April 2014



Perpetual Evolution

Oct 13, 2008

Today's guest blog is written by Stefan Lano who will conduct the Chicago Sinfonietta during the upcoming performances of the opera Margaret Garner at the Auditorium Theater beginning November 1st.

As we prepare for the production of Margaret Garner at the Auditorium Theater, I am pleased to share some thoughts with you about this important opera. 
Although, the commissioning venues of Michigan Opera Theater,  the Cincinnati Opera and The Opera Company of Philadelphia were most generous in alotting ample time and funding for workshops prior to the world premiere here in Detroit, both hindsight and the experience gained through repeated performances will inevitably color subsequent re- visitations to this score.  That this is now the case, became evident at our first rehearsals and run-throughs of the
opera this past week.   The goals and priorities set by production teams of most any opera, play  or film are pretty
much the same:  1.  tell the story clearly and with dramatic efficiency; 2.  entertain the public while, hopefully, simultaneously edifying them;  3.  try to achieve a sense of closure at evening's end such that the public feels that they have been 'taken somewhere.'

An example of point number 3, would be the ambience in the public when the reprise of the Aria is reached in Bach's Goldberg Variations; or the sense of tragic inevitability at the end of Verdi's Otello as opposed to the comic inevitabiltiy at the end of his Falstaff.  Point number 2 is a bit more subtle.  In some opera, such as Mozart's Magic Flute, the moral of a given scene is presented as an aside in the form of the ensembles  where the characters address the public more directly rather than each other.  In an opera such as Margaret Garner, the message of Toni Morrison is, as one would expect from a literary national treasure, inherent in her story.    Thus do we arrive at the conundrum articulated by Madeleine in the final scene of Richard Strauss'  Capriccio: do the words or the music take precedence?  

Rather than argue for one or the other, I have always found that if the notion of effective theater is well-served, then both words and music are better clarified.  In the case of this run of Margaret Garner, this notion dictates our modus operandi perhaps moreso than the first time around. The care taken in the preparation of any first performance  is, more often than not, devoted to 'getting it right', especially when composer and librettist may be present.  There is, however, more to theater than merely getting it right.  One can get the words and the notes right while missing their element of dramatic marriage.  From the resonance of the opening productions of Margaret Garner, it seems that most would agree that we 'got it right.'  

It bespeaks the vision of David Di Chiera in his mounting a reprise of Margaret Garner relatively soon after the premier.  His decision is now the more felicitous as we approach an historic Presidential election in which an African-American could well become our next President.  That our country evolve as to embrace change. 

In the spirit of opera being an art form in perpetual evolution, Kenny Leon and I intend to greatly expand upon that which we presented some years ago and are especially thrilled that we will do so in the architectural landmark of the Roosevelt Theatre about which one can only echo George Ballanchine's comment: 'Why don't they build them like this any more...?"  Amen.

All best wishes to you,

Stefan Lano

Golijov's Impact

Feb 8, 2008

As I am new to the blogosphere, I felt that it was appropriate for me to begin with something incredibly current in this art form that I experienced last night.

This week, the CSO is performing Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar for the first time. It was such a mind-blowing experience that it motivated me to begin blogging about “Classical” music in Chicago here at CCM.

If you don’t know the background, Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears), tells of the story of the death of legendary Spanish poet Federico García Lorca through the eyes of Margarita Xirgu', Lorca’s favorite actress and friend as she approaches the final hours of her own life. Check out CSO program annotator Phillip Huscher’s program notes for more detail. He does a superb job giving additional context to the piece (as always).

It is a tragic tale; one that dives into politics, revolution, friendship and more. I’ve been a huge fan of Dawn Upshaw’s since she sang Golijov’s Ayre as part of the CSO’s MusicNOW series last spring. But Kelly O’Connor’s performance as Lorca was stunning, just like the piece.

What truly motivated me to write is the impact I believe a composer like Golijov can have on music overall. His influences certainly come from his Argentine and Jewish roots, but his works truly reach across the globe. His music is melodic and beautiful but absolutely unique to his own sound and innovations. He has established a new direction for music as it continues in its never-ending evolution. I feel that if the 2016 Olympic Bid team from Chicago is seeking a composer for a theme, they should look no further than the CSO’s Mead Composer-in-Residence.

Experience Ainadamar if you can. The CSO performs it again Friday (2/8), Saturday (2/9) and Tuesday (2/12).

Mixed Bag

Dec 18, 2007


John Adams was in the office for 90 minutes this morning - primarily to see (above) the set and costume designs for A Flowering Tree, but also to look at all the other things we are putting together around the performances of the very beautiful new opera next May.  It was a happy session all round and John was clearly very pleased with everything.  Thats a good start!  Below you see him with  three of our key staff, Colleen Flanigan, Marla Krupman, and Kara Kane, respectively directors of marketing, development and education.  Between them they manage to provide huge additional animation to our whole enterprise of opera production.  John is an enthusiastic contributor to and supporter of all their efforts.


This afternoon we had our annual staff Christmas party complete with Secret Santa gift exchanges.  I will not publish to photos of this exciting event here......!   Regrettably as a result of this event I had to miss a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Classical Music website.  That was bad of me but my staff come first.  I had hoped to slip away at 4 but one thing led to another including the excellent round of carol singing where our excellent pianist director of finance Dave Wise displayed his exceptional talent at the keyboard.  But please look at the splendidly relaunched CCM site.  It is doing very well and making a valuable contribution to musical life in this city.

A Few Bytes From The Big Apple

Nov 20, 2007

I recently spent a few days in New York combining business with pleasure.  On the business side I attended a meeting at the League of American Orchestras (formerly known as the American Symphony Orchestra League) with colleagues from across the country to discuss issues related to our field.  I also spent the better part of three days meeting with artist managers to get caught up on artist happenings and discuss upcoming projects for the Grant Park Music Festival.  These meetings are important because direct face to face contact always makes doing business so much easier the next time one finds himself haggling about fees over the phone or email. 


Over the weekend I caught the New York City Opera’s production of Samuel Barber’s rarely performed opera Vanessa.  I’ve heard the opera on disc and of course know the famous arias well, but never have heard it live, so I jumped at the chance.  The New York State Theater isn’t the best acoustic, but my friend and I had decent seats on the second balcony and enjoyed the performance.  The real stand out vocally was mezzo soprano Katharine  Goeldner as Vanessa’s young niece Erika.  Very cool was the fact that the original Erika  from the 1958 premiere, Rosalind Elias, was in the current cast, this time as the old  Baroness.  The conducting and orchestral playing left a lot to be desired, a fact I found  ironic as across the plaza performs one of the great orchestras of the world under one of our most famous  conductors – the Met Orchestra and James Levine. 


My friends dragged me to Christie’s at Rockefeller Center in advance of a contemporary art auction to check out the sale items - sale items that go for $40-60,000,000, that is.  It was a surreal experience, seeing the high rollers being themselves - so fabulous and oh so chic - while checking out the Rothkos.  A few days later the Times headline reviewing the auction read, “One Million Dollars is the New 10 Grand.”  I couldn’t fake being in that league in my Old Navy sweater and jeans, but hey, it was a fun diversion nonetheless. 


We left there for a more pointillistic experience at MOMA to see the Georges Seurat exhibit.  Known to many  as the creator of one of the Art Institute of Chicago's great treasures, La Grande Jatte, this exhibition  focused on the master’s more intimate drawings on hand made paper.  It’s on through the beginning of  January and a must see if you’re in the neighborhood. 


One of the trip highlights was dinner at Miriam’s in Brooklyn with my dear friend and former Chicago of  Department of Cultural Affairs colleague Peter McDowell, who is now director of programs at Opera America.  I miss Peter but am thrilled for him as he now holds an important position in New York helping to promote opera for all Americans.

Busy weekend coming up

Fri, 11/2/2007 - 12:27pm — Brian Dickie
Nov 2, 2007

Wfmtlogo  Lyriclogo_stacked_web_2 Opamerica 
Somebody wrote to me this morning "have a lovely relaxing weekend".  Well no chance but that is not say I will not be having fun.

We are at the opening of Julius Caesar this evening at Lyric.  Begins at 6.30 and will be done by 11pm.  Then a party so a late night no doubt.  You can all be there as well by tuning in to WFMT.  I believe that there is streaming too so you only need an Internet connection.

Tomorrow there will be one of Opera America's periodic singers workshops in which I am participating.  This is at de Paul University in Lincoln Park, Chicago, not too far from home and a very agreeable campus with an excellent music school.

On Sunday I am at the Regional finals of the Met auditions - not as a jury member (can't do that in one's own region) but as a spectator and intermission interviewee during the live broadcast on WFMT again!  Tune in to the event between 2 and 5pm  - I, and others, will be on air sometime after 4pm I assume.  This is US Central time and the clocks will have changed so we are back in sync with the rest of the world - well Europe anyway.  6 hours behind the UK and 7 behind western Europe.

Monday is the beginning of another week of travel - more later.