Wednesday, June 03, 2015

"The magic of live performance"

The New York Times reports  that Pierre Audi, known internationally for his work at the Almeida Theatre and the Netherlands Opera, among other prestigious venues, has been named artistic director of New York's Park Avenue Armory.  In the article,, he is quoted as saying:

"Why should people get up from their apartments, leave their computers and go to a live performance? It's really to be moved, to be challenged and that feeling of reaching something very deep, which I think only the magic of live performance can do."

To put this quote in correct context, Mr. Audi is actually describing the large-scale, spectacular style of presentation for which he is renowned, especially in opera -- not recitals in intimate Spivey Hall.

But I think he's absolutely right on target about why people seek out live performing arts experiences. And not just in the sense of what the individual experiences alone, but how a group of individuals responds to the energy of being with others, and the critical dynamic of audience-encountering-artist-encountering-audience, which when the performance rises to great heights cannot be denied.

With The New York Times also reporting on new streaming services being launched by various providers, it's good to have a succinct reminder that not everything is best experienced at home or in front of a screen.

Not that screens or that being at home is bad. I spend enough of my life at work that I really crave time at home. I also really need full immersion in films that capture my attention so I can get a break from other thoughts and preoccupations for a while. Lately I'm more often finding these experience at home than in movie theaters (aaah, Netflix). So I'm definitely not anti-stream or anti-screen.

Still, now that our main-season Spivey presentations are almost wrapped up for the season -- there's still one concert to come on Saturday, June 13, when OurSong: The Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus performs STARS, "a musical tribute to those who have championed human rights, as well as to stars who are no longer living but continue to shine brightly in the heavens" -- I'm yearning, after a few weeks' break from weekend concerts, for the deep experiences with music that mean so much to me, and for which in the summer I generally travel.

So tomorrow, I'm eagerly awaiting the Atlanta Symphony's opera-in-concert performance of Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila with, in the title roles, the phenomenal Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton and the magnificent American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.

It was with the Sydney Symphony in Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) by Mahler that I first heard Stuart Skelton, at the Sydney Opera House just before the SSO and then-chief conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy were about to tour Europe. Skelton gave one of those hair-raisingly fantastic performances in which nothing was wanting. (I'm certain it wasn't just jet-lag making me more susceptible to emotional swings.) I adore this piece, and in each song, he was fully, completely, intensely, at times ferociously, in character, and in the moment. In excellent and thrilling voice, he was channeling the spirit of Mahler's settings of German translations of Chinese poetry. When not standing and singing, he was sitting, taut, swaying, eyes closed, enraptured, following every note of the orchestra and the mezzo on stage with him. This compelling performance is indelibly etched in my consciousness -- the most deeply satisfying artistic reward of making the trip from Atlanta, otherwise made joyful by seeing friends and former colleagues. I'm totally primed for his Samson. Bring it on...

Just a few months ago, Stephanie Blythe made her long-awaited Spivey Hall debut (see review here ) in a cabaret program with pianist Warren Jones -- also a deliciously personal, in-the-moment, wonderfully be-here-now experience, start to finish. A superb artist, rare human being, and musical force of nature is she. When some years back I heard her sing the Verdi Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus years back, her sumptuously dramatic sound moved through me physically. There's nothing quite like the impact of the human voice. I am more than ready for "Mon coeur s'oeuvre" and the other deep pleasures that I know she, the ASO, Robert Spano, and Saint-Saens' music can deliver.

Bravo, Mr. Audi, for your words, and good luck in New York -- I expect you'll be getting lots of people out of their apartments and away from their computers, for all the right reasons.

[P.S. to faithful readers: Have you done your "Tin Angel" listening? See previous post. The explication blogpost detailing ways of listening to song that apply to Joni Mitchel and Franz Schubert alike is coming soon. Give a listen also to the opening song of Schubert's Winterreise.]

[P.P.S: This post first appeared earlier today but had to be deleted due to unintended misadventures in HTML errors that were too complex to fix.]


Post a Comment

<< Home