There’s an old joke about how one Russian is an anarchist, two Russians are a chess game, three Russians are a revolution, and four, well, the traditional completion is that four Russians are the Budapest String Quartet. But Terry Teachout, librettist for Danse Russe, the Paul Moravec “vaudville” opera that premiered tonight in Philadelphia, put a different spin on the joke in his libretto. The setup is the same, but the payoff is the cast of the opera – Nijinsky, Stravinsky, Monteux and Diaghilev, the forces behind the creation of The Rite of Spring. (Yes, Monteux was French, but in this context he was an honorary Russian.) Moravec and Teachout succeeded in their goal of creating a fun piece, with much of the fun in the music with its nods to musicals and sly references to motifs from The Rite. The first note in the opera is the famous first high bassoon note from The Rite – but then it continues in some other direction. At another point the equally famous stomping chord from The Rite dissolves into a music hall waltz – it takes clever craft to do that as well as Moravec did. Center City Opera Theater, with Orchestra 2001 accompanying, did well by the piece, with Jason Switzer as Diaghilev and Christopher Lorge as Stravinsky providing the strongest singing. Bravo to CCOT for their commitment to new work.
-The Buffalo Philharmonic is presenting works by emerging composers (not yet identified in the announcement I received) on its February New Music Festival.
– Thursday January 27, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania here in Philadelphia will present a program of music inspired by the Society’s collection of materials relating to Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt, an eccentric Philadelphia inventor and musician. According to the Society:
“Greenewalt developed an art form that she called “nourathar,” which uses an organ to display colored light scored to music using her own custom notation system. The image (at left) shows Greenewalt’s mapping color sequence for Claude Debussy’s “And the Moon Descends on the Temple That Was.” In order to fulfill her musical pursuits, Greenewalt entered the engineering world and was awarded several patents. In the 1930s, she spent much of her time in court, suing others for patent infringement. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds extensive records on Greenewalt’s life.”
Music by Andrea Clearfield, Willhem Echevarria, Ted Houghtaling, Max Lawrence and Maurice Wright will be heard; more info here.
Not to be outdone by Opera Company of Philadelphia’s flashmob Traviata in the Reading Terminal Market, Center City Opera Theatre is staging L’elisir d’amore in the Italian Market tomorrow. In it. (Remember Anna Russell saying how the Ring Cycle begins “in the Rhine River. In it!”?) Information here. Note also the CCOT premiere of Paul Moravec’s new opera, Danse Russe next spring.