American operas, apparently, can have the second acts American lives cannot. The concert performance, at Tanglewood on July 11, of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby—after the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who famously hypothesized that particular limitation of biographical dramaturgy—was a bid for redemption.
Each year, the Guildhall Leadership course accepts a handful of students from all over the world. The course asks them to improvise, compose, teach, and collaborate with each other and with London artists from many other disciplines. They generate new work, embark on research projects, and actively facilitate creative music-making in London communities that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.
A work six years in development with a libretto written by the composer, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is an earnestly personal and thoroughly researched re-examination of the role of the main women in Jesus’s life, as well as an attempt to understand Jesus and his disciple Peter as flawed human beings.
How do you prepare for a concert presentation of over eight nearly continuous hours of new music? If you’re a performer, and the event is the Iditarod at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice, it involves nine intensive days of practice, rehearsal, workshopping, and bonding with other musicians.
What the nief-norf Summer Festival seeks to accomplish is a merger of the fields of performance, composition, and scholarship. In effect, nnSF pushes performers, composers, and researchers into the same room and locks the door. What may sound like a chaotic situation, however, is far from it; the effects are outstanding, invigorating, and inspiring.