No Song is Safe From Us

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

It was a day of highs and lows. Some songs flourished in amazing new directions under the guidance of Mary Birnbaum. As I’ve written earlier in the week, I have had to adjust to seeing stand-and-sing songs I’ve done for years turn into mini-scenes that pull in several non-singing performers. Mostly it’s a revelation, once I let go of my preconceptions.




 |  Steven Blier

Today I invited my friend Jack Viertel to come watch some of our rehearsal. Jack comes from the highest reaches of the theater world. He’s written a masterful book called The Secret Life of the Broadway Musical (a must-read for anyone who loves American musical theater); he is the Artistic Director of the Encores! Series at City Center; he is Senior Vice-President at Jujamcyn Theaters; and he’s taught at NYU. It would seem a bit scary to invite such a person to give notes to the cast, especially after only a few days of rehearsal. But Jack is one of the greatest mensches in the business—indeed, in our entire city. And he’s a close friend—hell, he was the toastmaster at my wedding. I kept anxiety at bay.




 |  Steven Blier

There is a certain thrill—and a certain terror—to watching a beloved song receive a new, honest-to-god staging. I’ve seen these pieces acted as solos by a cadre of great artists in recital and cabaret settings, but this is the first time I’ve seen some of them turn into full-fledged theatrical numbers with choreography and fleshed-out […]




 |  Steven Blier

We had our first run of the whole program today, and it went extremely well. There were plenty of heart-stopping moments where we all felt the sacred fire in the room. And the program has a strong arc, just as I remembered. But I wasn’t quite prepared for how powerfully Kurt Weill and his fellow Weimar songwriters would speak in 2019.




 |  Steven Blier

For many years, Michael Barrett and I discussed doing a program devoted to the blues, that quintessential American genre. But we were never sure how to tackle such a broad topic. Then our friend, the musicologist and early blues scholar Elliott Hurwitt proposed that we devote an evening to W. C. Handy, and this magically opened up the long-sought path. I’d known about Handy—famous as “The Father of the Blues”—since my boyhood. One of his songs was in some anthology I pored over as a child—could it have been The Fireside Book of Favorite American Songs? I found his music sweet and old-timey, redolent of straw hats, picnics, bandstands on summer days.




 |  Steven Blier

A student and I were talking about the operas we’d heard in recent months, as we often do at the beginning of a session. It was a slightly depressing discussion, and one I’ve had several times recently in my studio during a period when there has been a lot of alarming crash-and-burn singing across the […]




 |  Steven Blier

One of the most rewarding parts of my life is my work at Juilliard. There I have met some extraordinary artists and given them projects that let them shine. NYFOS audiences have been lucky enough to hear many of these beautiful singers over the years—Paul Appleby, Julia Bullock, Theo Hoffman, Miles Mykkanen, Sasha Cooke—a dazzling list that goes on and on.




 |  Steven Blier

The summer before last I became obsessed with the Verdi Requiem. It’s a piece I’ve known since I was 13, when I got the Leontyne-Jussi Bjoerling LPs (in monophonic sound) as a bar mitzvah gift. But now, due to the miracle of Spotify, I suddenly have the capacity to hear a slew of recordings, all available by touching a screen. Young people take this digital bonanza for granted, but after lugging stacks of records home from the library as a kid, I never cease to marvel at how easy it is to indulge my musical whims.




 |  Steven Blier

I ventured into the Met to hear The Girl of the Golden West last week. I’d never seen the now-venerable Giancarlo del Monaco production—never heard this opera at the Met, in fact—and I’d never seen Jonas Kaufmann live. Neither of us is getting any younger and I pride myself on having heard all the major voices since I started going to the opera in 1963. So I secured a standing room ticket and hauled myself into the theater.




 |  Steven Blier

I’ve been listening to soprano Montserrat Caballé this past week, in the days following her death at age 85. I first heard her at Carnegie Hall in December of 1965, when she sang Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. Later that month my dad and I went to the Met for her début. She wanted to sing in the old house on 39th Street before it got torn down, and they slotted her in for a single performance of Faust.