Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sean Curran Company announces October programs

Belmont, Massachusetts native Sean Curran brings his Sean Curran Company to the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University October 26-28. Mr. Curran has announced the programs for the engagement, which includes a special Family Matinee program for Sunday, October 28. All three performances feature Curran's new work, Social Discourse, which makes its world premiere. You can find the complete programs and links to buy tickets here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Have you seen this stork?


I realize this might change the perception of this blog from that of goofy, promotional tool and informative arts link generator into the equivalent of an online milk carton, but someone has stolen the Pat Payne stork sculpture from near the entrance of The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton. Time to get involved. Here is the post that alerted me from Geoff Edgers' The Exhibitionist blog. The post lists the number to call if you have any information.

First it was the Make Way for Ducklings ducks, now this. I'm serious.

By the way, Dawn Upshaw is a genius

Soprano Dawn Upshaw

Soprano Dawn Upshaw has been named as a 2007 MacArthur Fellow, and, as such, will receive what is known as a "Genius Grant." Upshaw was praised by the MacArthur Foundation for "...stretching the boundaries of operatic and concert singing and enriching the landscape of contemporary music." Check the complete list of MacArthur Fellows here and you'll see that Upshaw is in good company and that this is quite an honor.

Oh, and they give you $500,000 over 5 years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Reverberate Hills on Mozart Dances

I'm always glad when The Reverberate Hills; or the Apotheosis of the Narwhal blog crosses paths with topics of Celebrity Series interest. It gives me an extra incentive to recommend this particularly well written blog. A post from today featured a typically thoughtful take on the San Francisco engagement Mark Morris's Mozart Dances, plus some cogent thoughts on other Morris works and Mark Morris himself. The post wraps up with a bit on Mozart's opera Il Re Pastore, performed by Philharmonia Baroque at First Congregational Church in Berkeley; the cast of which featured former Celebrity Series Boston Marquee artists Lisa Saffer (Judith Gordon, January 2001) and Margaret Lattimore (March 2003), as well as soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, who will perform with the St. Lawrence String Quartet on November 18.

Read See Music.

Weill/Brecht cantata comes to Stow

Charles Lindbergh and The Spirit of St. Louis

The Collings Foundation Aviation Museum in Stow hosted the opening performance of The Cantata Singers' season on Sunday. The concert featured the area premiere of a radio cantata by composer Kurt Weill (text by Bertolt Brecht) from 1928-9 entitled "The Lindbergh Flight," the subject, you probably have guessed, is Charles Lindbergh's famous 1927 transatlantic flight. Hence the setting for the performance in the Collings Foundation Aviation Museum's hangar.

The review by The Boston Globe's Jeremy Eichler, which features a photo of the unusual concert setting, can be found here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Matthew Guerrieri on Strauss, Mahler and Midnight Cowboy...

Strauss and Mahler Re-Enact Your Favorite Movie Moments, by Matthew Guerrieri on Soho the Dog. Good stuff.

Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007

The world-renowned mime, Marcel Marceau has died. My guess is that though many make jokes about mime as an art form, few would dispute Marceau's preeminent status in the genre. Marceau had only one Celebrity Series engagement, a week-long run at Boston's Colonial Theatre in 1985, but he appeared in Boston many times. obituary (Louise Kennedy)

New York Times obituary (James F. Clarity and Eric Pace)

Washington Post obituary (Patricia Sullivan)

Christian Science Monitor interview from 1974

"Something to See," TIME Magazine, 1955

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Welcome to the blogoshpere, Gardnerites!

Our friends at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum have launched a weblog called Before and After, and I'm trying to think of a proper welcome. Should we roast a pig or something?

In today's post, Phil James talks about shakuhachi music, as he'll be playing solos and duets with koto player Cathleen Read in the courtyard at After Hours tomorrow evening, September 20, from 5:00-7:00pm as part of a "Journey to the East" program highlighting Asian art in the galleries. The shakuhachi is a bamboo flute, for those of you who don't already know, and since some of you are likely curious about this instrument (I hadn't thought about the instrument in years...don't I have a shakuhachi record somewhere?) or want to know more about James, let me recommend: Phil James' Nyokai-an Shakuhachi dojo web site (there's a shokuhachi .mp3 on the front page), his electronic music site, 9revolt, a blog about the shakuhachi, Shakuhachi Chamber Music International, and the International Myspace Shakuhachi Society. All places I would not have thought to visit before Before and After put me on the path to enlightenment.

