FESTIVALFOCUS YOUR WEEKLY CLASSICAL MUSIC GUIDE
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VOL 30, NO. 8
also don’t miss... Robert McDuffie Recital August 15 at 8 pm in Harris Concert Hall Violinist and Aspen favorite Robert McDuffie plays a special event recital featuring several American works including Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
Vladimir Feltsman Recital August 17 at 8 pm in Harris Concert Hall Pianist Vladimir Feltsman presents a recital of early Romantic masterpieces including Beethoven’s “Pathétique” Sonata and several of Chopin’s Nocturnes.
Seraphic Fire Choral Recital August 21 at 7 pm in Harris Concert Hall The Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute Singers present a postseason recital of exciting choral works.
The 2019 Aspen Music Festival and School season comes to a close at 4 pm on Sunday, August 18, in the Benedict Music Tent. AMFS Music Director Robert Spano will lead the Aspen Festival Orchestra and soloists Mané Galoyan and Kelley O’Connor in Mahler’s Second Symphony, “Resurrection.”
Final Sunday: Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony JESSICA CABE
Festival Focus Writer
Audiences have come to expect spectacle and bombast at the Aspen Music Festival and School’s (AMFS) Final Sunday concert, and this season’s program is sure to deliver. Themes of death and resurrection, mourning and hope, will fill the Benedict Music Tent and Music Lawn at 4 pm on Sunday, August 18, in the form of Bach’s Cantata 106 and Mahler’s
epic Second Symphony. The program will be conducted by AMFS Music Director Robert Spano. The Tent stage will appear sparse during the first half of the concert, with a small force of instrumentalists and Seraphic Fire, a group of seventeen professional choral singers who have partnered with the AMFS in the Seraphic Fire Choral Institute for the second season in a row, training about forty pre-professional
singers over a two-week program. Says Patrick Dupré Quigley, Seraphic Fire artistic director, “The most interesting part is it’s basically a 22-minute through-composed piece. Ends are almost always the beginning of something else.” The work sets the stage for the Mahler piece; while the two sound quite different, they play off each other in a very meaningful way. “The Bach is a work that really
asks a profound question about life,” says Alan Fletcher, AMFS president and CEO. “The way we think of it is Bach asks a question, and Mahler answers it.” And Mahler’s answer is one that will leave audiences spellbound. His Second Symphony, nicknamed “Resurrection,” is a largerthan-life masterpiece featuring a huge orchestra, chorus, and solo See Final Sunday, Festival Focus page 3
Mozart’s masterful The Marriage of Figaro opens Tuesday JESSICA CABE
Festival Focus Writer
Soprano Avery Boettcher performs the role of Countess Almaviva in the AOC production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, on August 13, 15, and 17 at the Wheeler Opera House.
There’s a reason Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is one of the most-programmed operas to this day. There are a few reasons, in fact. It could have something to do with the plot (which is hilarious without crossing into cheesy), or perhaps the music (which is some of the most beautiful and memorable in the repertoire), or the characters (who are relatable and progressive even today). In the end, it is surely a combination of all of the above and more, and Aspen audiences will delight to witness the Aspen Opera Center’s production of The Marriage of Figaro at 7 pm on August 13, 15, and 17 at the Wheeler Opera
House. This will be the final opera production of the season, themed “Being American,” and there is a small, little-known connection between this European favorite and the Aspen Music Festival and School’s (AMFS) season theme. “There is a very, very tangential connection,” says Asadour Santourian, AMFS vice president for artistic administration and artistic advisor. “Lorenzo Da Ponte lived the last 30 years of his life in New York, and he actually ended his life in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was the librettist for this opera, along with two other operas for Mozart.” This libretto is one of the greats, and one
of the reasons the opera has endured as an audience favorite. The Marriage of Figaro is a fast-paced comedy that recounts a single day of scheming in pursuit of love—and lust— in the palace of Count Almaviva. Figaro pursues marriage to his beloved Susanna while the Count has designs on her as well. In the end, the Count learns an important lesson in fidelity, with laughs all along the way. “The plot is full of twists and turns and small details; however, with the comedy, and the way Mozart wrote, all you have to do is follow his road map,” says soprano Avery Boettcher, who is spending her second summer in Aspen and who sings Countess Almaviva. “AuSee Figaro, Festival Focus page 3
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An evening with Ken Burns, preview of new Country Music SHANNON ASHER
Festival Focus Writer
Imagine sitting down with the trailblazers of country music and hearing their stories. Renowned filmmaker and storyteller Ken Burns interviewed over one-hundred people over the course of eight years, twenty of whom who have now died, for his new documentary Country Music. On August 20, Burns will show a special preview of the eight-part, sixteen-hour film in Harris Concert Hall and offer commentary alongside panelists Edgar Meyer and Alan Fletcher. “Country music is a broad, complex intergenerational story that’s American history firing on all cylinders,” Burns says. “I don’t know why it took this long in my professional life for me to get to it. It has been so satisfying, so surprisingly deep and rich and more important, moving—like a fine piece of music in any genre.” The film starts in the pioneer days of country music in the 1920s, when it was called “hillbilly music.” Going back to its roots, when it first played across the airwaves on radio station barn dances, country music started with ballads, minstrel music, hymns, and the blues. “Suddenly, it’s this idea that hillbilly music was beneath the attention of anyone else,” Burns says. “The music has the power to address universal human themes of love and loss, things that we don’t like to talk about too much. In country music, we disguise it—we say it’s about pickup trucks, good ole boys, six packs, and hound dogs, and it’s not. It’s about love and loss. I can’t imagine a better story to tell.” Burns reminds us that country music is not just one thing.
