Music @ Boston Court, the music presentation arm of Boston Court…
AUGUST 28, 2013 | 09:30AM PT
Quirky, avant-garde rocker’s work to mark Disney Hall’s 10th anniversary
The history of Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” is much like its composer; enigmatic and riddled with disparate dimensions. Originally culled from various musical scribblings written while on tour, and later, converted into a multimedia, surrealist rock symphony for film and stage, the legacy of “200 Motels” has largely stemmed from its cinematic and recorded incarnations. The 1971 film version is a bizarre, hallucinatory slab of cult kitsch, while its double-LP soundtrack exists more as a kaleidoscopic curio than a full-fledged album statement.
The subject matter is typical Zappa: odd, irreverent, and bitingly funny, chronicling his band’s descent into a state of collective madness while on the road. A partial-reading by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1970 and an infamously banned 1971 performance at the Royal Albert Hall represent the only attempts to present the work as an orchestrated whole — until now.
With the work’s fragmented past firmly in mind, the L.A. Phil — in honor of the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s 10th anniversary — has decided to perform “200 Motels” in its entirety for the first time on Oct. 23. Director James Darrah has brought a fresh sensibility to the production, adding a team of designers to build sets and projection surfaces for an immersive blend of music and visuals. “It’s going to look like a combination of a film set, an art installation, an opera set, a video installation and a theater piece,” Darrah says. “The entire piece functions as this great creative outpouring from Frank, and he actually treats the visual component as though he were writing for another instrument.”
Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will be working from a newly revised version of the original score — comprising 13 orchestral suites including a truly bizarre mixture of obtuse modernism, orchestral pop, nonsensical humor, cultural commentary and kitschy rock exotica with some bracing vocal arrangements thrown in.
Salonen briefly met Zappa not long before he died in 1993 and conducted a number of his works in Europe before then. In speaking with Zappa, he observed an artist who was keenly self-aware yet far more sensitive than his iconoclastic reputation belied. Removed from its original context, Salonen sees “200 Motels” as a work of surprising depth and complexity — trading its confrontational elements for a statement of pure imagination and creative freedom.
“I would say that the outrageous aspects of Zappa are perhaps less important for today’s audience,” Salonen says. “We’re witnessing a historical moment where we can actually hear the other aspects of his music better because we are no longer stunned by the outrageousness. Reading this score now, there is a sheer richness of fantasy. He had such a vivid imagination in every way.”
Though the L.A. Phil’s production will employ some newly devised elements, the primary concern of Zappa’s widow, Gail, is in presenting a version that is faithful to Frank’s original musical vision. “I’m extremely hands on,” says Gail Zappa, executor of the Zappa estate. “My job is to protect the intent of the composer and serve the integrity of the music.”
With the careful transcription and assembly efforts of Zappa Family Trust scoremeister Kurt Morgan, Zappa helped deliver the comprehensive score that will be used for the upcoming performance.
The L.A. Phil’s premiere will be followed by a second reading of “200 Motels” by the BBC Concert Orchestra Oct. 29 at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
I’ll be directing this premiere with the LA Phil in October—a wild ride! (It also happens to be the exact 10th anniversary of the opening of the hall..)
Tickets are on sale August 25th through laphil.org.
In November, Juilliard Opera opens its season with a production of Handel’s Radamisto, directed by James Darrah and conducted by Julian Wachner with Juilliard singers and Juilliard Historical Performance musicians, Juilliard415. Handel’s opera was written for the Royal Academy of Music and had its premiere in the spring of 1720 at King’s Theatre, Haymarket. The three-act opera is set to an Italian libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, based on L’amour tiranico by Domenico Lalli’s Florentine play. Performances take place on Wednesday, November 20 (8 PM); Friday, November 22 (8 PM); and Sunday, November 24 (2 PM) in Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Tickets for Juilliard Opera’s production of Radamisto are $30, available 10/16 at the Janet and Leonard Kramer Box office at Juilliard, by calling CenterCharge (212) 721-6500, or online at juilliard.edu/radamisto. Senior and student tickets are $15, available at the Juilliard Box Office only.
Los Angeles-based director, production designer, and visual artist James Darrah is committed to collaborative projects within the mediums of opera, theater, musical theater, and film/video. He made his San Francisco Symphony debut with direction and production design for an experimental multimedia production of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt featuring the music of Grieg, Schnittke, and Robin Holloway, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, in January 2013. Other recent work includes direction and design for Chicago Opera Theater with critically acclaimed new productions of Handel’s Teseo and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée, and his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut with Luciano Berio’s Recital 1 (for Cathy) as part of the Green Umbrella series. Upcoming projects include his directing debut with Opera Omaha and frequent collaborator Stephen Stubbs conducting Handel’s Agrippina; direction for the world premiere of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting; Schoenberg’s The Book of Hanging Gardens with Boston Court Performing Arts in Los Angeles; continued collaborations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on John Adams’ oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Peter Sellars, director) and Le nozze di Figaro (Christopher Alden, director); his directing debut for Pacific Musicworks in Seattle; and Così fan tutte in Hawaii.
