Orchestra Sinfónica Port


So we know what a marathon is, and we know what a phone-a-thon is, but what's a "Faune-a-thon"? It's when you play Debussy's "Faune" (Prelude à l'après-midi d'un faune, if you prefer) TWELVE TIMES in the same morning! I should know, because that's what was on the orchestra docket yesterday— luckily for a good cause:

The Portuguese national Youth Music Prizes is celebrating its 30th Edition this year by, among other events, staging its first-ever Competition for Orchestral Conductors, and our orchestra is their "instrument" for the live rounds, three in all. Yesterday was the first live round, with TWELVE candidates, all of whom had to conduct (the first half of) Faune, plus the 4th movement of Beethoven's First Symphony (first half, also). 

I am happy to report that it was actually fun, in part because the pressure was more on the candidates than on the flute soloist (for once). Secondly, as there was no time to talk, the approach in rehearsal to this famous and incredibly beautfily work was fairly existential—what's coming next? And thirdly, it was fun because the conductors were of an excellent level (Faune is a work that poses many difficulties and options for the conductor, too!)—another reflection of the amazing quality of music-making going on here in Portugal! Bravo, maestros!

Leon Bakst's famous program cover for the 1912 premier by the  Ballets Russes , with Nijinsky as the Faune.

Leon Bakst's famous program cover for the 1912 premier by the Ballets Russes, with Nijinsky as the Faune.

Bruckner - an unexpected pleasure

The season begins! First concert features Bruckner Symphony #4, "The Romantic" (1878-80), which is an indulgently long, warm work that grows on you! While it may lack the fire and wildness of Mahler or Strauss, you just have to sit back a little and enjoy the "landscape" slowly passing by, the wonderful evolution of the harmonies, the occasional asides into Viennese tenderness, and of course the remarkable glow of the big brass writing. Sublime. And a good excuse to use my Powell Grenadilla flute; just the right colors!

The concert will be Sunday, Sept. 18th, at 5pm at the C.C.B. in Lisbon, and features the much more modern Lutoslawski Cello Concerto (1970) with Johannes Moser as soloist on the first half of the concert. I'm looking forward to working on that tomorrow—playing the piece, and hearing some wonderful cello playing! Two very complimentary/contrasting works to make a very balanced program—a great start to the season! Lutoslawski in black and white; Bruckner in color—

Going out with (verismo) style!

To finish a brilliant season, the Lisbon Opera House—soloists, orchestra and choir—will present Mascagni's famous one-act opera "Cavalleria Rusticana", the first verismo opera, dating from 1890, tonight and tomorrow at 9:30pm. Verismo basically means that there are no ten-minute arias sung while someone dies; if you die, you die FAST! The performances will surely be extra true-to-life as they are part of the July Festival outdoors on the square in front of the Opera House—very picturesque, as well as occasionally windy and noisy—near the Chiado area (see photo below), tuk-tuks and all.

Along with well-known, wonderful Portuguese singers, the production features a fellow American-Expat, Mary Elizabeth Williams, singing the role of Santuzza with both astounding power and subtlety—such an inspiration!

For those preferring creature comforts, Saturday's performance will be broadcast live on Portuguese TV—either way, enjoy!

Tuk-tuks at the top of Chiado, near the Lisbon Opera House

Tuk-tuks at the top of Chiado, near the Lisbon Opera House

Lisbon abuzz!

There is so much going on right now, it's simply insane! July is filled with music here in Lisbon, with the fantastic Festival held nearly every night on the square in front of the Lisbon Opera House, off of Chiado, the chicest street in Lisbon. The Orchestra Sinfónica Portuguesa has already performed three different programs, two of which were live on TV (smile!). Everyone loves the "urban arena" created by the beautiful 18th century buildings and the energy of the rapt crowd, many of whom stand through the entire program. Classical music dead? Don't think so! Here are two photos of the setting a couple hours before showtime Sunday—within an hour, every chair and standing place would be occupied. The program was versions of Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky, Gounod, and Prokofiev, with outstanding singing by the young soloists: Christiana Oliveira, soprano and Airam Hernández, tenor, in the Gounod.