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A CurtainUp Feature
Tanglewood's Talented Music Students Give Concerts a Theatrical Twist
by Elyse Sommer
A day after the weekend crowds have departed, and the "Full " signs have been turned around to read "Rooms Available " the Monday night Tanglewood Music Center concerts at Ozawa Hall are once again proving themselves to be highlights of what Tanglewood has to offer.
The Monday, Agust 5th concert was a far remove from the usual, very much something to watch as well as to listen to. The emphasis was more on variety, with two early Haydn symphonies (No. 6 and 7) interspersed with staged musical works. The Haydn works, led by conducting fellow Scott Parkman had the chamber orchestra players standing throughout, in keeping with their period. Sravinsky's Renard, as staged by Ian Strasfogel and movement director Alyssa Dodson had the four singing "animals" positioned on a stage left platform with a sheet-like curtain and the orchestra (now seated) at stage right. The four young singers proved themselves to be apt comics though the singing in Russian took some getting used to. The second theatrical offering, Satie's Socrates, was in English (though the words were hardly less comprehensible than the Russian Stravinsky. The Satie piece was also in a more serious, operatic mood. As is typical of these concerts, as well as the Saturday afternoon BUTI (Boston University Tanglewood Institute) concerts, the talent and enthusiasm of these young musicians generates an energy that radiates through the audience.
The August 12th concert again featured a mix. The first part of the program Haydn's ymphony #8) and Stravinsky's Pulcinello Suite after after Pergolesi. The pieces were once again ably helmed by this season's lone conducting fellow, Scott Parkman. The main attraction of the evening was a concert performance of Leonard Bernstein's one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti. Like last week's Stravinsky and Satie pieces, this was a semi-staged performance -- with just a few props to set the scene for this musical portrait of a suburban couple whose marriage is on the rocks (a reflection of the society around them). The couple (bass baritone Joshua Parrillo and mezzo-soprano Melissa Schiel as Sam and Dinah) and the trio of commentators (mezzo-soprano Vanessa Carridi, baritone John Clark and tenor Jon Zuckerman), as well as orchestra and conductor Frederico Cortese were dressed in keeping with the black and white palette. The orchestra shifted smoothly between the opera's mix of styles (pop, opera and the sung-through school of musical theater) but the overall is neither fish nor fowl which is probably why when it did make it to Broadway it ran for just forty-eight performances. The singers all wore head mikes (a most unusual sight at Tanglewood) though they either weren't working or didn't keep the orchestra from drowning out most of the lyrics. Perhaps someone staging another opera the instrumentalists were positioned directly in back of the singers and thus drowned out most of their words.
It would be interesting to see a chamber opera performed with the orchestra in one of Ozawa Hall's balconies, and the singers allowed to inhabit the whole stage. And while Trouble in Tahiti is likely to remain an interesting Bernstein artifact, it was nice to have an opportunity to experience it.
The third and final Monday TMC concert will feature music of Hindemith and Mahler, with James Condon directing the Mahler.