Commerce and convenience categorize country music into this narrow thing as if it’s unconnected with R&B, the blues, classical, rock, and pop. When in reality, the music is so intertwined that it’s impossible to see where the borders are. When discussing the parallels of country music and classical music, Burns turns to his film Jazz that he worked on in the 1990s. Louis Armstrong, arguably one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century according to Burns, says, “There ain’t but two kinds of music. Good music and bad music. And good music, you tap your foot to.” “You don’t need an advanced degree to understand jazz, you don’t need it to understand classical, and you certainly don’t need it to understand country,” Burns says. “Vince Gill, the great guitarist and singer-songwriter said, ‘At the end of the day, all I really wanted out of music is to be moved.’ We agree completely. All we want is to be moved. Everyone who comes and sits at the Aspen Music Festival wishes to be moved.” “We spend our lives understanding that 1+1 = 2,” Burns says. “But the thing we actually want in our lives is the improbable calculus where 1+1 = 3. That’s what Beethoven is after and that’s what Hank Williams is after. That’s modestly what I’m after. I hope my films do that. I hope there are moments in my films where 1+1 = 3.” Iconic country legends like Marty Stuart, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Dwight Yoakam are some of the many notable interviews that help to tell the story of how country music came to be.
COURTESY OF EVAN BARLOW
Acclaimed director Ken Burns gives a special preview of his upcoming project, Country Music, on August 20 at 5:30 pm in Harris Concert Hall. AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher and bassist and composer Edgar Meyer join Burns for a panel discussion.
The film reveals rare and never-before-seen photos and footage of Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, and others. “The songwriter Harlan Howard described country music as ‘three chords and the truth.’” Wynton Marsalis told Burns, “You’re dealing with stuff that everyone has experienced in their lifetime.” Burns concludes by saying, “At the end of the day, we were unprepared for how powerful the music was.” Directed by Burns and produced by Burns and his long-time collaborator Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey, the film premieres Sunday, September 15 on PBS.
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FINAL SUNDAY: Bach’s “Actus tragicus,” choral singers Continued from Festival Focus page 1
Quigley of Seraphic Fire says the group is thrilled to have singers. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus will the opportunity to sing this Mahler work—an opportunity join Seraphic Fire for the work. not often afforded to a “Despite the topic, or choral group of their size. because of the topic, “Mahler’s Second Symphony is a “It’s a great honor for us, it’s offering hope and and we’re really looking light beyond our matewonderful marriage of one of the forward to working with rial world as a piece of everyone,” he says. “It’s a orchestral music,” says greatest orchestral composers, but massive work that leads Asadour Santourian, also a great choral element. It is very up to a really empowerAMFS vice president ing climax. I think the reafor artistic administraprofound and inspiring and uplifting son for its longevity is that tion and artistic advisor. and that makes it a great closer.” Mahler 2, like Beethoven “Mahler said that the 9, has left the realm of symphony must include simply being property of the world in it. It certainly Alan Fletcher AMFS President and CEO musicians and has come does in terms of forces to be a cultural treasure.” onstage. And it is not a The Aspen Festival Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Ordark view. It is actually a very hopeful and joyful view emchestra Chorus, and Seraphic Fire will also be joined by bracing resurrection.”
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world-renowned soloists: soprano Mané Galoyan and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor. “Mané Galoyan is a terrific soprano who is achieving international recognition,” Santourian says. “She is quickly moving into a special strata of leading ladies roles. She studied here in the summer of 2017 and made a deep impression. Kelley O’Connor is a terrific concert and operatic mezzo who has been muse to several composers to write her works. She’s an exceptional interpreter of text.” Fletcher says the Mahler piece, and the incredible musicians performing it, make for a perfect close to another AMFS season. “Mahler’s Second Symphony is a wonderful marriage of one of the greatest orchestral composers, but also a great choral element,” he says. “It is very profound and inspiring and uplifting, and that makes it a great closer.”
