Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ojai Music Festival To Debut New Opera For 68th Season

"It's not unusual for the spirits of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to hover over an outdoor concert. At this year's 68th Ojai Music Festival, though, they will be appearing in corporeal form as characters in The Classical Style, an eagerly anticipated comic opera that is making its debut. It should make a fitting centrepiece, as innovation, creativity and new music have long been hallmarks of the four-day event, which takes place about 80 miles north-west of Los Angeles. Ojai is known for its setting among the citrus groves and the mountains, and for a strong spiritual tradition dating back to the 1920s when the community became a centre for Jiddu Krishnamurti, a philosopher, and his followers. Thomas Morris has been the artistic director of the festival for the past decade. Each year he chooses a different music director, and together they shape the programme. This year he turned to Jeremy Denk, a MacArthur Award-winning pianist and writer who also wrote the libretto for The Classical Style. (The score is the work of Steven Stucky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.) Mr Morris says the festival has 'a history of eclectic choices' when it comes to musical directors.
Historical Music Man: Aaron Copland served as
one of the many music directors for the festival.
Contemporary music was already its focus by the 1950s, and in those early years directors included Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Lukas Foss. More recently Mr Morris has tapped Mark Morris, a choreographer, Dawn Upshaw, a soprano, and eighth blackbird, a chamber-music ensemble. At the same time, composers like Steve Reich, John Cage, John Adams and Thomas Adès have found Ojai a congenial place for American or West Coast premieres of their work. The common element, notes Mr Morris, is that 'the artists who come to Ojai are not only performers but also thinkers and innovators.' The theme behind this 68th festival had its roots in a conversation between Mr Denk and Mr Morris a few years ago. Mr Denk had an idea for a chamber opera based, rather curiously, on an award-winning book of criticism by Charles

Rosen, a musicologist. The Classical Style is 'the definitive book on musical form,' says Mr Morris. And while the initial concept made him laugh, he embraced it. Gradually the two men filled in other elements of this year's programme, and a central idea emerged: music about music. (Mr Denk phrases it rather more provocatively as the “screwing of the canon".) The results–which stretch from classical music and jazz to improvisation, hymn-fest and panel discussions—will be heard in more than 30 events held in venues that range from the open-air Libbey Bowl and small indoor theatres to Ojai’s scenic lookout at Meditation
Jeremy Denk authored the libretto for The Classical
Style and will serve as the 2014 music director.
(Photo: Michael Wilson)
Mount....As for the opera, Mr Denk admits it is 'absurd by definition.' He says that he took favourite passages from Rosen's work and 'played with the idea of classical music being dead.' The composers, for example, are all imagined in heaven, and the eight singers play 15 roles, an assortment that includes Rosen himself and characters representing the tonic and dominant, musical concepts that figure in the book. 'There are lots of comic possibilities,' Mr Denk adds. 'We have a villainous musicologist that I fear will steal the show. A lot of the opera is silly, but there’s a beautiful passage about why the classical style comes to be and why it vanishes. It’s a love letter to Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn.'" [
Source] For more about the festival and to buy tickets, click here. A list of the singers performing in The Classical Style can be found here.

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