Monthly Archives: June 2010

Review: Fresh Voices X, Goat Hall’s festival of new works

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Reviewed:
Letter from Linda (Alden Jenks, text:Frank Polite)
Sutter Creek (Robert Denham)
Medea Alone (David Garner)
Theresa Kren (Mark Narins)
The Hunger Art (Jeff Myers, text: Royce Vavrek)

A recurring theme in this blog seems to be how hard it is to get people to care about new music or theater.  An artist blows hundreds of hours creating something, it gets performed once (maybe twice if they’re lucky), some friends and family may mumble some befuddled congratulations, but more often then not, the tree falls in an rather empty forest.

I believe that composers want feedback, preferably positive, but barring the most thin skinned of temperaments, negative feedback would be preferable to the icy silence that accompanies most new works.  Well considered, articulate, direct and honest feedback is perhaps the best gift you can give an artist. In that spirit I decided to write a bit about the works presented by Goat Hall’s Tenth Annual Fresh Voices festival last weekend.

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2 Responses to Review: Fresh Voices X, Goat Hall’s festival of new works

  1. Mark Narins says:

    After all these years I finally came across this review and have read this. It’s hard to grasp what the character of a work is in one scene, not even a complete scene. In order for this work to “work” for you you have to accept the premise that a mother’s grief is so overwhelming that she believes that she can still resurrect the child even after the child has been dead and buried. The cut off point for this being possible in the very day that the opera takes place-the day when the Jewish rite of tombstone unveiling.After this event-then all is lost. The mother in fact does succeed in interrupting this ceremony, conjuring her daughter back to life, temporarily. The rest of the opera is concerned with the ramifications of this event on the main characters and the entire community at large. You are right that the opening aria by the soprano, Rebekah Kren, is very, very dramatic so early in the opera and indeed troubled me as well until I came to see that for the opera to work, the audience has to believe that the mother will do absolutely to resurrect her daughter and the depths of her grief was unfathomable. You must realize that I used texts off of tombstone in the Hebrew Grave yard in Graz, Austria-absolutely gut wrenching. The excerpt you heard did not include the orchestral prelude I wrote and a slow, uneasy section as the Rebekah and Jakob Kren make their way on a windy cloydy day to the grave yard where the unveiling ceremony occurred. It exactly mirrors my feelings as I spent an hour in the cemetary myself-I got very spooked out and unnerved. Theresa Kren was a real girl and some of the words of the various characters are verbatim off the tombstones. If you read these words you would see how crushingly sad and devastating these childhood deaths were for people of then late 19th century. I do agree that my orchestral interludes were not staged correctly. To me they were absolutely essential to the mood of the piece and I indicated possible action in the score. The director by his own admission “didn’t know what to do” and coped out in my opinion and just blacked out the stage. I didn’t like that at all but I chose not to protest not to create waves. In a future production, perhaps, these interludes might need to be shorten but I wasn’t about to cut anything in a first work shop production. The opera is finished now. It has a lot of effective choral music, and interactions of all kind between the main characters-Light moments-even funny moments! The opera ends somewhat transcendentally and very quietly. I don’t apologize for the intensity and overwrought quality of the music you heard-but that’s only 30 minutes out of a 3 hour opera. As I said earlier that aria for Rebekah Kren had to be exactly as it was in order for the audience to believe any of what followed. In that aria every single line was taken off the headstone. Lines like “I stop and stare into the nothingness and I see nothing but your poor dear childs face”. Phrases like “Fate shot the arrow of death straight into her heart”. When one is standing at the foot of these graves reading these words that we know were written by anguished parents, one feels the despair to ones core. This is what I wanted to capture in the first scenes of the opera. The opera serves as an homage to not only the lost children, but to the parents who remain behind. In the action and resolution of Theresa’s resurrection and later return to the grave, there is opportunity for catharsis and a little healing for these left behind people-that’s what I tried to do.

  2. Mark Narins says:

    This comment pertains to the review of my opera “Theresa Kren”, a scene of which was reviewed above.

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Tobias Picker starts foodie trend in New York

Apparently, when Tobias Picker eats, broadway listens.  Mere weeks after Mr. Picker was spotted at a Petaluma Applebee’s, broadway heart-throb Hunter Ryan Herdlicka told Playbill magazine that Applebee’s was the perfect spot to catch a post-show snack.  He even singled out the spinach and artichoke dip! Maybe the New York Times will send a critic to TasteContinue Reading

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Save the small theaters!

Oh man.  Another small theater is taken out of commission.  I just learned that Climate Theater has lost its lease and is moving operations to the Traveling Jewish Theater.  Chloe Veltman covered it on her blog.  (Somehow I keep crossing paths with Chloe Veltman.  I think I only met her in person once, very brieflyContinue Reading

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Cultural whiplash, aka Opera Sandwich, aka Free A Cappella TONIGHT!

One of the best things about singing in operas is that you rarely have performances (or rehearsals for that matter) two days in a row.  This is in stark contrast to plain ole musical theater where, for all intents and purposes, you might as well bring your toothbrush and sleeping bag, since you will beContinue Reading

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