Beverly Sills was much attracted to the queenly
leading roles Donizetti created. She recorded all three of them
in the 1960s stereo sound, including Anna Bolena (1830) and Maria
Stuarda (1835), the 1969 Westminster recording of Roberto Devereaux
being its world premiere on LP. Fanfare magazine's Joel Kasov writes
that she acted these roles with audible conviction. She was then
at the height of her powers. "Vocally she is in excellent shape,"
remarks Kasov, "the soft singing often touching, dazzling us with
the ease with which she undertakes the most complicated decorations."
(Fanfare, March/April, 2001) Sills reveals to us the true glory
of the bel canto singing style. Many composers of the period, Verdi
among them, were drawn to the story of the Earl of Essex's courtship
of the aged monarch Elizabeth, his subsequent revolt, and execution
for treason. Sir Charles Mackerras conducts the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra and Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Kasov was reviewing the Deutsche
Gramophon CD reissues of Sills portraying the Donizetti queens.
You hear again today the original Westminster LPs as last broadcast
on Sunday, January 22, 1989.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 9TH: If there is such a thing as the "The
Great American Novel," could there also be a "Great American Opera"?
One possible candidate for that honor is Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
(1937). Another one is Samuel Barber's Vanessa (1957, rev. 1964).
Over a quarter century of lyric theater broadcasting I have presented
recordings of Vanessa four times before. The audience cheered for
this opera on its opening night at the Met. Then the music critics
hailed it as the finest operatic work any American had written to
date. It even won a Pulitzer Prize. But it never entered the international
repertoire. To this day, Vanessa has been only occasionally revived
on our stage, yet it has been recorded several times over the decades.
I maintain that the best recorded interpretation is still the old
RCA Victor world premiere on disc starring the Met's own soprano
Eleanor Steber, for whom Burber created the title role. American
soprano Christine Brewer is heard as Vanessa in a 2004 Chandos recording
made in the UK in concert performance. Leonard Slatkin conducts
the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chorus of BBC singers. I always program
Vanessa in December because the opera's story takes place in a Northern
European locale in early winter, with scenes at Christmas and New
Year's and an ice skating sequence. There's time remaining for you
to give the operatic work of a contemporary American composer and
audition. My broadcast of this one-act piece commemorates another
composer, John Lennon of Beatles' fame, who was murdered by a loony
fan on December 8, 1980 in New York City near the scene set in Michael
Torke's Strawberry Fields (1999). In Central Park there is a circular
mosaic monument, "Imagine", dedicated to Lennon's memory. Torke
has imagined an aged opera fan, a lady of quality, sitting beside
Lennon's monument, imagining that she is at the opera. Various passersby
try to talk her in or out of her delusion. While the lady knows
who Verdi is, she knows nothing of John Lennon. Michael Torke (b.
1962) lives and composes in New York City. In 1998 he was appointed
Associate Composer of the Scottish National Orchestra. In Strawberry
Fields, David Allan Miller conducts the Albany Pro Musica Instrumentalists
and nine singers. Torke's chamber opera was released on a single
compact disc through his own Ecstatic Records label.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 16TH: Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel (1893)
is the obvious choice for the programming of some sort of children's
opera at Christmastide. Engelbert Humperdinck (1854 - 1921) is known
to the world at large through this one work. Nothing else he wrote
matched it in international theatrical success. He composed six
full-length operas in the course of his career. On Sunday, December
21, 1986 I broadcasted his other children's opera Koenigskinder
("The King's Children," 1910). When he first conceived it in 1890,
Hänsel und Gretel was intended to be preformed by children as a
small-scale play with music for home entertainment. The concept
of the opera grew over time to such a stature that only adult professionals
could handle the difficulties of the singing parts. I last broadcast
Hänsel und Gretel on Sunday, December 21, 1997, making use of a
1974 Angel/EMI LP recording with Andre Cluytens conducting the Vienna
Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Today listen for a 1990 Angel/EMI CD
release with Jeffrey Tate leading the Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian
Radio. It was airtaped in Munich in 1989. Musical Heritage Society
picked it up for US distribution in 1997. Our Hansel is diva Anne-Sophie
von Otter. Gretel is equally illustrious soprano Barbara Bonney.