In any case, though there are few posts as yet, it's a lovely blog, very nicely designed (fine! raise the bar!) and I have reason to think, will be consistently well written. Check out Before and After, and tell 'em Aisle Be Seeing You sent ya'!

Monday, September 17, 2007

WGBH Dance Fest 2007 programming


WGBH's Dance Fest 2007 is underway and it features the usual ton of cool dance programming. There are a couple of programs that feature companies in which we have a special interest (wink), for example, Great Performances: Dance in America brings us Alvin Ailey - Beyond the Steps (Celebrity Series dates: February 7-10) and the film Black Grace: From Cannon's Creek to Jacob's Pillow (Celebrity Series dates: April 17 & 18). Those clever 'GBH people even dug up with a lecture/podcast from the 1950s: Creative Mind: The Choreographer as Creator, Agnes de Mille, choreographer. Not directly related to our 2007-2008 season, but certainly worthy are American Masters: Balanchine and Great Performances: Nureyev - the Russian Years. There are lots of others. Get the remote. Here's the schedule.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pianist Leon Fleisher to receive Kennedy Center Honors Award


Congratulations to pianist Leon Fleisher. The pianist, conductor and educator has been selected as one of the five artists to receive the Kennedy Center Honors Award for 2007. Other honorees include actor, writer and comedian Steve Martin, singer Diana Ross, film director Martin Scorsese and The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. The Gala event will take place December 2 and be broadcast on December 26.

Some Celebrity Series of Boston patrons will remember Mr. Fleisher for his
first two piano recitals for us in 1956. Many more will remember his triumphant return to two hand performance in 2004 after overcoming decades of restricted

use of his right
hand due to focal dystonia. Mr. Fleisher's most recent performance with us was last May with the Emerson
String Quartet.

Clay and Kiri

We can now confirm earlier reports that soprano Kiri Te Kanawa and Red Sox rookie pitcher Clay Buchholz will be switching places this October. Dame Kiri will join the Red Sox starting rotation for the stretch run, and Buchholz will sing the soprano's October 14 program of Mozart, Richard Strauss, Duparc, Poulenc, Jake Heggie, Britten, Copland, Wolf-Ferrari and Puccini at Symphony Hall. Warren Jones will be behind the plate, er, at the piano for the season-opening recital. 

"Major League Baseball clearly represents little challenge for Clay," Red Sox skipper Terry Francona was quoted as saying, in reference to Buccholz’s recent no-hitter in just his second Major League game. "And this kid loves a challenge. We cautioned him about moving too fast into recital singing, especially the French stuff, but with this kid's talent I'm not sure those rules apply."

As for Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sox officials expect the silver throated soprano’s impact on the Red Sox starting rotation to be immediate and substantial. "To be honest, I don’t know where she picked up the game, being from New Zealand,” commented Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, “But Dame Kiri will bring a lot of professionalism to our ball club. She’s a winner. She does everything at the highest level. If she hits her spots the way she can, with Varitek's guidance behind the plate she'll be fine. I believe Dame Kiri will be just the addition we need to get us to October and beyond."

Dame Kiri's turn as a hurler is without precedent since the deadball era, when tenor Enrico Caruso pitched a surprise six innings of relief out of the bullpen for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League during the 1915 pennant race.

UPDATE: Kiri? Come quick! We need you!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

All 2007-08 Celebrity Series of Boston tickets on sale now

All 2007-2008 Celebrity Series of Boston performances are now on sale (that's individual ticket sale, meaning you can buy them one ticket and one show at a time, not only as part of a subscription).

To buy your tickets, visit anytime or call CelebrityCharge at (617) 482-6661 during the special hours of 9am to 5pm (10am to 4pm after September 10). Check out all the great shows here.

