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Posts about Classical

Composer Conrad Susa dies at 78

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: November 26, 2013 - 10:59 AM



Composer Conrad Susa, whose work was brought to life on several occasions in the Twin Cities, has died in San Francisco. Susa, who was 78, was a professor of composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Susa's best known opera is "Transformations," which had its premiere with the Minnesota Opera in 1973. Based on 10 poems from a book by Anne Sexton, the work was conducted by Philip Brunelle and directed by Wesley Balk. The poems re-imagined Grimm's fairy tales. Susa wrote the opera as a chamber piece. It has been frequently produced around the country.

"I have fond memories of conducting the premiere, and all the wildness that went along with his last-minute writing and having Anne Sexton here -- but it was magical," Brunelle wrote in an e-mail.

Susa also wrote pieces for VocalEssence and Plymouth Church, and another opera, "Black River: A Wisconsin Idyll," which was commissioned by Minnesota Opera for a 1975 debut. The libretto by Richard Street was inspired by the book "Wisconsin Death Trip."

"I will always remember the first time he came to Minneapolis and stayed with us, having morning pillow fights wiith the kids," Brunelle wrote. "Conrad was brilliant, humorous and irascible."

With the San Francisco Opera, Susa wrote "The Dangerous Liaisons," which had its premiere in 1994 with a cast that included Thomas Hampson and Renee Fleming.

Vanska, American Ballet Theatre to be featured at reopened Northrop

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: November 21, 2013 - 7:21 PM

Osmo Vanska/ New York Times photo by Jenn Ackerman

The renovated Northrop Auditorium will reopen in April with the American Ballet Theatre doing “Giselle” and Osmo Vanska, in May, conducting the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The University of Minnesota announced a series of reopening events on Thursday afternoon. ABT will perform April 4-6 with a live orchestra, which is rare for dance performances outside of New York City.

On May 2, Vanska will recreate the first concert at Northrop played by the Minneapolis Symphony. The 4,800-seat auditorium was built for the symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra) 85 years ago.

Among the other reopening activities at the now 2,700-seat Northrop will be a live broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” on April 26, a talk by novelist David Mitchell on April 9 and a lecture by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on April 17.

The remodeled Northrop also will feature a small movie theater, rehearsal space, classrooms, an art gallery, study spaces and a café.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at northrop.umn.edu.

Save Our Symphony group to host public event

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: November 18, 2013 - 12:19 PM
Save Our Symphony Minnesota, a grassroots group of orchestra patrons and others allied with the locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, will present findings from their analysis of orchestra management's  financial, endowment, strategic and operational documents. This presentation will be given at Open Book Target Performance Hall  (1011 Washington Ave. S.) in Minneapolis on Wednesday, November 20th at 7 p.m. The public and press is invited.
The presentation, titled "The MOA Debacle: Unlocking the Truth," will include a brief history of the Minnesota Orchestral Association's finances and the lockout, a detailed examination of its financial records, state and city bond funding for Orchestra Hall projects,  a comparison of MOA financial results to its public statements, and a call to action. A Q & A will follow.

Mariellen Jacobson, the group's treasurer, said topics will include "excessive use of the endowment to 'balance' the budget, red flags that the MOA's auditor should have caught, and misleading 'all is well' statements made to legislators, the city and donors."

Ulitmatley, she said, "We hope to drive constructive resolution through our specific "calls to action for the MOA, musicians, governor, state auditor, state attorney general, legislature, city and individuals."


Opera: A man and his nose

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 27, 2013 - 6:30 PM

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.



In Paulo Szot, the Met finds the ideal man for the lead role. The Brazilian-born singer-actor, who won a Tony on Broadway for his turn as Emile De Becque in “South Pacific,” has an expressive face, self-pitying, teary-eyed  and despairing one minute, but always up for further adventures the next. He’s a Schnoz Quixote, tilting at windmills as he seeks to find and reclaim the nose that is missing when he wakes up one morning. Was it the fault of the barber Yakovlevich? The officious government inspector? Madame Podtochina, who wants him to marry her daughter? Szot knits the absurd adventures with his supple, molasses-rich baritone.

The crack Met orchestra was here conducted by Pavel Smelkov, and the terrific costumes are by Greta Goiris.  

Steve Heitzeg music in memory of Eric Stokes

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 23, 2013 - 1:48 PM

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.



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