They are joined by the boy trebles of the Tolzer Knabenchor as the
gingerbread children. There's time remaining to listen to a Christmas
cantata that is an enduring favorite in German speaking countries
but has never gotten the international exposure it deserves. Josef
Rheinberger (1839 - 1901) is the single composer of wide reputation
to come from the tiny alpine principality of Liechtenstein. EMI
Electrola and Angel Records originally released Rheinberger's Der
Stern von Bethlehem (1892) in 1968. This recording, too, was made
in Munich. The German Carus label reissued it in 1988 in CD format.
Two famous German singers took part in the tapings: soprano Rita
Streich and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Robert Heger directed
the Graunke Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of Radio Bavaria.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 23RD: All over the country, and indeed all
over the world, during this season of rejoicing Handel's immortal
Messiah (1742) will be performed by musical groups large and small,
professional or amateur, and radio stations around the globe will
be broadcasting it. I have broadcast my share of Messiahs at both
Christmas and Eastertide, since the oratorio fits in so well with
either of these Christian holidays. Handel's first draft score of
Messiah as it was first heard in Dublin was recorded by the Scholars
Baroque Ensemble in 1992 for Naxos records. That version went over
the air on Christmas Sunday, 1994. Handel tinkered with the score
for several years, coming out with various revisions or upgradings
of it. The so-called "Foundling Hospital" version of 1751 is my
personal favorite, especially in the filling out of the instrumentation.
This is his final, definitive reworking. The latest Messiah on CD
to come into my hands is a 2006 Naxos offering. Edward Higginbottom
conducts the top-notch period instrument orchestra, the Academy
of Ancient Music and his own Choir of New College, Oxford. Boy trebles
drawn from the choir take the soprano solo numbers as would have
mostly been the case in performances in the chapel of the orphanage,
which was what London's eighteenth-century Foundling Hospital actually
was. Keep in mind, however, that all of Handel's oratorios were
created for secular, auditorium type venues.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 30TH: Composer Paul Hindemith had to flee
Germany in 1938 because the National Socialist cultural authorities
considered his work to be Entartete Musik or "Degenerate Music."
Also banned by the Nazis as degenerate was one of the operettas
of the Hungarian composer Emerich Kalman (1882 - 1953). Die Herzogin
von Chicago ("The Duchess of Chicago", 1928) was one of Kalman's
best crafted and most tuneful creations. Kalman spiced up his score
with numbers for an American-style dance band. This element, exotic
to the ears of Central Europeans, was what the Aryan racists must
have objected to, since the sound of the Jazz Era out was ultimately
derived from the musicmaking of the American negroes. The Nazis
could not stop this operetta from becoming an international hit.
It certainly makes for good listening entertainment to welcome in
the New Year. The 1999 Decca recording of Die Herzogin von Chicago
was released in the series of "Entartete Music: Music Suppressed
by the Third Reich." Richard Bonynge conducts the Symphony Orchestra
and Chorus of Radio Berlin. The recording included complete spoken-word
dialogue in both German and American English. As the year draws
to a close, I remember with gratitude those who have helped me to
put together this program over the past six bimonthly submissions
to the WWUH Program Guide. Year after year Rob Meehan has consistently
been of assistance in supplying me with the recordings for broadcast.
Decades ago Rob was a classics deejay here at our station. Through
me he continues to contribute to the work of this station by loaning
me for broadcast recordings from his extensive collection of "alternative"
classical music of modern times. This time around he loaned me the
new Chandos recording of Barber's Vanessa. From my own collection
come Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel and Kalman's Die Herzogin von
Chicago. Everything else featured during this two month period of
programming is derived from our station's ever-growing library of
classical music on disc. Thanks also to my radio colleague Bob Walsh,
who again and again over the past few years has kindly agreed to
substitute for me, even on rather short notice
WWUH Program Guide 2007 ©