by Drew Klein
22 days ago
CAC performance curator Drew Klein reports from NYC
The main event Thursday
evening was not a part of Performa 13. Instead, the evening saw my virgin visit
to the Metropolitan Opera to take in the final night of composer (and frequent
Cincinnati visitor) Nico Muhly's Two Boys.
Muhly became the youngest composer to be commissioned by the Met when they
asked him to create a new work in 2006. Having a run in 2011 in London in a
co-production with English National Opera, Two Boys finally made its American
debut last month.
Based on true
events in Manchester, England, 10 years ago, the story centers on a seemingly
normal 16-year-old boy and his involvement in a confusing web of chat room
relationships that ultimately lead to him stabbing and nearly killing a 13-year-old boy. It was, shall we say, not your standard opera fare. While I've not
been to many an opera in my life thus far, I don't imagine there have been many
to have featured projected chat acronyms and two separate instances of onstage
masturbation. But on to the show.
The story of Two Boys is a complicated one, without question. A young boy has been
stabbed, his friend and the only witness, Brian, is the key suspect, and an
over-worked and under-appreciated police detective is tasked with putting the
pieces together in a case she never wanted to take. As we begin to learn more
about Brian, we are shown a world of chat room conversations and desperate boys
seeking connections that mean something. By the end, we understand that the
young boy pretended to be three different people in various roles and chats
with Brian, concocting an insanely complex story before, essentially,
convincing Brian to stab him while he would repeat, “I love you, bro” to the
dying boy. Everyone has access to a search engine, so I'll let you look up the
story on your own...
triumph for Two Boys is the set design and realization of an online world on
a physical stage. Multiple large-scale projections land upon movable walls that
dance across the stage at various depths. Frequently these walls become
transparent and reveal young people inside, half-illuminated by laptop screens.
The multimedia execution inspired and amazed, serving to highlight the
production's digital world concept and add a new and exciting layer to a
traditional performance form.
Knowing Muhly's work rather well, and having
enjoyed the chance to see him twice in Cincinnati in the past 18 months as part
of MusicNOW and Tatiana Berman's Constella Festival, I was eager to hear what
he had done for Two Boys. I was somewhat surprised — though pleased — to find
that this work did not veer too far from his compositional oeuvre; dark with
intricate rhythms, the score never threatens to take complete control of the
production, while the influence of modern composers like Benjamin Britten and
Meredith Monk, as he acknowledged in the program notes, could be felt
throughout. For me, the standout compositional moments came in the form of
choral scenes performed by the company carrying laptops in their hands, faces
lit and animated by the screens, feeling like a reference to the pull of the
digital world and the countless hours young people like Brian spend seeking
something of meaning in an environment of empty promises. Multi-layered lines
repeating chat room requests and responses, the voices build to a disorienting
swirl. In these moments, the marriage of precocity, tradition, and progressivism
felt too immense to not hold your breath.
Constella Festival’s second season kicks off with diverse performances featuring local and international artists
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The Constella Festival embarks on its
second season with stats that veteran music organizations would envy: a
lineup of world-class performers, growing and diverse audiences and a
budget in the black.
Footage from MusicNOW's finale featuring Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly
If you were unable to attend Friday night's grand finale of the MusicNOW festival, featuring a "workshop" presentation of a new song cycle by The National's Bryce Desnner (also MusicNOW's proud papa), Nico Muhly and Indie superstar Sufjan Stevens, Pitchfork unearthed some footage of the concert on YouTube. The composition being performed in the first clip below is reportedly called "Venus." The others pieces in the clips below have (possibly working) titles that are also planets. Stevens' label Asthmatic Kitty wrote on its website that the piece is a "song-cycle loosely based on the planets." Here's more from the label on the composition and the rare performance dates of the piece all over the world. The trio will be performing their work in just a few select venues,
accompanied by a trombone choir, string quartet, and
drums/percussion/drum machine (played by the indefatigable James
McAlister). Selections from the song-cycle will be “live workshopped” at
Music Now festival in Cincinnati on March 30. Official performances are
scheduled in Eindhoven, Amsterdam, London, and Sydney. More details here.