Harris Concert Hall: 9 am through the intermission of the evening concert, daily. Wheeler Opera House: 12 pm–5 pm M–F, 9 am–5 pm Saturdays, one hour prior to operas.
Family Concert for all ages Thursday FIGARO: hilarious, relatable, beloved music AMY OLDENBURG
Festival Focus Writer
With children home for the summer, it’s important for them to continue their learning development— especially within the musical arts. Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) has the perfect event that’ll bring your children a joyous learning experience. The free Family Concert on August 15 is set to provide aural and visual entertainment for all ages. The concert’s featured piece is Prokofiev’s classic Peter and the Wolf. The aim of this piece is to introduce children to an orchestra by having each character represented through an instrument or group of instruments. For example, the bird will be represented by a flute, the duck by an oboe, the cat by a clarinet, the grandfather by a bassoon, and the wolves by horns. As children follow Peter’s musical journey, they will be taught a lesson on obedience ELLE LOGAN and courage. Kids can explore music performance and instruments at the “Prokofiev produced a structure that young listen4 pm Kids Notes event, followed by the all-ages Family ers could easily follow—the plot-line as characters Concert in Harris Concert Hall at 5 pm on August 15. are associated with interactive tunes. It’s a simple piece to follow, yet written masterfully,” says Asawhere children can create different character masks dour Santourian, AMFS vice president for artistic ad- from Peter and the Wolf. The masks will be used later ministration and artistic advisor. in the concert as a physical component. “Kids will be Before families are taken on Prokofiev’s musical ad- led from the stage to hold up their masks at different venture, all are invited to Kids Notes in the Meadows points when the characters are represented by the Hospitality Tent at 4 pm. Here children are treated orchestra,” says Wiltgen. with pre-concert activities, including snacks, crafts, Once children feel energized and ready to give story time, and an instrument petting zoo, that are de- their full attention, families can head over to Harris signed to connect children with the repertoire they Concert Hall as Peter and the Wolf begins at 5 pm. are about to hear. Kids Notes is recommended most The program focuses on reaching the four main learnfor children seven-years-old and under. ing modalities—kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and tac“A lot of parents and grandparents are excited tile. Children will meet each orchestra instrument, be about this piece, but most young children aren’t fa- encouraged to physically engage with their crafted miliar with the piece or what a classical concert is. character masks, and listen to a professional narSo, if we can give children some background informa- rator. Focusing on a sensory-friendly program,“the tion and learning experiences, they are going to be lights stay on and the doors to the concert hall will be more prepared for the concert, allowing for it to be open,” says Wiltgen. a meaningful musical experience,” says Katie Hone The piece is led by last summer’s Aspen Conductor Wiltgen, AMFS director of education and community Prize winner, Johannes Zahn. The Family Concert has programming. welcomed children for years to make a deep, underOne featured activity is a mask-making station standing connection with classical music.
Continued from Festival Focus page 1
diences will love the balance between serious emotions and also just complete comic outbursts. It’s never comedy for the sake of being funny, it’s just a reflection of how hilarious life can get. It’s because it’s relatable that it’s so funny.” Boettcher says one of the reasons she loves this opera so much (she has sung two other parts over the years) is because of how Mozart writes his female characters. “I love it because it’s relevant subject matter—a woman who’s wronged by her husband and has to decide to keep trying or accept there’s no hope left for her marriage,” she says. “Countess Almaviva is very emotionally strong. I feel Mozart does an amazing job at encapsulating her warmth and strength. The women in this opera have a lot of power, and I admire them. Mozart was so observant and poignant in the way he wrote his women.” In fact, during the time of the opera’s premiere, the ending (with Count Almaviva on his knees begging the Countess for forgiveness) was quite radical and controversial. Today, it just feels relevant. Singing her partner is baritone Xiaomeng Zhang, who came to Aspen this summer for the first time specifically to sing the role of Count Almaviva. “I really wanted to do this role,” he says. “It’s been one of my dream roles for many years. I think it’s a very funny role; he makes people feel that he’s very open, vulnerable, noble, but inside of himself he’s still very ugly.” Zhang says the chance to sing Mozart is always one a young singer should take, and this was also a consideration when the AMFS programmed The Marriage of Figaro. “It is an opportunity for young singers to tackle these roles, and that’s one of the main purposes of our opera program, is to give young singers opportunities to sing complete roles,” Santourian says. “There are seven or eight complete roles, which they will encounter as long as they’re in the lyric voice category for the rest of their lyric lives in the professional’s view. This is not a student opera.” For audiences, and for singers, the most wonderful thing about Figaro may come down to the music—some of the most beloved and memorable that Mozart ever wrote for opera. “I love the music,” Boettcher says. “To me, there’s no music like it, and I think it’s genius the way Mozart puts it all together.”