No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Steven Blier

“The Art of Pleasure”—my Wolf Trap concert for this year—includes a section of guilty pleasures. This was at once the most fun and the most difficult group to program. How far were we willing to go? It’s not so easy to assign louche material for a group of people you don’t know. As always, I took a flying leap (the M.O. for my entire career, it seems). The first song would definitely be Tom Lehrer’s 1959 classic “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”




 |  Steven Blier

In the interest of empowering the cast of my Wolf Trap show “The Art of Pleasure,” I asked them to make suggestions of songs and subjects. “What pleasures beyond the obvious ones (food and sex) do you want to sing about, and what songs bring those pleasures to life for you?” I wondered what kinds of answers I’d get. At this point I knew only one of my cast members personally, and no one wants to look stupid or weird—especially not young professionals dealing with a music director they’ve never met.




 |  Steven Blier

The final group of songs in Act I of “The Art of Pleasure” is simply called “Romance,” and that gave me an opportunity to program the steamy duet “Schön wie die blaue Sommernacht” from Lehár’s Giuditta.

When it comes to high-calorie, high-fat romance, there’s no one quite like Viennese operetta icon Franz Lehár. His stage-works create a world of unmarried blonde women, tenors whose lasciviousness skirts the overtly creepy, and a passel of supporting players who are usually less wealthy and less Viennese.




 |  Steven Blier

I am at Wolf Trap this week working on a program called “The Art of Pleasure.” Why? Well, for the past eighteen months, I have been assaulted every morning by news of cruelty, greed, shortsightedness, and mendacity unlike anything I can remember. I know others also sense that the world is caving in—how is this being allowed to happen? So I thought: we need to take a moment to meditate on things that give pleasure. It will give us strength.




 |  Steven Blier

Preparing and performing NYFOS concerts is an all-consuming endeavor. Michael Barrett, my co-leader, can attest to this. So can Charles McKay and Claire Molloy, who have masterminded the administration for some years now with tireless grace. We are in a daily (and often nightly) wind-tunnel of schedules, negotiations, translations, editing, grant-writing, note-bashing, and ensemble rehearsal. Therefore when our round-number anniversaries come up, we emerge dazedly from the trenches to mount a celebration for ourselves and our audience, feeling somewhat like a groundhog on February 2. Years ago Justin Davidson called NYFOS “the longest-running song party in New York.” He had no idea.




 |  Steven Blier

I’ve just returned from seeing the HD broadcast of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” from the National Theater. It starred a colleague of mine, Janie Dee, as Phyllis. I worked with her when NYFOS brought our P.G. Wodehouse concert to London. She was a delight, and a powerhouse performer. And she was staggeringly good in tonight’s “Follies”—a Phyllis to rival the best actresses I’ve ever seen in the role: venomous, cold, but full of hidden longing and sadness.




 |  Steven Blier

We went back to Katonah today, with Mo Zhou riding up with us in the car. I wish everyone could have Mo to themselves for an hour. She’s a delight, a character, a raconteur, a force of nature.




 |  Steven Blier

Today’s program combines a narrow focus on a single culture — the British Isles — with the wide-angle lens on four centuries of song, thereby ranging across practically the entire span of Western classical music. The purity of the Renaissance gradually gives way to the warmth of the Romantic era; doughty Victorianism yields first to […]