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Arts & Entertainment Preview | July/August 2001 | Sponsored by Chrysler


Classical Music

by Austin Baer and Nancy Dalva
 


Summer in the City


The Trisha Brown Dance Company, El Trilogy

Although we tend to associate summer festivals with charming small cities or rustic retreats, the urban allure of the Lincoln Center Festival is truly nonpareil. Hot night, summer in the city! Strolling across the busy plaza while the sky is still light, passing from the pavement's heat into a deliciously air-conditioned theater, all winter plush and gilt, feels almost sinfully transformative. Later, exiting into the dark to the exhilarating sounds of a swing band playing on a bandstand, the air is hot and cool, all at once. Coffee? drinks? ice cream?—the night teems with possibilities. Among the host of enticing events that make up Lincoln Center Festival 2001—a varied roster of excellent reasons to stay in the city or even to make it your substitute summer vacation—there is one that itself promises to be just like a midsummer night: the Trisha Brown Dance Company and Dave Douglas & Ensemble, in the New York premiere of El Trilogy (July 18-21, at the LaGuardia Concert Hall, just west of Lincoln Center), a three-part collaboration between the sensually cerebral choreographer and the innovative jazzman. Brown's shimmering work is always hot and cool at the same time, full of riffs and re-riffs, slipping out of one thing and into another. Speaking of which, Brown also has an opera on the schedule: she's the director of Salvatore Sciarrino's Luci mie traditrici (July 10-14). Check the festival's Web site, at www.lincolncenter.org, or call their hotline, at 212-875-5928. —N.D.



Sixteen-Plus Candles

So far, the heroine Richard Strauss envisioned for Salome has never materialized outside his imagination. All the composer hoped for was "a 16-year-old princess with the voice of an Isolde," his point of reference being one of the longest, most tempestuous, yet most radiant and tender parts in the canon of Wagner, dangerous—even ruinous—for any but a heroic voice in full maturity. Emotionally, of course, Strauss's clangorous biblical shocker is well within the compass of an adolescent. Set verbatim from Oscar Wilde's play, it centers on the passion of Herod's stepdaughter for John the Baptist, who languishes in a cistern, hurling baleful prophecies. When saint and sinner meet in the moonlight, he recoils at her advances, but before the night is out, she is showering kisses on his severed head: her reward (on a silver platter) for the striptease known as the Dance of the Seven Veils. Aghast, Herod orders the girl crushed beneath his soldiers' shields. Deborah Voigt lacks the ballerina silhouette, but the thrust and sweetness of her soprano are what will count when she leads a starry cast in a concert performance of this perverse rhapsody of love and death, at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home, in Lenox, Massachusetts, on August 4 (call 888-266-1200). Seiji Ozawa conducts. As it happens, the date marks Voigt's forty-first birthday. "Maybe they'll put a candle in John the Baptist's head," she hopes. "That would be really twisted." —A.B.



A Return to the Classics

To the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, former child prodigy, the unexamined score is not worth playing. As a youngster, it is true, she devoted herself exclusively to the classic cornerstones. But as a young adult, she started broadening her palette, inspiring a distinguished list of composers to push the poetic and technical boundaries of the violin. At the age of thirty-eight, she ranks among the most impassioned muses of contemporary music—a role compatible, in her case, with that of the glamorous international superstar, aflame with the spirit of exploration no matter the terrain. Last year, in a millennial mood, Mutter concentrated on milestones of the twentieth century. Now, in the sort of about-face that keeps revitalizing her art, she returns to the most unassailable of the classics. In the opening concerts of the new season at the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Kurt Masur (September 20 and 22; 212-721-6500), and in subscription concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under Mariss Jansons (September 28 and 29; 412-392-4900), she reclaims the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Then, in a brief Carnegie Hall residency in November, Mutter doubles as orchestra leader and soloist in the complete Mozart Violin Concertos and Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (call 212-247-7800 for details). An eight-city North American tour with The Four Seasons follows (visit www.anne-sophie-mutter.de for particulars). Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi—say, aren't they just a little old hat? Not really. In Mutter's hands, it's all new music. If it weren't, she wouldn't play it. —A.B.


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Austin Baer is a writer based in New York.
Nancy Dalva's essays appear in the magazine 2wice.

Photograph of El Trilogy: Chris Callis.

Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.