No Song is Safe From Us

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

Everyone involved with classical song eventually falls under the spell of Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), simply because so many composers have set his poetry to music. His writing is a fascinating combination of opposites: elusive and open, austere and emotional, somber and bursting with color. The more I read about this great Spanish artist the more astonishing I find him.




 |  Steven Blier

Federico Lorca struggled with his sexuality for much of his short life. No wonder. It was the inevitable fate of a passionate, uninhibited, demonstrative gay man living in a repressive, homophobic culture. While he had deep emotional attachments to a number of women, his heart was susceptible only to other men.




 |  Steven Blier

In 1956, two great Catalan composers, Federico Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge, collaborated on a project for Barcelona’s Liceu Theater. They wanted to make a ballet adaptation of a Lorca play, The Love of Don Peremplín and Belisa in the Garden. Though not considered one of Lorca’s theatrical masterpieces, it enjoyed some success in its day. Don Peremplín went on […]




 |  Steven Blier

I faced a quandary when I was programming the April 24 Lorca concert. Though I try to avoid presenting songs I’ve done in recent concerts, I couldn’t find many suitable examples of cante jondo—the “deep song” of Andalusia that Lorca venerated. He disdained the word “flamenco,” which he called the “tourist version” of cante jondo. But for an American listener the two terms are roughly equivalent, especially in this day and age. Recordings of cante jondo are of course in plentiful supply. What’s almost impossible is finding songs in this style appropriate for the recital stage and classically trained singers.




 |  Steven Blier

In every NYFOS program I like to have a specialty number, something completely on-topic but completely unexpected. I despaired of having such a song for the April 24th Lorca concert until Michael Barrett said, “Oh, you should contact my cousin Jonathan Mayhew. He’s a big Lorca guy—he’s already written one book about him and is now working on another about songs written to Lorca’s poems.” A flurry of emails followed, along with a slew of suggestions for our concert.




 |  Steven Blier

As I prepare for the April 24 concert, I have become increasingly immersed in the life and poetry of Federico García Lorca. The more I know about this great Spanish writer the more astonishing I find him. His neatly bound volumes of poetry and his famous stage works don’t give a true picture of his chaotic creativity, his unique mix of sophistication and naivety, his long-frustrated sensuality, and his complex heart.




 |  Steven Blier

A quick post-concert report as I bid farewell to this beautiful week. Overview: both shows went extremely well for the cast, who delivered the goods. The Sunday run took place in a black box theater that needed to be borrowed for the occasion due to renovations at Caramoor. Its dryness proved to be a challenge to be overcome. Yet the show went smoothly and faultlessly. The in-depth work we’d done on the songs gave the concert the kind of strength and subtlety I had hoped for.




 |  Steven Blier

I’m rarely cheerful the day before a show. I wish I had a bit of Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s infectious, nitrous oxide enthusiasm to lift everyone’s morale—especially mine. But I always feel as if I am being led in front of a firing squad, and I seem to give birth to concerts only after a lot of labor pains. Today’s pains weren’t only metaphorical. On the car trip from Manhattan to Katonah, there was a four-car traffic accident that could easily have turned into a five-car one, were it not for Michael Barrett’s quick reflexes and presence of mind.




 |  Steven Blier

This program takes its inspiration from an opera — Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte — and a movie, Max Ophuls’ La ronde, which was based on the hugely controversial play by Arthur Schnitzler, Reigen. Both works are about the disruptive interplay of love and lust, fidelity and libido, id and superego. In our concert two couples meet and fall in love, but the honeymoon fades. Soon the guys feel trapped and the women feel betrayed, and then all hell breaks loose.




 |  Steven Blier

My goals today were simple and clear: to get the second half of the show staged, and to see if I could persuade my hands to stop behaving like bouncers at a second-rate strip club. I took a little time by myself at the piano in the morning to deal with item number 2. I […]