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In “The Nose,” Kovalyov’s search for his missing nose, as orchestrated by a young but clearly fearless Dmitri Shostakovich, is a big noisy affair. Effusions of brass and long interludes of pure percussion mark the score, and the singing is mainly declamatory and boisterous. No attenuated love arias or heartbreak-by-moonlight songs here. What opera ever composed has so much work for the trombones?
The ICON movie theater in St. Louis Park was full on Saturday for the Metropolitan Opera’s live telecast of Shostakovich’s seldom-produced “The Nose,” which premiered there in 2010 and is being revived this season. (The high-definition video will be seen again this Wednesday evening in several Twin Cities theaters. Details here.)
South African artist William Kentridge, who made his Met Opera with this brilliant production, has imagined a frenetic world of creatures made out of typography, of inky figures drawing monstrous cartloads as if all Russia were their burden. Then these figures drag in a new scenic element -- a cramped barber shop, a tilted sleeping room on which Kovalyov tosses and turns in misery on his too-small bed.
Kentridge brings great inventiveness and hurly-burly to bear on the Gogol story. Presented in the black, gray, white and brilliant red color scheme of the Russian Constructivists, it’s a world where a newspaper office becomes a towering front page, out of which explode the pressman, the editors and reporters, each singing from their own grimy, newsprint-strewn window.
At one point, type moves like iron filings on a magnet until cohering into a giant image of Joseph Stalin, evoking the era when Shostakovich was emerging as a composer.
The production design shies away from the usual illusions of depth, opting instead for ladders, trap doors and trompe l’oeil effects in a dizzying, floor-to-ceiling 2D effect, like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in as imagined by El Lissitzky. When an animated nose takes a dive, it splashes into a movie-reel swimming pool. The profusion of these dynamic visual effects throughout the opera is perhaps its biggest attraction. They added to, rather than distracting from, the music and the singers.
The crack Met orchestra was here conducted by Pavel Smelkov, and the terrific costumes are by Greta Goiris.
A pair of world premiere works by composer Steve Heitzeg (pictured) will be performed in a free concert at the University of Minnesota on Nov. 12.
One of them, titled "Earthshaker," is scored for solo piano with stones and plastic water bottles, with instructions for the pianist, in this case Timothy Lovelace, "to throw a variety of plastic bottles into the piano as a protest against the pollution of the oceans." Another section of the three-movement work incorporates sounds of Lake Superior recorded at pre-dawn on a stone beach near Grand Marais. The other Heitzeg work being premiered is "Quaker Peace Waltz."
Heitzeg says in a statement that he was inspired to write "Earthshaker" in memory of Eric Stokes, who died in 1999. Stokes, a professor at the U of M's school of music for 29 years, was also a prolific composer, and the concert will include works by him, including "Circles in a Round: Music for Pianos" and "Rock and Roll" (for five players and rocks).
Heitzeg studied with Stokes at graduate school. Lovelace, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, is a proponent of new music who has performed the music of Elliott Carter, John Corigliano and Osvaldo Golijov, among others. He will be joined in the concert by soprano Maria Jette, flutist Immanuel Davis, oboist John Snow and percussionists Randall Davidson and Heitzeg.
Concert is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at Ultan Recital Hall, Ferguson Hall, University of Minnesota.
VocalEssence has contracted with 50 instrumentalists who are members of the Twin Cities Musicians' Union, and as long as the Minnesota Orchestra musicians are locked out, those union members will not play at Orchestra Hall.
VocalEssence had delayed the venue change as long as possible, in hopes of a settlment, said executive director Mary Ann Aufderheide.
"We needed to give our patrons ennough time to be aware of the venue change," she said.
The concert will be at the same time, 4 p.m. on Oct. 27, at Central Lutheran Church, 333 S. 12 St., Mpls. Composers Jonathan Dove and Aaron Jay Kernis (who resigned as director of the Composers' Institute at the orchestra) will be at the program.
Orchestra Hall is open in its remodeled form and is being used for some corporate events and concerts. However, any performances that would require the participation of union members will likely not take place if the lockout is still in place.
Information on the VocalEssence concert is here.
Robb Asklof as The Dancing Master and Kelly Kaduce as Manon Lescaut in the Minnesota Opera production of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" last month. Photo by Mikal Daniel.
It hasn't been the greatest week for classical music in America, but the MInnesota Opera can't complain. As the Minnesota Orchestra's woes continue and the 70-year-old New York City Opera closed its doors for good, Minnesota Opera received two six-figure grants within several days of each other.
On Tuesday, the opera announced a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. The money will be used to simulcast the opening-night performances of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons at Landmark Plaza, free and open to the public. A previous grant from Knight in 2011 enabled the company to develop more sophisticated HD capture for broadcasting.
Last week, the opera announced a different grant for the same $100,000 amount from the Hearst Foundation. That grant is earmarked for education and community outreach.
Bucking a national trend in audience decline for opera companies, Minnesota Opera has had steady attendance and last year recorded an 11-year high in subscription sales, said marketing and communications director Lani WIllis.
Responses to the resignation of Osmo Vanska came in Tuesday from both musicians and the board of Minnesota Orchestra:
“The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are deeply saddened by the resignation of our beloved Maestro Osmo Vanska. Through his tenure, he has led the orchestra to remarkable musical heights. We enjoyed a truly rare chemistry with him and are deeply grateful to Osmo for imparting his passionate vision, exacting discipline, and the resulting confidence that came from being at the top of our game."
from Minnesota Orchestra Board Chair Jon Campbell
We are very sorry that Music Director Osmo Vänskä has announced his resignation, as it has always been our hope that he would see the Minnesota Orchestra through this challenging period.
We will always be grateful to our generous foundation community for coming forward with additional funding over the last few weeks to enable a proposed contract resolution with musicians that represented our very best efforts to save the Carnegie concerts and Maestro Vänskä’s tenure. The Board has done everything in its power to reach a compromise with musicians by September 30, and we are very sorry they have rejected all efforts.
Music Director Osmo Vänskä has been an extraordinary conductor, and we are profoundly thankful for his service to the Orchestra and our audiences, and our organization will continue to celebrate his many achievements. He will hold a distinguished legacy in the history of the Minnesota Orchestra.