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Salonen and the SFS prolong works by Ravel and Schoenberg with stagings, dancing and singing – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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United StatesUnited States Ravel, Schoenberg: Mary Elizabeth Williams (soprano), Alonzo King LINES Ballet, San Francisco Symphony / Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor). Davies Symphony Corridor, San Francisco. 8.6.2024. (HS)

Adji Cissoko (left) and Shuaib Elhassan (proper) in Ravel’s Mom Goose © Kristen Loken

Ravel Ma mère l’Oye (Mom Goose)
Schoenberg – Erwartung

Director – Peter Sellers
Lighting – Luke Kritzeck, Seth Reiser
Choreographer – Alonzo King

A double invoice of Ravel’s Mom Goose (Ma mère l’Oye) as a ballet and Schoenberg’s one-act operatic monodrama Erwartung could not appear a regular pairing. However the wealth of expertise on show, from conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony to soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams and the dancers of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, created a night of extraordinary panache.

The ties is probably not apparent. This system booklet notes how each works mirror the way in which music can painting time passing – Schoenberg with a lady coming undone by the homicide of her husband, Ravel with the enchanted world of a kid. The works emerged across the identical time: Schoenberg’s tour-de-force for soprano debuted in 1909; Ravel’s music, initially for 2 pianos, was first carried out in 1910 and the orchestrated ballet in 1912.

These opuses got here at inflection factors for each composers. Schoenberg had been stretching ultra-Romantic chromatic musical language so far as it may go – he wrote his ebook Harmonielehre the next yr, proposing a complete new method to tonality, and debuted the groundbreaking Pierrot Lunaire in 1912, which in its manner was as revolutionary as Stravinsky’s The Ceremony of Spring (1913). For Ravel, Mom Goose was the primary of his celebrated ballet scores, adopted virtually instantly by Valses nobles et sentimentales and Daphnis et Chloé, three works that basically put him on the musical map.

The tautly targeted 90-minute program opened with King’s ceaselessly energetic, distinctively quirky choreography for Ravel’s fairy-tale music. Twelve dancers wove patterns and created an uncanny and exquisite visible reflection of the music. The celebs, for my eyes, have been the lithe, limber and expressive extensions of Adji Cissoko and Shuaib Elhassan in ‘Pavane of the Sleeping Magnificence’ and ‘Conversations of Magnificence and the Beast’. They intertwined elegantly to supple, soft-edged enjoying by the orchestra, clustered upstage to provide the dancers area.

The trio of Ilaria Guerra, Lorris Eichinger and Madeleine DeVries led the whole firm in ‘Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas’, with delicate strikes that urged Ravel’s chinoiserie as tastefully as Salonen’s conducting did. Within the ‘Enchanted Backyard’ finale, the orchestra fastidiously held again on the gradual growth in Ravel’s instrumentation because the piece constructed to a stately climax.

Mary Elizabeth Williams and Esa-Pekka Salonen in Schoenberg’s Erwartung © Kristen Loken

Pretty much as good as that was, the very best was but to come back. In the course of the intermission, the stage was reset to convey the orchestra ahead so the Erwartung motion may happen on a thrust stage addition. Director Peter Sellars designed the area, deftly and easily lit with rectangles of sunshine which outlined the settings and framed the closing-in of feelings that bedevil the unnamed character who has simply discovered of her husband’s homicide. There was no forest for her to roam in, and a physique bag at her ft supplanted the invention of the corpse that the libretto requires. An increase in depth of white mild urged the moonlight that marks a central scene.

These diversifications mattered lower than Williams, who deployed a hefty however agile soprano and an astonishing vary with richness in notes properly above and under the workers. Her understanding of the character’s ravings was palpable. Reflecting her detailed research of the rating, she even wrote the English translation of Marie Pappenheim’s deliberately semi-coherent libretto for the projected titles and this system.

‘The textual content’, she wrote in a program observe, ‘careens, uncontrolled and with out warning, between current and previous; actuality and creativeness, coherence and instability’. That translated in efficiency to a profitable method. ‘The shock causes her thoughts to run by way of the levels of grief at warp velocity’, which the viewers can ‘witness, because it occurs, from a front-row seat inside her head’.

I had not learn these notes earlier than Williams’s intense, hyper-real efficiency wowed me. However that’s precisely how she performed it, as Schoenberg’s music traced this psychological chaos, untethered by tonality or a listener’s expectations of the place the melody may go, leaping from one partially expressed thought to a different, proper together with the singer’s phrases.

With the help of Salonen and a hyper-responsive orchestra, the efficiency made spectacular sense of what may first strike a listener as nonsense. It discovered coherence in Schoenberg’s music like no different manufacturing I’ve skilled.

Harvey Steiman

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