Grammy®-nominated conductor Julian Wachner is sought after as conductor, composer, and keyboard artist. Recent and upcoming engagements include those with the Lincoln Center Festival (The Blind); BAM Next Wave Festival (Liederabend 2013); The Rolling Stones (50th anniversary tour); New York City Opera (VOX); Hong Kong Philharmonic; TENET (TENEbrae); Portland Baroque (Messiah); and with Carnegie Hall (Arvo Pärt’s Passio). As director of music and the arts at New York’s historic Trinity Wall Street, he oversees an annual season of more than 900 events, including Trinity’s numerous and varied concert offerings, series, festivals, museum exhibitions, dance and theater performances, poetry and literary readings, and educational/outreach initiatives in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn in partnership with New York City’s public school system. At Trinity Wall Street, Mr. Wachner serves as principal conductor of NOVUS NY (Trinity’s resident contemporary music orchestra), Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and Choir of Trinity Wall Street.
2013-14 Opera Omaha season lineup announced
By Bob Fischbach
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Three strong female characters will headline the three productions in Opera Omaha’s 2013-14 season, dubbed a year of “Breaking Boundaries.”
General director Roger Weitz said he is again balancing the season with shows representing a classic greatest hit, Bizet’s “Carmen”; a widely known top-200 title, Rossini’s “Cinderella”; and a lesser-known, more adventurous work, Handel’s “Agrippina.”
The oldest opera ever staged by Opera Omaha, this 1709 work centers on the mother of Roman emperor Nero. When her husband dies, Agrippina uses seduction and deception to make sure her son takes the throne. The show is fast-paced and full of plot twists and dark comedy, and is considered one of George Frideric Handel’s best.
The production is being built from scratch for Opera Omaha, which is premiering a new version shaped by director James Darrah and conductor Stephen Stubbs. It will include an aria imported from another Handel work.
Weitz said “Agrippina” often is considered Handel’s first masterpiece. He said Darrah is a rising young star in the opera world, employing a team of designers committed to staging early operas in ways that resonate with contemporary audiences.
Stars will be Jennifer Rivera, Hadleigh Adams and Nathan Medley. It’s in Italian with English supertitles.
Season subscriptions go on sale Wednesday, starting at $49. That’s a 15 percent discount on individual tickets, which will go on sale around Labor Day. Information is available at operaomaha.org.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1269, email@example.com
After two fast weeks, SFS closed the concert+theater+opera+multimedia adventure into Peer Gynt last night following three nights of ecstatic crowds and a slew of entertaining reactions that have varied wildly. I’m in awe of MTT’s imaginative programming and his fearless, bold vision to enhance, expand, and challenge the complacency of the expected symphonic experience. Great design colleagues, new friends at SFS, and a fun rehearsal process with host of talented, fast-adapting actors: it has been a great start to the year.
A brief excerpt from Gereben in the San Francisco Classical Voice (with some of the great SFS pictures!) below…
In a bold and successful move, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony have condensed Henrik Ibsen’s 1876 Peer Gynt into an outstanding musical-dramatic multimedia production.
Following a string of semistaged hits — Flying Dutchman, Barbary Coast, and The Thomashefskys among them — Peer Gynt might have been the greatest challenge, presenting in less than two hours a five-hour, virtually unperformable, bizarre fantasy/nightmare, written for a huge cast, with 40 scenes alternating in time and space.
Ibsen, who wrote the work in rhyming verse, originally did not intend it for the stage. Dramaturgically impossible, the play is chock full of ideas, philosophical and psychological gems, such as the consideration of what is “enough” — should man be enough for himself or is there something more? — and the consequences of living by the maxim of “go around,” avoiding issues and commitment.
MTT/SFS not only dealt with the theatrical challenge on a sliver of the concert stage (a daunting task in itself), but enhanced the drama with the work of three composers: much of the well-known Grieg incidental music, six excerpts from Alfred Schnittke’s ballet suite, and the premiere of Robin Holloway’s Ocean Voyage, part of a large, yet-unperformed work on the theme of Ibsen’s play…
COT’s 2012 production of Handel’s TESEO has been lauded by Chicago Classical Review as one of Chicago’s Top 10 Performances of 2012.
Chicago Opera Theater: Handel’s Teseo
Handel’s Teseo was the final installment of Chicago Opera Theater’s three-year Medea cycle, and by far the most successful of the series. Led by Cecelia Hall in the title role, the superb young cast and stylish staging by James Darrah in April made this final show of Brian Dickie’s tenure one of COT’s greatest success of recent years.