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What I did on my summer vacation….

September 1, 2012

Labor Day is just around the corner, and the boys are about to go back to school.  This can mean only one thing—SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER!

Back when I was on the music staff at the Santa Fe Opera each year, summer had very clear boundaries.  The weekend closest to May 31 meant packing up from New York and flying out.  Three long months later the last week of August would send everyone home, and summer was done.  The years between my SFO days and now have seen much more fluid edges to the summer, shifting a little here to fit around a late season production, and shifting back a little there to meet one of the earlier summer festivals.  Now though, with both Orlando and Ronan in school, we have our most rigid definition of summer ever—10 weeks between their getting off the bus from the last day of school (June 22 this year) and the day after Labor Day (well, the Wednesday after Labor Day in Ossining this year because… well, I have no idea).

Winter and spring this year brought a flood of contemporary pieces—the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar with Beth Morrison Projects and the NOW Ensemble, The Ghosts of Versailles at Manhattan School of Music, the late addition to my calendar of Golijov’s Ainadamar with Long Beach Opera, and all of AOP’s Composers and the Voice workshops.  My first big gig of the summer, Chautauqua Symphony’s Opera Highlights Concert, was a big balancing out of that new music karma! ALL standard rep, from Handel to Britten.  Yes, Billy Budd was the “newest” piece on the program!  That being said, it was a blast to work with Jay Lesenger, the Chautauqua Opera Young Artists and wonderful music staff of the Chautauqua Opera putting together this program.  All water related pieces (some more tangentially than others…)—H2Opera was enthusiastically received by a very full Amphitheater.

Immediately following our week at Chautauqua we were back home and I was commuting back and forth to Princeton where AOP and Opera New Jersey were presenting a staged workshop of Blessed Art Thou Among Women.  This intriguing 60-minute event consisted of Greg SpearsOur Lady (countertenor, Baroque string quintet and organ), 6 movements from Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, and Tarik O’Regan and Anna Rabinowitz’s The Wanton Sublime (mezzo and piano).  All of this was woven together seamlessly by the delightful and probing stage director Crystal Manich (ah, I remember well interviewing Crystal as she graduated from Carnegie Mellon and embarked on a year’s internship with AOP!).  Hai-Ting Chinn and Ryland Angel were vocally commanding, and each played a silent supporting role in the other’s portions of the evening.  The Sebastian Chamber Players and Mila Henry dug into the challenging scores with great flair.  Given everyone’s crazy schedules, rehearsals for this 60 minute event began a full two months before the performances!  Here and there we would come together for a few days in varying combinations, gradually building what was a compelling, abstract, intense and moving new piece.

The weeks since BATAW have been a big juggling act– Reviewing submissions for Forth Worth Opera’s first Frontiers Program, finalizing planning for Composers and the Voice’s Six Scenes along with fielding those six new scores, all the seemingly interminable long-range planning of a freelance musician, all while also running Daddy Day Camp for Orlando and Ronan.  By far one of the greatest perks of the often nerve-wracking freelance life is having a stretch of down time—a break where one can settle in with family and play.  Sure, it will be nice to get back to long stretches of time when I can stay focused on work, but I will sorely miss the hours of games, hiking, wrestling, reading Harry Potter, and a whole series of very geeky projects I have had enjoyed with the boys and Peggy these past weeks.  We have the newly transplanted swing set as proof of our summer’s fun,as well as a few stop motion animations to show friends.

Peggy and I managed to slip off to Santa Fe for a few days in late July, leaving the boys in Cleveland with Peggy’s parents.  It was a dizzying three days, stuffed with great music (workshop of Act 2 of Theo Morrison’s Oscar, King Roger, Maometto II, Arabella), great food (Maria’s, Santa Fe Baking Company, Ristra, Tecalote Café), a great hike, and visiting great friends.  One particular highlight of the trip was a staggering performance of Magnus Lindberg’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.  The piece is from 2008, but neither Peggy nor I had heard it before.  Chen Halevi on clarinet and Anssi Karttunen on cello joined the composer who played the piano in this performance.  After each of the movements Peggy and I gave deep sighs, looked at each other and uttered a simple “Wow!”  It is a piece that is full of both brutal energy and arching melodic lyricism.  The playing was taut, and yet transmitted a close to unhinged abandon that was captivating and a little scary.  Afterwards Anssi too seemed energized by that afternoon’s performance, their 2nd performance of the piece.  He commented on how liberating it was to have Magnus at the piano, taking dramatic liberties with the score—the kind of liberties that “you always want to take with a piece” but often feel drawn away from out of respect for the score.  But with the composer there showing how much room for play there can be in the printed page, both Ansii and Chen let themselves go.

And now, after 10 marvelous weeks that have mixed family time with festival time, one final weekend before the new season gets going.  Family, family, family this weekend (and a couple of hours here and there to dig into scores).  On Tuesday I will be at AOP for Composers and the Voice rehearsals—back in the room discovering new music theater.  But that is a story for next week….

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