Of course, you can still subscribe and get great benefits, visit for subscription details and online subscription form.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Walter Pierce on Luciano Pavarotti

Remembering Luciano

A great deal is being written about the death of Luciano Pavarotti. What strikes me about many of the obituaries and tributes is the number of negative characteristics cited by the writers. It seems that for every triumph, there is a caveat. The glorious Italianate voice that could ‘bing’ nine high C’s in a row, is diluted by the artist’s so-called ‘laziness’ to grow his repertory–relying primarily on a series of known roles and past triumphs.

What I recall as the lucky host of a dozen or so Pavarotti appearances in the Celebrity Series is the beauty of tone, the sheer satisfaction of pleasing an audience, a distinctive sound that was ‘unmistakable.’  God did indeed ‘kiss his tonsils’ to quote an Italian opera-saying.

He was the embodiment of our ‘Golden Age of Singing.’ For years, I read of a bygone golden age of singing that may never be duplicated.  Would we ever hear the qualities of a Caruso, Gigli, Schipa, Gobbi, Flagstad?  I say we have been living in a golden age of singing equal to any bygone era. Think of Tebaldi, Sutherland, Callas, Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, Domingo, Tucker, Corelli, and of course, Pavarotti.

The ‘ditzers’ scoff at the out-size bulk, but it carried an outsize personality within it. If you happened to see the ‘Maestro’ on the street, would you mistake him for someone else—the flamboyant costume of scarves and voluminous shirts, the distinctive fedora, the theatrical mustache and beard, and that smile–oh, that smile–of a man in love with life, relishing his gift, because indeed it is a gift.

Yes, there was much to criticize. The recital programs were limited, often repeated.  There were the familiar Tosti songs–but oh, how sublimely they were rendered. The arias were often familiar from the last program–from “Boheme,” “Tosca,” and of course, what became his signature aria, ‘Nessun dorma.’ But would you say, “Please Luciano, not one more ‘Nessun dorma.’”

I first heard Luciano singing in “La Boheme,” at the Hynes Auditorium during a matinee of a Metropolitan Opera tour performance. We booked him in recital a few years later, the first of many glorious Symphony Hall recitals, many with the incomparable John Wustman at the keyboard – just the two of them on a bare Symphony Hall stage enchanting a rapt capacity audience.

I remember a phone call from Pavarotti’s manager, Herbert Breslin, during a Met Opera contretemps that cancelled several New York performances including one by Luciano. Could we present Luciano in recital with but a few days’ notice? The reply was a cautious yes; not surprisingly, the concert was completely sold out in twenty-four hours following several announcements on the radio. That concert took place at the Opera House. In subsequent years, there were concerts with orchestra presented at the Wang Center. Once, the building was shutdown for emergency roof repairs three days before a scheduled concert; we moved it to the Hynes Auditorium to accommodate the 4000 ticket holders, exchanging the tickets on the fly.

Following a great deal of preparation, the hall was ready, the audience in place, the orchestra prepared to take the stage-but where is the maestro, asked the conductor? For all our preparation, we forgot to pick up Luciano at the Ritz Carlton where he sat in the lobby waiting for his ride to the auditorium. I raced over in my car and delivered one sizable tenor for his concert appearance.

Luciano did return to Symphony Hall for concerts in later years. But following the famous ‘Three Tenors Concert,’ we saw little of him for a few years; that is, until we were asked to manage a concert appearance at the Boston Garden–not the ideal place for a song recital, but tell that to ten thousand delighted fans who came to bask in the sunshine of that glorious voice.

There was one last Symphony Hall concert in his declining years. The bloom was off the voice, the maestro’s legs and hips–weary of carrying his enormous bulk, prevented him from striding off the stage between groups of songs. He retired behind a curtain on stage that allowed him to rest and sit down between numbers. Despite his physical setbacks, he was still able to thrill an audience and send people home with happy memories.

Our association with Luciano ended finally with that concert. His further decline in ability and health is more than amply documented.

I remember the glory, the sunny Italianate voice, ‘unmistakable,’ and perhaps never to be duplicated.  There will be new tenors labeled as the ‘next Pavarotti,’ but there will only be one Luciano, currently appearing before an enthralled audience of gods high atop Mt. Olympus.

