We had an awesome time at The Frogmore this Tuesday for #OpusAffair! Thanks to everyone who came out in the beautiful weather to join us!
From its mysterious beginnings 20 some years ago, the SICPP music festival has been delighting, confusing, and enrapturing audiences in Boston. The Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (or “Sick Puppy,” as it’s known to regulars) started as an intensive performance seminar on the piano music of the 20th century. Over time, Sick Puppy expanded to invite musicians of all instruments, and started a composition fellowship and a workshop for electronic music. In its current form, Sick Puppy is a 9-day celebration of the very best of 20th- and 21st- century classical music. Beginning on Sunday, June 17th, faculty and guest artists perform free, nightly concerts in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.
Today, the term diva has pejorative connotations as someone who is temperamental or hard to work with or self-absorbed and uncompromising. Yet in the classical world, divas were goddesses. Literally. In Latin, diva means “goddess.” In my opinion, divas were bad-ass bosses who fought tooth and nail to survive. They were larger-than-life women because they had few legal or economic protections. They were idolized onstage but treated as social outcasts in person. A man could have a diva mistress but never marry her. There’s the famous story of diva Adelina Patti being pursued by a prince who, for an entire season, night after night sent her jeweled brooches, necklaces, or bracelets with the note: “It is I. It is I again. It is always.” Yet jewels were always more than shallow display for divas; gems were an integral part of their life savings.
When I was a kid, Harry Potter was all of the rage and with it, trying to typecast yourself in specific Hogwarts houses—was I brainy like a Ravenclaw, conniving like a Slytherin, or maybe brave like a Gryffindor? Hopefully anything but silly Hufflepuff. My friends and I obsessed about it until we realized that we were band geeks and in lieu of having any sort of social status, we had something almost as good: a predetermined ratings system in the form of instrumental stereotypes. (Maybe I was a Hufflepuff after all.)
Last week, I had the chance to talk with Betsi Graves, director of Urbanity Dance, and we spent a lot of time talking about the importance of collaborating with artists across various fields. Why would she be the one designing a costume, when Boston is so filled with incredibly talented costume designers? Why pay a high fee to use the rights to a pop song and choreograph a dance to it when you can find a fantastic Boston-based composer who is looking to work with a dance company? Why not collaborate and challenge each other stretch the ways of thinking? To create something greater than you previously imagined you could do?
One of the themes of this blog and the interviews that it runs, is the theme of having to do a little bit of everything. Whether it was Phoenix Artistic Director Matt Szymanski talking about how to juggle conducting with social media marketing, Ryan Lott talking about understanding classical music as a way to enrich his electronic samples, or soprano Julia Bullock bringing a program of both Schumann and Nina Simone to the concert stage, it seems that variety is the spice of art. Artists and non-artists alike are lucky to be in such a hub as Boston, where everywhere you look, people are curious and hungry for more. Coming from New York, I think of Boston as a town on steroids, we have all of the industry and niche pockets of a city, but somehow Boston has a smaller, more neighborhood feel. Boston has an ecosystem built out of neighborhoods and networks rather than an ecosystem built out of the individual. To me (and this is just my own personal speculation), this creates a more fertile ground for creativity.
What do musicians do if they’re extroverts? When your profession requires you to be alone roughly eight hours a day, how does an extrovert not go crazy? For Lina Gonzales-Granados, the solution came in the form of becoming a conductor. Originally a pianist, the Columbian-born conductor realized at a very young age that she needed to be around people so she looked for the musical profession that involved the most amount of people and she found conducting.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a haughtily delivered, “I left at intermission,” I could afford some sort of treatment for the strain caused by all of the eye-rolling at that lame dig.
I get it—sometimes you realize early on that this is 100% not your thing. Not everything is for everyone and honestly, not everything is good. However, most things deserve a fair shake and bragging about leaving at intermission undermines the artist’s work and paints you as a destructive audience member. Leaving at intermission actually does more harm than good—not just for the artist, but also yourself.