Music at Mount Gretna to feature Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde’
Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” (Song of the Earth) is an epic hymn to man and nature, love and life. He composed the piece in 1908 and 1909, taking texts from Hans Bethge’s German adaptations of classic Chinese poems, and designated the work as a symphony for tenor and alto (or baritone) and orchestra. Unlike most symphonies, however, it bears no number, certifying it as one of the most profoundly personal of all his works.
Even more personal, perhaps, is Mahler’s own transcription of the work for voices and piano, which will be presented Sunday, Aug. 25 at Mount Gretna Music, just east of Hershey. Featured will be Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano; John Matthew Myers, tenor; and Christopher Cano, piano. Also on the program is Benjamin Britten’s “Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac,” Op. 51.
It should be made clear that this “scaled down” version of “Das Lied von der Erde” is neither a first draft nor a second best.
“What one writes,” Mahler has said, “has always seemed to me more important than what it is scored for.”
All the work’s passion, its anguish and questioning, its dichotomy between the glint of gold and the darkness of death, are all here. Even its curious Oriental harmonies are well-preserved.
Like the full-scale symphonic version, the piece is in seven sections: “Das Lied von der Erde,” “Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde,” “Der Einsame im Herbst,” “Von der Jugend,” “Von der Schönheit,” “Der Trunkene im Frühling,” and “Der Abschied.”
There could be no better roster of artists to perform such a demanding piece. A naturally gifted singer noted for her commanding stage presence and profound artistry, Jennifer Johnson Cano has garnered critical acclaim, with over 100 performances at the Metropolitan Opera. During the 2018-2019 season, she returned to the Met as Emilia in “Otello” and Meg Page in “Falstaff,” and made her role debut as Offred in Poul Ruders’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” with the Boston Lyric Opera.
Cano’s orchestral engagements include Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati
Symphonies. A dedicated recitalist and chamber musician, she has appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, in addition to numerous other prestigious venues.
Tenor John Matthew Myers, declared an “artist to watch” by Opera News, has rapidly established himself among the ranks of today’s exceptional young voices. He has collaborated with companies such as the Verbier Festival, Santa Fe Opera, and the LA Opera, and made his surprise Los Angeles Philharmonic debut in 2017 as Mao in John Adams’ “Nixon in China,” conducted by the composer.
A frequent concert artist, Myers has performed Britten’s War Requiem at Carnegie Hall with the Oratorio Society of New York and Jocelyn Hagen’s “Amass” at Alice Tully Hall with Musica Sacra for his Lincoln Center debut. Concert highlights of his 2018-19 season included Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” with the Colorado Springs
A seasoned recitalist and orchestra soloist, pianist Christopher Cano has performed with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Tucson Civic Orchestra, the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, the Catalina Chamber Orchestra, and the University of Arizona Symphony Orchestra. Recital appearances have been in Europe, across the U.S., Mexico, Israel and the Far East.
As a studio pianist, Cano has had the distinct privilege of working with some of the great artists and teachers of singing, including Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, Marni Nixon, Patricia McCaffrey, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, Rita Shane and Diana Soviero. Cano and his wife, Jennifer Johnson Cano, live in New York City where he was a full-scholarship student in the Professional Studies Program of Vocal Accompanying at the Manhattan School of Music.
“Das Lied von der Erde,”, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, Mount Gretna Playhouse, 200 Pennsylvania Ave., Mount Gretna (Route 117, just off exit 266 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike). Tickets: adults $20 and $26; $10 ages 30 and under; $1 ages 18 and under, $5 adult with youth. 717-361-1508, www.gretnamusic.org
Opera Philadelphia to present ‘La Boheme’ in HD
Opera Philadelphia’s season-ending revival of Puccini’s “La Bohème” in April stands as a testament to the quality of musical education in that city. Three of the four principal soloists received their training at the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) or the Curtis Institute, and together, critics have raved, they formed one of the strongest quartets ever heard in this piece.
Opera lovers who missed that performance can get another chance to see it for free, in an HD broadcast Saturday, Sept. 14 at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. The event is part of Opera Philadelphia’s ninth annual Opera on the Mall at the park, which has brought free opera to more than 30,000 Philadelphians since its inception in 2011, with more than 4,000 attendees at 2018’s broadcast of “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
By all accounts, Opera Philadelphia’s revival of Davide Livermore’s 2012 production was a standout. Of course, everyone knew early on that their favorite character, the Parisian flower seller Mimi, was doomed as she coughed uncontrollably while flirting with the tenor. But being forewarned won’t lessen the impact when the inevitable happens some three hours later.
The production draws on French Impressionist paintings, thanks to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation, and they are seen on a pair of stage-filling, diagonally positioned video screens.
Those images set the scene to 1890s Paris, where a quartet of starving, freezing artists is living a dream that all free sprits can identify with.
Even more vivid is digitally created snow, an Act II Christmas Eve street scene at Cafe Momus that has a stilt walker and pyrotechnic effects, and a visual grab bag that includes the Opera Philadelphia chorus plus the Philadelphia Boys and Girls Choirs.
Act III opens with the painter Marcello at his easel, first working on a darkened stage with nothing but falling snow, painting a winter landscape. As dawn breaks, that landscape becomes the scene’s setting on the two video screens.
Opera Philadelphia “La Boheme,” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept.14, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia. Admission: Free, but tickets are required, available at www.operaonthemall.org, or contact Opera Philadelphia at 215-732-8400
Summer Harmony Men’s Chorus
The Summer Harmony Men’s Chorus will present its final 2019 performance on Sunday, Aug. 25 at Christ Lutheran Church in Allentown. Summer Harmony, the premier men’s chorus in the Lehigh Valley, will be performing under the leadership of its director, Vincent Trovato, and will be featuring, as guest soloist, mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow.
Curnow, an Easton native and voice faculty member of the Muhlenberg College music department, is well-known to local audiences. She recently appeared in the sold-out Allentown Band performance of Broadway favorites at Miller Symphony Hall July 27.
The program celebrates Summer Harmony’s 29th season with a repertoire that include gospel, sacred, patriotic, Broadway, pop, oldies and more. The chorus has appeared at many of the area’s churches as well as at a variety of other musical venues, including Mayfair, Musikfest, Ocean Grove, Mount Gretna, Waldheim Park, and Allentown’s West Park, and has performed the National Anthem for the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Summer Harmony Men’s Chorus, 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, Christ Lutheran Church, 1245 Hamilton St., Allentown. Tickets: $20. 610-395-4282, www.summerharmony.org
Steve Siegel is a contributing writer.
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, from left, tenor John Matthew Myers and pianist Christopher Cano will perform in the chamber version of Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” Sunday, Aug. 25 at Mount Gretna Music.
The famous Cafe Momus scene is shown from Opera Philadelphia’s production of Puccini’s “La Boheme.” The opera will be broadcast in HD at Independence National Historic Park on Sept. 14.
The Summer Harmony Men’s Chorus presents its final program of the 2019 season at Christ Lutheran Church in Allentown Sunday, Aug. 25.