From the Classically Inherited to the Blatantly Reinvented: Blogging VOX, Day 3

[Ed. Note: This is the third installment of Julian Wachner's backstage blog for the 2010 New York City Opera VOX readings at NYU's Skirball Center. Click here and here to read his earlier posts.—FJO]


Saturday night, 1:22 A.M. Well, the festival has wrapped up tonight. We had an extravagant and lovely reception at the Casa Italiana in Greenwich Village and were able to say our goodbyes to our new friends and colleagues. We all vowed to maintain our friendships and schemings of future collaborations and reunions, and with Facebook we may very well hold to our intentions.

So for VOX day 2: Brian Current’s Inventory got faster and faster (as it should have) with expert direction by conductor Carolyn Kuan and a fabulous performance by Lisa Vroman. I still maintain that this work could be the “Aria” in an extended opera Brian will one day write.

(For those who missed the panel discussion at noon, there was some exciting heated debate about the nature of “aria” as it pertains to contemporary opera. I thought I was aggressive in my banter, but Anthony Davis used the words “just ridiculous” when counter arguing a composer colleague. Luckily we all made up before the show proper began. It must be mentioned that George Steel did an expert job of steering the conversation of “Why Write Opera?” and we all contributed to the discussion, although it is clear that the very terms of “opera” and that genre’s component techniques and forms are perceived in many disparate ways, from the classically inherited understanding to the blatantly reinvented. The question of the importance of the “voice” didn’t come up until about 40 minutes into the discussion. And the issues of dramaturgy, vocal production, microphone technique, and practicality were all bandied about and pontificated about to the great entertainment of all on stage, and hopefully some in the audience.)

So following Brian’s work, my Evangeline Revisited went off fairly well: orchestra, conductor, and singers made a very good case for the work. Many positive comments from audience, City Opera folk, orchestra and singing artists, only the occasional “Congratulations” or the even worse “Thank you for your music…” So I’ll take that as a good sign.

Anthony’s Revolution of Forms told a story, painted fantastic musical images of Cuba and made a statement. Paola Prestini’s Oceanic Verses got a raving standing ovation. And if that gorgeous apartment that her preview video was shot in is her New York working studio, I am wildly jealous!!!!

In the audience was one of my old teachers and great friends Charles Fussell who was just delighted with the general goings on. We reminded each other of the best advice he ever gave me in order to avoid being asked to be departmental chair at a university appointment: “Feign great incompetence in all matters administrative and your colleagues will leave you alone!” I’ve really tried to follow that advice all these years. What am I doing wrong?!

Also in the audience – there was a Matthew Epstein sighting, MSM’s Marjorie Merryman, Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon was clearly in the fourth row and shocker of shockers – no Robert Gilder!

For my final wrap up, we’ll have a top ten list of the most memorable moments/people/gossip etc… Bonne nuit for now…

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