ON the Beat | Opera time inside and outside the Academy
This edition of ON the Beat was originally emailed to subscribers on July 22, 2022. To get Josef Woodard’s music newsletter delivered to your inbox on Fridays, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.
RETURN TO OPERATION AND COME-UPPANCE
Another reassuring sign of the slow, albeit wobbly, march back to normal arrived at the Granada theater last weekend, thanks to Tchaikovsky and the top music academy. For the first time in three years, the Academy has mounted its coveted summer weekend opera production, this year focusing on an inventive and moving approach to Eugene Oneginbased on the novel Pushkin.
Director Peter Kazaras’ clever but understated scheme involved gently weaving elements from the fourth wall of a rehearsal setting, with performers moving props, and the aura of the 19th century period taking over in an almost seamless, thanks in part to Molly Irelan’s elaborate costume designs and the vintage verve of the occasionally danceable ensembles.
In the main roles, Samuel Kidd’s Onegin – the cad slumped towards success – Tatiana by Johanna Will, the unfortunate Lensky by Luke Norvell and Olga by Joanne Evans were stellar. Highlights included Tatiana’s “letter” aria, Lensky’s pre-duel “Where Have You Been, The Golden Days of My Youth?” And two sensory dance scenes, whose frothy surface contrasts with the brewing storms of “torment” (a recurring word/theme in Onegin’s life).
The world opera star of recent vintage here was conductor Daniela Candillari. Since his last visit to the Academy of Music, Candillari has led two high-profile Met productions last season, Fire locked in my bones and Eurydice. Here she led the ever-ready Academy Orchestra to bold, flexible and sensitive ends.
All in all, MA’s solid production gave us the chance to sink into the unique escape route and inner world that is grand opera, when done right. It was more than fair.
WOODY LORE IN THE KITCHEN
One of my favorite local radio shows (on my favorite local radio station, KCSB) is “Candy Mountain Mixtape”, operated by a lovely couple named “Rambler” and “Hattie Belle”. On Friday afternoons, the duo navigates through surprising and rustic paths of retro and lo-fi folk, slightly psychedelic parallel journeys and savory oddities you won’t hear anywhere else on the radio dial. Between songs, banter can take on oblique “rambling” turns and sometimes vaguely romantic overtones, which may or may not be in character. The vibe is contagious and delightfully centre-left.
For us, new fans of their radio characters, a strange pleasure awaited us to see the couple – he on guitar and loamy voice and she on accordion and harmony – live and in musical person, at the Piano Kitchen Friday. On this special evening dedicated to Woody Guthrie on the occasion of his 110th birthday, they asked the learned and eloquent professor emeritus of UCSB, Dick Flacks, to talk about Woody, as he often does on his old KCSB show. of several decades. The culture of protest.
The entire show proved inspiring on various levels, right down to the climactic song “All You Fascists Bound to Lose”, which Flacks had previously referred to as “a catchphrase Woody gave us”. A disarming highlight came when acoustic bassists Jim Connolly (founder and custodian of the kitchen) and renowned improv master Hal Onserud launched into free jazz dialogue while Connolly sang “This Land Is Your Land” in a key unrelated to atonal instrumental zoning. Somehow, the tension in the approach brought out the darker aspects of a song too often seen as a happy anthem. There is angst in these verses. As Flack said afterwards, “Woody would have enjoyed the performance.” Like us.
SOUL-POP STEW MAKER
At the end of her concert at the Lobero Theater last week, British pop-soul artist Corrine Bailey Rae opted for the delayed gratification plan, wrapping around the signature hit “Put Your Records On” in extended form. By then, she had duly won over the crowd with her personal recipe for cooler, jazz-colored pop-soul, backed by a drummer, guitarist, and keyboardist (no bass, unfortunately). Rae may not have scored huge ‘hits’ in her 20 years in public, but she’s amassed a following, songbook and vibe all her own, delivered with her special sauce of charisma. subtle to the Lobero.
At the MA: the “picnic concert” on Friday July 22 features composer Nico Muhly; Monday, July 25, acclaimed soprano (and M.A. graduate) Susanna Phillips, with voice department head John Churchill on piano; at Lobero, it’s chamber music on Tuesday, July 26 (not to be confused with Taco Tuesday); Wednesday, July 27, no more chamber acts.
Sunday at the Santa Barbara Bowl, the Black Crowes return, finishing their 1990 album Meet your Moneymaker. Read my preview here.