No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  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 […]




 |  Steven Blier

We waited till mid-morning to see if we’d be back in our Katonah Zen-garden, or if we’d be working in the homey surroundings of my apartment. We learned at around 10 AM that Caramoor had lost its electricity in the storm. I never knew that Westchester could be so…primitive. The upshot was that we had a second day of work in Manhattan. This had never happened during the ten years of Vocal Rising Stars. No matter what, we always rehearsed upstate. I feared the change of venue would be disruptive, breaking the spell of the retreat.




 |  Steven Blier

We got word yesterday that a major snowstorm was headed our way. It would certainly make the city a slushy mess, and these storms are usually even more severe in Westchester. By lunchtime yesterday, Katonah hadn’t completely recovered from the previous Friday’s monsoon. Several people on the Caramoor staff still didn’t have electrical power at home. There […]




 |  Steven Blier

A few years ago I got a request from the administration at Caramoor to add a fifth artist to the Vocal Rising Stars program: an apprentice pianist. I turned this over in my mind for a while, considering the pros and cons of sharing accompanying duties with yet another person. After all, we already had two pianists on board, Michael Barrett (henceforth to be known by his nickname, Mikey) and me. As I mulled and mulled, the gentle request turned into something more definitive: the program was now to include four singers and a pianist. Any questions?