By R.M. Campbell
When Gerard Schwarz first came to Seattle, in 1983, he was not going to stay. Music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, he was about to launch himself in the world of major orchestras. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra must have seemed like dull pickings. But no other invitations were immediately forthcoming, so he stayed, then stayed even longer, becoming music director two years later. Seattle was a good place to learn repertory one wouldn’t ordinarily learn conducting a chamber orchestra: The city was out of the glare of the major leagues. The eighties drifted into the nineties and the 21st century.
Seattle Opera released the details of their next Ring Cycle and Meistersinger, Seattle Opera’s next stand alone Wagner opera. Principal guest conductor Asher Fisch will lead both performances from the pit. Fisch possesses a deep understanding of Wagner’s operas. After guiding a beautifully played Tristan last summer, it is only natural that Fisch be the next conductor to tackle the Ring in Seattle.
Seattle Opera’s critically acclaimed production of the Ring, directed by Stephen Wadsworth and featuring sets by Thomas Lynch, costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, and lighting by Peter Kaczorowski, returns for its fourth incarnation, this time under the baton of Asher Fisch, Principal Guest Conductor of Seattle Opera. Fisch, who has conducted Parsifal, Lohengrin, Der Rosenkavalier, Der Fliegende Holländer, and Tristan und Isolde for Seattle Opera, “ranks among the finest Ring conductors of our time,” according to Opus Magazine. Making their Seattle Opera debuts in this production are Alwyn Mellor as Brünnhilde and Stefan Vinke as Siegfried. Mellor is a Brünnhilde of choice for Den Nye Opera, Oper Leipzig, Longborough Festival Opera, Paris Opera, and Opera North; Vinke has sung Siegfried in Cologne, Leipzig, Berlin, Salzburg, Venice, and Lisbon. Greer Grimsley returns to Seattle Opera for the third time as Wotan, a role for which he won Seattle Opera’s 2005 Artist of the Year award. Other returning artists include Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, Margaret Jane Wray as Sieglinde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Dennis Petersen as Mime, and Richard Paul Fink as Alberich.
When the Meistersinger hits the stage in 2014, it will only be the second time in the company’s history this gargantuan comedic opera has been performed in Seattle.
Goodbye, as they say, is sweet sorrow, particularly in the hands of Pacific Northwest Ballet.
In recent years, the company in June does what it calls a “Season Encore,” which means a single performance dedicated to departing dancers. This season the class was especially large, with eight, possibly a record, including four principals: Ariana Lallone, Olivier Wevers, Jeffrey Stanton and Stanko Milov. The others were Stacy Lowenberg, Chalnessa Eames, Josh Spell and Barry Kerollis. On Sunday the performance at McCaw Hall went on for three hours. The air in the full house was exuberant and grateful for what these dancers had contributed to the company. Everyone was in top form, which made the farewells even more bittersweet. It was a swell evening of dance handsomely mounted. There were all sorts of flowers and kisses and hugs.
Peter Boal, artistic director for the past six years, made introductory remarks on stage in which each dancer was given his, or her, moment in the sun. Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, his predecessors at the company, wrote warmly and well in the lavishly illustrated and handsomely produced program. Stowell and Russell appeared on stage, as well as Patricia Barker, PNB’s prima ballerina until her retirement and now interim artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet, as part of the flower brigade. Val Caniparoli, who choreographed “Lambarena” talked about Lallone, and a lovingly-made film about her was shown.
By Peter A. Klein
On Friday, June 3, the Seattle Symphony presented a “Samuel Jones Celebration” at Benaroya Recital Hall. Jones, who turned 76 last week, is about to end his 14-year tenure as the Symphony’s Composer in Residence.
Jones’ music is part of the American tonalist tradition that outgoing Music Director Gerard Schwarz has championed in performances and recordings. He freely uses modern compositional techniques, but his music is usually rooted in key centers—sometimes more than one simultaneously. Musical architecture and expression walk hand in hand. Seattle audiences have enthusiastically received Jones’ works, including concertos for horn, tuba, trombone and cello.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Giselle. Photo Angela Sterling
By R.M. Campbell
Pacific Northwest Ballet has taken three decades to come to glories of “Giselle,” which it did this weekend at McCaw Hall. Nothing much compares with this ballet, which has iconic status in the canon. It must succeed not through fortissimo gestures but pianissimo ones, those that hold us through subtlety and sheer beauty. Nearly all the great ballerinas of the past 150 years have taken on the title role — the list is astonishing. It represents “a superb chance to captivate, to dazzle, and to touch the heart,” to borrow a description from eminent dance critic Edwin Denby.
While the production — that is, sets and costumes, designed by Peter Farmer, for Houston Ballet — is well-worn, the concept is unique — a variant of the traditional one by virtue of newly employed historical sources. While differences in text and choreography are minimal — they will seem of little consequence to most ballet patrons — the professional dance world is fascinated, enough that the Dance Critics Association is holding its annual meeting in Seattle this week in order to see for themselves. It is this “new” version that makes PNB’s production novel.
By R.M. Campbell
When Angel Corella made his debut as a soloist at American Ballet Theatre some 16 years ago at the age of 20, his dancing was a sensation. A few months later he was promoted to principal and in the years to follow became a star attraction, an essential part of the company’s extraordinary collection of great male dancers from the Old World and the New.
The Spanish dancer enjoyed an astonishing career at the company as well as with other ballet companies as a guest artist. A decade ago, he began a foundation to promote classical dance in his native country which has long had a problem sustaining a ballet company with international standing. Three years ago, he and his sister Carmen founded Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon. He is the ensemble’s artistic director and she, associate artistic director. More than 20 individuals appear on the company’s roster, including Angel Corella’s colleague at Ballet Theater, another major star, Herman Cornejo. Most have Spanish names but not all.
The Detroit Symphony comes out of a damaging strike with a new outreach initiative aimed at suburban audiences. New York City Opera is on the ropes as deficits continue to mount, ticket sales drag, and musicians are calling for the company to do Carmen. By now we know the Philadelphia Orchestras has filed for bankruptcy. How bad is it in Philly? The fact that so many of their top shelf musicians are taking auditions elsewhere should be a hint. Need more proof just read this.