Mu­sic at Mount Gretna to fea­ture Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde’

The Morning Call - - CLASSICAL - By Steve Siegel

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

Phil­har­monic.

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO/DICK MCCREIGHT

The Sum­mer Har­mony Men’s Cho­rus presents its fi­nal pro­gram of the 2019 sea­son at Christ Lutheran Church in Al­len­town Sun­day, Aug. 25.

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