28 November 2009

fun stuff I may or may not get to: December

This is mostly a New York month, since like all the cool kids I’m going to the Met to see From the House of the Dead. This will be my first time hearing something at the Met that is not in English and composed before 1960 (my Met operas are Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Great Gatsby, and An American Tragedy). Anyone judging solely from my experience would have a very odd idea of what the Met is about.

In addition to the Janacek, I’m seeing Le Nozze di Figaro and the new Bart Sher production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

And after my second, Saturday matinee viewing of House of the Dead, I’m following Esa-Pekka Salonen across Lincoln Center to Avery Fisher Hall, where he is conducting the New York Philharmonic in Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, and La Mer.

I have a few open nights so I’ll see what’s playing when I get there. But the night before I leave I’m seeing One Night, a Schubert/Beckett combo with Mark Padmore singing Winterreise (or, since I believe he’s singing it in translation, Winter Journey) while Andrew West plays the piano and Stephen Dillane recites (I assume) the Beckett.

Back in the Bay Area, San Francisco Performances has some wonderful pianists on its schedule: Angela Hewitt on December 1 and Marc-Andre Hamelin on December 15.

In Berkeley Cal Performances presents Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut, the only Nutcracker worth seeing. (If you disagree with me on that, check out Saturday Matinee’s guide to local Nutcracking. And if Christmas means choral music to you, check out the choral roundup at Iron Tongue.)

Cutting Ball Theater has extended its run of The Bald Soprano until December 12.

Shotgun Players presents that beloved holiday classic, The Threepenny Opera, which was my favorite musical until I discovered Sweeney Todd.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Whining over the Janace; chuckling evilly over "that beloved holiday classic." And wondering why the labels don't include Metropolitan Opera.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

There are at least two more performances of the Janacek -- I think you should get on a plane, like Elsa at the end of Casablanca -- you don't want to live with the regret.

There isn't a label for the Metropolitan Opera because I just don't get there often enough to have created one -- last time I was there was I think five years ago, for American Tragedy. I figured "elsewhere" would cover it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There's just no way, unless I do something very stupid like take a red eye Friday and come back Sunday.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

It's opera -- don't be rational!

Civic Center said...

If you are trying to incite me to envy, you have succeeded, though with "From The House of the Dead" only. A "Winterreise"/Beckett combo sounds like something that really belongs in a Beyond The Fringe sketch, updated. Please don't tell me you get through the whole thing without laughing.

Just went to Bach tonight. Very, very dirgelike which is not what one is really looking for in a celebratory Nativity tale.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Beckett is actually very funny. I'm a big fan, though you are not. I'm sure I can manage without laughing.

I was at the Bach last night, when we apparently had a livelier performance.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

By the way -- Winterreise and Beckett are not nearly as grim as From the House of the Dead.

Sibyl said...

You are absolutely killing me with envy here. I so desperately wish I could see the Janacek and the Hoffman and the Beckett!

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Sibyl, Full reports will be forthcoming (eventually. . . ). The trip is my birthday present to myself. I am excited -- well, I will be when I get there. I love being places but I hate getting there. But it will be worth it for a trip that starts with Janacek and ends with Beckett. . . .

jolene said...

A critic once told me to always watch Morris' The Hard Nut last, if you're going to see other Nutcrackers. It has the tendency to ruin other experiences after it. I thought that was great advice. It was a personal conflict for me to even mention it, since I object so strongly to Cal Performances' murderous pricing policy. (I did see The Hard Nut on Goldstar though, for tickets half off, which is the only way I'll see it.) Anyways, thanks for the nice shoutout. Will I see you at The Hard Nut?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

When are you going? I'll be there December 11.

That is good advice about the Hard Nut. One time I left the TV running in my bedroom on the channel that shows clips of various performing arts while I took a shower in the adjacent bathroom -- when I got out I could hear the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux playing, and I went into my bedroom to watch, and it was just Nureyev and a ballerina dancing, and I, being used to what Morris does with it, sat there thinking, "That's IT?"

It probably also makes a difference that I didn't grow up seeing the Nutcracker (though when I lived in Boston I went to the Boston Ballet version fairly often, so I've seen traditional Nutcrackers). What I usually tell people who haven't seen The Hard Nut is that it is not a parody of the Nutcracker -- it's its own thing, a separate telling.

And it's been fascinating to see it change a bit over the years as dancers have retired and new ones replaced them. It's different from the version on DVD.

jolene said...

It looks like I'll be missing you by a day - I'll be there on the 12th. :( Maybe someday we'll be at the same concert on the same day.

I've also heard the characters have evolved since the DVD, which is good to hear. I heard for instance, that Clara's dad has gotten smaller while Clara's mom has stayed the same, tall, drag-queen size, leading to a bigger contrast. I'm so excited to see it live, and here's to hoping that Morris himself will play the drunken uncle in the first act.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Well, if my plane is delayed, I might show up on the 12th!

Morris not only used to dance the drunken uncle -- he was the veiled lady in the Arabian variation (that's not on the DVD, I assume for time reasons). I'd have to check to see if he danced them last time -- he's pretty much stopped dancing, of course, but there are a few dancers I think who only do the Hard Nut.

One of those, I believe, was the original Mother. A few years ago John Higgabotham (I think I'm spelling that wrong, but it's late and I need to get up early for my flight) took over the part, and it was fascinating to see the difference in the character just because of the difference in the dancer: John H is tall and slender and makes a more elegant mother than the earthier original.

OK, I'm signing off now!