Sunday, February 03, 2013

Will the Superbowl Game take off?? & Winterreise Project

It is difficult for some things to take off. That Bowl wasn't really super and the ads weren't spectacular either. So there you have it. The game started to take off and then stalled again. But we had a lovely get-together at The House Across the Street, with fruits, veggies, pita bread, hummus, guacamole and brownies!
This afternoon I got an early Valentine when we went to hear Schubert Leider at the Egyptian Theatre in Boise. The song cycle Winterreise was sung in German, with the translation above the stage. It was called The Winterreise Project because in addition to the fine baritone and the piano accompaniment, there were three barefoot dancers and a photo/video huge backdrop to the stage. I thought the video part might be exciting, and while it did contribute to the ambiance, it was mostly very still. I had been afraid of that being the too avant-garde part, and a distraction. There was one image where the surface of a pond was moving a little and a couple of places where what looked like out-of-focus irises swayed very gently. I liked best one video part where a video of two dancers (or the same dancer doubled) played above and behind a dancer in the same white dress. the juxtaposition of the three figures was subtle and elegant. And I want to try for similar effects made by two tree images--one in which the trunks were light and the sky was dark and the one that went with the Linden tree (ein Lindenbaum, he sang) that was a very strong tree trunk and foliage image.
The baritone, Jason Detwiler, was the outstanding discovery for me. He has a ringing metallic overtone quality to his voice that I usually associate with tenors. Instead of just standing by the piano, he moved about (and even off) the stage. Since the theatre is a reasonable size, he required no amplification--he was able to fill the space with his voice without strain. I was just lovely singing! The pianist was good and the music is beautiful. This is one of my favorite cycles--after Mahler's Kindertotenleider and some of the other Schubert songs. I was again reminded of Mrs. Louise Newkirk, who studied in Germany before the war and who taught me many art songs from an old yellow book when I was in high school in the early 1950s. No one seems too interested in art songs any more. That's a definite loss, I think.
Although I should mention that the poetry by Wilhelm Muller to which Shubert made his pretty music seems quite sappy to modern ears. Here is a nice translation and the original German in a pdf with a bonus of a very beautiful image by Caspar David Friedrich.  It is all about the suffering and winter journey of someone whose girlfriend has been unfaithful. Not too much different, subject-wise, from current popular music, perhaps. But a little more sappy self-pitying in tone. And with that wallowing in misery which is characteristic of German writing of the period. Still, the whole cycle is a great work of art and I am thrilled that I got to see it in performance. Alas, I suppose because of the dreaded Superbowl, the theatre was less than half full. Good night. Posted by Picasa

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