Mark Bilyeu combed the repertoire for examples of dysfunctional masulinity. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune)
Is the #MeToo movement starting to influence classical music?
“A little bit,” answered Mark Bilyeu, artistic director of Minnesota's annual Source Song Festival.
Bilyeu will present his brand-new "MadMen" program on Friday, featuring music that depicts “men who are crazy, delusional and flat-out psychopathic.”
A pianist and vocal coach by trade, Bilyeu came up with the idea while attending a masterclass last year in Scotland.
“We were working on a Schubert song called 'Im Frühling,' which is normally viewed as a very typical love song,” he recalled. “But the poet who wrote the words, Ernst Schultze, was actually a stalker of two sisters.
“For me, this turned the entire poem on its head," Bilyeu continued. "And it suddenly became a very creepy ode by a stalker, in a way that is really uncomfortable.”
The Minneapolis musician had no difficulty finding further examples of dysfunctional masculinity in the classical repertoire. His recital also features music by Ravel, Purcell, David Evan Thomas and the Swedish composer Ture Rangström.
Bilyeu is especially excited to play "Pharoah Songs," a new work by Twin Cities composer Libby Larsen based on Egyptian hieroglyphics from 1300 BC.
"It could be the most #MeToo of all the pieces we’re doing," Bilyeu said.
While some works on the “MadMen” program present men in what Bilyeu called “predatory terms,” he insisted it won't be an anti-man recital.
“I think it’s a pro-transparency recital,” he said. “Both sexes get jilted. Both suffer from mental disorders. Both occasionally act in not their best manners. This recital happens to focus on the men.”
Mark Bilyeu and baritone Alan Dunbar will perform their free “MadMen” recital 7 p.m. Friday at Hamline Church United Methodist in St. Paul. For more information, visit markbilyeu.com.