-Walter Pierce

Walter Pierce joined The Celebrity Series of Boston in 1956. He retired as Executive Director in 1996.

Luciano Pavarotti's last Celebrity Series recital


(left to right) Former Celebrity Series Executive Director, Walter Pierce; Luciano Pavarotti and current Celebrity Series of Boston President and Executive Director, Martha Jones, backstage after his final Boston recital, Boston's Symphony Hall, April 5, 2000. Photo by Brian Snyder for the Celebrity Series.


Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Leone Magiera, piano
Symphony Hall, April 5, 2000

Giovanni Battista Bononcini
“Per la gloria d’adorarvi” from Griselda

Ludwig van Beethoven
In questa tomba oscura

Alessandro Scarlatti
Già il sole dal Gange

Vincenzo Bellini
Dolente immagine di Fille mia
Malinconia, Ninfa gentile
Vanne, o rosa fortunata
Bella Nice, che d’amore
Ma rendi pur contento

Giacomo Puccini
“Recondita armonia” from Tosca
“E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca

Francesco Paolo Tosti
Non t’amo più
Luna d’estate

Gaetano Donizetti
“Una furtiva lagrima” from L’elisir d’amore

Francesco Paolo Tosti
Chanson de l’adieu
L’ultima canzone
‘A vucchella
L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra

Richard Dyer, reviewing for The Boston Globe, said of the evening:

"You've got to love Pavarotti because he is a survivor, still going in one of the biggest careers in the history of opera. One of the most remarkable things about him is that he could make it a lot easier on himself than he ever has...He could have filled the FleetCenter, sung for 25 minutes around a bunch of overtures and flute solos and laughed all the way to the bank. But it was in Symphony Hall that Pavarotti made his Boston debut, more than 25 years ago, and he wanted to sing there again...Older listeners could repeatedly fasten onto a note or a phrase, remember, and play a game - if Pavarotti can still sound the way he did 30 years ago, then we are still ourselves, and the way we used to be, too, way back then. That's why you've got to love the man."

Luciano Pavarotti, 1935-2007


Boston Globe obituary (Richard Dyer) photo gallery

Boston Globe Critic's Notebook (Jeremy Eichler)

Ron Della Chiesa's WGBH interview with Pavarotti from 1972 (streaming)

New York Times obituary (Bernard Holland)

New York Times: An Appraisal, A Master of Italian Operatic Artistry (Anthony Tommasini)

New York Times: Italy Mourns 'An Expression of our Culture'

Chicago Tribune obituary (John von Rhein)

Washington Post: 'Italian Tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Superstar of Opera'
(Tim Page)

Washington Post slideshow/photo gallery

Los Angeles Times: 'Opera's greatest star brought classical music to the masses' (Mark Swed)

Reuters: 'World Pays Tribute to Pavarotti, singer and man

Associated Press: 'Luciano Pavarotti: A Tenor Like No Other' (Ronald Blum)

Associated Press: 'Thousands Pay Respects to Pavarotti'

Discography from The New York Times

Luciano Pavarotti has died. I feel like The Brooklyn Bridge just disappeared.

UPDATE: As a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, Boston's WGBH Television has scheduled two rebroadcasts of a 1981 Metropolitan Opera production of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. Here is the schedule.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Do the Math on Max Roach

Check out this wonderful tribute/obit on jazz legend Max Roach (who died in mid-August) from Do The Math, The Bad Plus blog. It details Roach's style in in not-too-academic shorthand with links to musical examples.

I shouldn't need to provide a connection to the Celebrity Series to justify this post, but for those keeping score (probably just me), Ethan Iverson, of The Bad Plus, is Mark Morris' former music director. And, yes, he is "fabulous."

Thomas Quasthoff sings Miles heard me

There really isn't anything I can add to this; Thomas Quasthoff more than credibly sings a wordless vocal on Miles Davis's All Blues from the 1959 classic recording Kind of Blue. I still want Mr. Quasthoff to sing Mahler with the Berlin Philharmonic (November 19), but this is two steps beyond remarkable: