Entries tagged “20th century”


Won't be worried long

“I would say every artist is, in effect, trying to figure how the human race can be saved from itself. So in those days when we sang for the union workers, and today when I go around and sing on a picket line, I’m not really being all that different. Artists who say ’We’re only interested in art for art’s sake’ are fooling themselves, I think.” – Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

A couple of his records were among the first my parents used to play for me. Just a couple seconds of that voice and I’m spellbound.

(I need to learn more, I realize, about Pete’s stepmother Ruth Crawford Seeger, who traveled back and forth between the worlds of folk music and serialist high modernism. I finally listened to the famous string quartet. Haunting and funny by turns. You should check it out.)


Dying is easy

Lesson #1 learned (or at least reinforced) from doing Gallantry, which closed out its five-performance run at the Capital Fringe this evening: If you don’t keep up your energy during the non-funny bits, the funny bits fall flat. Lesson #2: Timing, concentration, and commitment to acting seriously within a silly universe require a lot of effort, even for just half an hour. As a rule it takes me forever to internalize any principle of the stage, so watching my castmates Emily Casey, Tad Czyzewski, and Rebecca Stugart cutting up in rehearsal as though they were born to it was as awe-inspiring as it was gratifying.

I’ve never been in such a copiously reviewed show before. I’m not immune to praise or censure (and we got some of each for Gallantry), but the most gratifying reviews, for me, are the ones in which the reviewer clearly got what the performers were trying to do.

Thanks to Jay and Gregg at OperAlterna for taking me on. And thanks to everyone who showed up! I love the opportunity, at Fringe, to mingle with audiences and even get to know some familiar faces year after year.

In other news, one event that’s not on the official list until I have received an official date is at the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage festival, over Labor Day weekend. Rachel and I will be among the five singers presenting excerpts of Andrew Earle Simpson’s work in progress, The Outcasts of Poker Flat, based on Bret Harte’s story.


The "trouble" with Tahiti

As all-around brilliant as Leonard Bernstein was, the libretto he wrote for his one-act domestic tragicomedy Trouble in Tahiti is… let’s say unpolished. The colloquial American English back-and-forth of the main characters is authentic, and wonderfully set – there’s a reason the mezzo aria “Island Magic” is the most famous excerpt from the show. (No links to YouTube here – you should come see our live version instead on Sunday!) Some of the satire is ham-fisted and some of it is too clever by half, but there’s still plenty of bite to it. Where the libretto really falls down is when Bernstein tries to get lyrical – when the unhappy suburban husband and wife break off from squabbling with each other to reveal the tender, confused, and for once potentially likable people they are inside. These little monologues are serious wincers on paper. If you watch the show, though, you’ll notice that Bernstein saved his most beautiful music for just these scenes.

For me, a lot of the beauty of opera as it’s actually performed is in this sweet mismatch of imperfect elements. A kind of marriage.