Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mahler's Farewell To Life

Gustav Mahler had one of the most extraordinary minds in the history of western music. While Mahler was composing his 9th and final completed symphony, he knew he was dying. As Leonard Bernstein commented in one of his lectures, the listener can hear an irregular heart beat at the beginning of the piece. This was because Mahler had a lesion in one of his heart valves. Back in those days, this was a dangerous situation. This can be compared to waves in the ocean, however there is no consistent rhythm to it. Hence, it's irregularity. I think of Mahler's 9th as an extreme of emotions from a zen like mood to an outpouring of fear and sadness. Mahler was not vague with expressing his emotions. After all, why shouldn't he? His wife, Alma had an affair, his daughter died, and he found out about his illness at the same point in time. It is said that he was determined to beat his illness. However, what else can a person do? If I had an incurable illness I would be pretty freaked. I assume Mahler must have been scared.
In the first movement there is this great sense of peace, and then all of a sudden there is this outpouring of emotion. Mahler died three years before world war 1 began. This outpouring of emotion says so much about so many things. I think he knew that something was coming. Mahler is scared in this first movement. His insides are shattered with fear and sadness. It chokes me up just thinking about it. It was like he didn't know who to say it to and it all comes in this first movement.
The final adagio of this symphony is one of the greatest adagios in the history of western music. I must confess that the first time i listened to this symphony I started with the final adagio. I had no idea what I was in for. Something other then myself made me listen to this movement first. What I heard was a man just spilling his guts out. Mahler could be a huge dictator, but underneath he had a huge heart. Mahler could be histrionic in his symphonies, and his movements too long because if it. This movement is like 26 minutes, but Mahler's purpose is clear throughout all of it. This shows how mature he was at this point in his life.
The violas begin this magnificent farewell. The beauty of the beginning of this final movement leaves me at a loss for words. It sounds like the ultimate saddness, yet there is also this great sense of hope for the world. Also, I get the sense that Mahler is having trouble accepting his fate. The extreme emotions of Mahler are really evident here. He can't let gi at first, although he is trying desperately to do so. There are moments where he let's go and accepts things. In the middle of this movement there is music which sounds eastern, like in the first movement. This eastern sounding music could be used for meditation. It is as if Mahler is meditating on his life, and possibly the afterlifeHe goes from that to pleading for help. His fear and sadness just keep coming back and it is heart wrenching to the listener. Mahler was only 51 when he died. It must be hard to accept dying that young. That is not something I can understand. I think that Mahler was getting weaker and weaker as he wrote this adagio. At the end of the movement as the music gets hauntingly soft, I think he surrenders. He gives up control and accepts the inevidable.

Fly tribute.

Since so many flies decided to bug us during our two shows of Die Zauberflote and Ariadne, I figured that they deserve a bio. After all, they did create a fly of emotions. Yes that is a lousy pun. Why don't you think of a better one. The first round of the fly fest took place during Thursday's performance of Ariadne. This fly had been pestering performers at the 13th street theatre for quite some time. Unfortunately this fly was fatally injured in the prologue of Ariadne while pestering the major domo. What a shame because we cannot say that no flieswere harmed in the making of this production. That is a piece of dry wit by the way. I am not being serious at all. This terrible killing pissed off the other flies and they came back with avengence during The Magic Flute the following night. They were pestering one of the priests in the show so much that he looked like he had tourettes as he said. This same fly flew towards my ear, and I swatted it away. Very Masonic, don't you think? Don't these flies realize that singers have to concentrate? We don't need these little pests making it even harder to do so. I gave up my one line as the third priest in order to get my revenge against the flies yesterday afternoon. But, alas I failed. It is a quarter of 2 in the morning, and I couldn't think of anything better to do aside from thank the fliesfor their helpful contributions in distracting the performers of both shows. These flies have a specific plan to harass the performers during the second weekend of performances. The first weekend the flies were hiding over the flies of the theatre.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Importance of Music

I am currently sitting in Everyman Espresso, which is a coffee shop connected to the 13th street theatre in New York City. I was just thinking about how important music actually is. I am talking about any genre of music. Even ones I don't know Jackshit about. Classical music is my background, and what I tend to gravitate towards. Although, the song "sparks" by Coldplay chokes me up on occasion. Why am I writing all this random nonsense. That is because, music is something we all can relate to. Take the song "Sparks" for example. When I hear that song, I think about crushes I have had, and I feel that pain of being too shy to talk to the person, being rejected or whatever. I am one happy guy to have ears and feelings that identify with the power of music. Music saves lifes. For example, I performed at a nursing home two years a go. People in nursing homes are saying farewell to life, just like Mahler was in his ninth symphony. Our performances lifted their spirits. I can't fathom a phenomenon more powerful than that. My point in all this is to emphasize the importance of music in the world. When a musical performance is good, all the ill in the world is gone for that time period of the performance. I know that when I get really into a piece, despite the various emotions I feel, all my troubles go away for just that moment.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Arts

The performing arts are not well respected in the United States in my opinion. I was recently in Verbier Switzerland, and there was a much higher level of respect for the arts. I was there for ten days for the Verbier Music Festival, and it was a surreal experience. There was beautiful music making in a town surrounded by the Swiss Alps. This area of the world should be called one of the seven wonders of the world. I remember siting in Harold's Internet Cafe, and they were watching the classical music concerts live on a big screen. Harold's is essentially a bar. How often would a classical music performance be playing on a big screen tv in a bar in the United States? I would say that the odds are pretty low. It is a shame that the performing arts are not more respected in this country. I love my country and am damn lucky to be a citizen here. Don't get me wrong. I think our values need a bit of fine tuning. Any type of performing arts is good for the brain and soul. It is not the fault of people in this country. They are not exposed to the arts, nor is it of much importance most of the time. However, there are some people who dedicate their whole lives to enriching artists. In this case, I am talking about young opera singers. Last month, I had the pleasure of performing with dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, a non profit opera company run by Maestro Christopher Fecteau and his wife soprano, Karen Rich. These are two people who are all about enriching the lives of young singers. Talk about supporting the arts. Pretty cool, huh? They aren't in it for the money. They are in it because they care about the arts. Now that is what dedication is all about. Maestro Fecteau demands that a singer try their best in this program. However, he is demanding out of love for each person in the program. My point in writing this is that I am my own worst critic to excess sometimes. I focus on what I am lacking. Blah, blah, blah... I forget how grateful I am. My whole summer has been performing. Small opera companies such as dell'Arte Opera Ensemble are saving the world. There are many others as well, I am focusing on dell'Arte Opera Ensemble because performing with them was my experience this past summer. Do not underestimate the healing power of the arts. Considering the mess our country is in, we need healing. I have great hope for the world and I am optimistic that things can change. We need to do it now.