Performances in Europe will be preceded by short string quartet works
by each collaborator, including two selections from Sufjan’s Run Rabbit Run project.
No other performances for this project have been scheduled and all
dates are sold out except Amsterdam, April 8th. Last chance to see
cosmic history happen here.Cincinnati, as it turns out, was very lucky to get an early look at this unique collaboration. Check out a few of the raw clips below.Maybe they should throw in a cover of this gem:
by Mike Breen
Fest returns to Memorial Hall with lots of Philip Glass love
Grammy-winning Classical music ensemble eighth blackbird will be joined by Philip Glass tonight at Memorial Hall for Day 2 of the MusicNOW festival (which kicked off last night at the Christ Church Cathedral and Westminster Abbey assistant organist James McVinnie). Glass — also in town to check out the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's world premiere of one of his latest works Friday and Saturday at Music Hall — will join 8bb onstage for the performance of his piece, "Music In Similar Motion." The ensemble will also perform a piece by Glass protege Nico Muhly (likely to be in the audience or guesting at some point, as he's performing at tomorrow's MusicNOW event) and other material, including a specially-composed tribute to Glass.The appearance is 8bb's birthday/thank you gift to the legendary, now 75-year-old modern composer.“Our entire concert is a birthday present
for Philip Glass,” 8bb flautist and spokesperson Tim Munro told our Anne Arenstein. “When
we knew we’d be collaborating with Philip, we decided to create a
program with three compositions that represent three times in his life.
We also have four pieces by composers influenced by Glass.”Read the full interview with 8bb here. Sandro Perri is also on tonight's bill. Read Jason Gargano's interview with Perri here. The event's website says only limited tickets will be available at the door, so if you're planning on going and don't have your tix yet, be sure to arrive early. Doors open at 7 p.m. and showtime is 7:30 p.m.
by Mike Breen
Seventh annual music fest organized by The National's Bryce Dessner kicks off with a freebie
The seventh annual MusicNOW festival begins tonight, but not at the fest's usual headquarters. And you don't need a ticket for tonight's opening festivities. For last year’s MusicNOW, the festival ventured outside of its usual home, Memorial Hall, but not very far — organizer Bryce Dessner’s band The National played Music Hall, right next door. This year’s opening MusicNOW concert is a tad further away, at Christ Church Cathedral (318 E. Fourth Street), but the setting is perfect for the night’s programming. And it’s a rare free event for MusicNOW. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.).Performing is James McVinnie, the Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey in London (where he performed last year for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton; read his account here). Besides his work at the grand cathedral, McVinnie also teaches, performs throughout the U.K and beyond and has had pieces composed for him by Graham Ross, Robert Walker and Mr. MusicNOW 2012, Nico Muhly. The setting was no doubt chosen because of the Cathedral's vintage organs and acoustics. Read more about the instruments here. Joined by in demand violist Nadia Sirota (a founding member of MusicNOW regulars yMusic), McVinnie will work his organ magic on new compositions by Richard Reed Parry (a member of Arcade Fire and also a MusicNOW vet) and David Lang, a member of MusicNOW alumni Bang on a Can and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for music for his “The Little Match Girl Passion” piece. McVinnie’s performance will also include pieces by Muhly, the other Mr. MusicNOW 2012, Philip Glass, Bach and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Also on the bill is Sam Amidon, an Avant Indie Chamber Folk singer/songwriter who drew acclaim for his performance at the Contemporary Arts Center last year. Amidon takes deep American roots music and doesn’t so much cover it as remix and mold it into something more modern and totally unique. Read more of our MusicNOW preview coverage, including interviews with Muhly, Dessner and eighth blackbird, in this week's CityBeat. Tickets for Friday's performance are sold out; for tickets for tomorrow's performance by 8bb, Philip Glass and Sandro Perri (the MusicNOW site says there are only limited tickets left, so hurry), click here.