Georgia Bottoms in Budapest, Interviews, Reviews, Videos

A pretty long, exhausting and fun period is over. Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South had a new, Hungarian production in the frame of CAFe (Contemporary Art Festival) Budapest at the Liszt Academy. The production was a success, the audience loved it and so far the critics had a positive opinion as well. I am glad, that this 85 minute long, one act chamber opera made quite a few people among Hungarian intellectuals to go online and buy Mark Childress’ original novel, Georgia Bottoms. The book deserves attention, and a great translation for the European and Hungarian market. Luckily, many of the intellectuals interested in my art can speak and read English. They all bought the book here, and you should, too!
http://www.amazon.com

Unfortunately however, – this is what happens when a country has a language that nobody else is speaking,- all the interviews and reviews below are in Hungarian. This time being a Hungarian has an advantage: you get way more info about the opera, the production and you can also read about many other topics that came up in the interviews in the original language. I translated a couple of things below for my English speaking friends, and I can promise you that no music-lover will be left behind. I am in the process of translating a selection of the interviews and posting them online as soon as I can. In the meantime, enjoy what you can by clicking on the links below!

Let’s start with a really well translated interview with Rebecca Nelsen, who has been doing Georgia Bottoms’ role for the second time in two years. I myself have learned a couple of interesting, new things about what it’s like to be a woman in the South.
“The Era of Just Standing And Singing Is Over”
http://www.fidelio.hu

By clicking on the link below you can read the very first (posted just a couple of hours after the Sunday premiere) instant feedback by a local theater/ music-theater blogger. She will be posting more about Georgia Bottoms, once the entire CAFe Budapest Festival is over.
http://www.mezeinezo.hu

Here are three interviews with me, mostly about Georgia Bottoms, but also about teaching, conducting and politics.
“When A Chord Sounds That Can Feel Really Good”
http://www.operavilag.net

“I Want to Write Music I’ve Never Heard Before”
http://www.theater.hu

“Constant Failures Mean The System Is Working”
http://www.papageno.hu

“You Cannot Put 9-11 Into Music” (interview) + “Bittersweet Georgia” (review)
These articles will be available for free soon via the website link below.
According to this review my music is from the Deep South 🙂 The critic loved the humor of the opera in text, in music and in staging as well/ “…a múlt vasárnapi bemutatón átütővé vált a mű humora: szövegben, játékban és – éppen nem mellesleg – zenében egyaránt.”
http://magyarnarancs.hu

“Under Lucky Stars”
This critic loved the production in every way possible, including the staging by Andras Alamai Toth, the singing of the entire cast, especially Rebecca Nelsen and Keith Browning, the quality of the musicians of Ensemble UMZE, and the music itself. The critic had a nice summary of my music as well, Let me copy it here, first just in Hungarian.

“A muzsika majd’ minden hangjából árad az amerikai Dél hangulatát megidéző couleur locale, de hiba lenne, ha csak ennyit jegyeznénk meg az igényes kompozícióról, mely (az utóbbi évek kortársopera-tendenciáival ellentétben) jóval több egyszer használatos alkalmazott zenénél: saját értékénél fogva is emlékezetünkbe vésődik, miközben híven festi a szöveg dramaturgiai fordulatait. A posztmodern jó szokásához híven bőven idéz különböző zenei stílusok eszköztárából, ám ezeket egységes keretbe foglalja – sosem támad az az érzésünk, hogy bármely hang is öncélúan került volna a partitúrába. Ez a határozott zeneszerzői egyéniség biztos ismertetőjegye.”

http://nepszava.hu

The FaceBook page of CAFe Budapest festival. There is an interview with me about Georgia Bottoms and about getting our of your comfort zone in general. Again, the interview is in Hungarian, but the “Day 3 of the Festival” video can be enjoyed without speaking this one of a kind language.
http://www.facebook.com/CAFeBudapestOfficial

Oh yes, and I did get to translate Mark Childress’ RAP lyrics for a newly added scene into Hungarian for the surtitles. I even made it rhyme. 🙂

The Season of Operas

On Monday we are starting the second week of ‘DialogScene’ workshop organized by the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation. I will be moderating a “meet the audience” session in the evening.
http://www.bmc.hu
The final performance of the five brand new operas composed by young composers from all over the world, and directed by young Hungarian directors (music-theater directors’ class of Tamás Ascher) is open to the audience and will be held in the evening of Friday, September 15.
Click below for more details.
http://www.bmc.hu

When I am not teaching I am composing new music to my first opera, The Giant Baby. The world premiere will take place in Vienna as part of the 2018 Armel Opera Festival. I am having a lot of fun with totally re-writing the music to the slightly altered libretto based on the 1926 Dadaist play by Hungarian Author Tibor Déry.
https://www.britannica.com

Just so we stick to the theme of the fall of 2017, my latest stage work, ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ will get a new production at the Academy of Music as part of CAFe Budapest (Contemporary Art Festival Budapest). Rebecca Nelsen, who sang the title role in Huntsville two years ago returns as Georgia. Also in the role of her son, Nathan I am happy to have the young and talented American baritone, Keith Browning from the original cast. Author of the novel, Georgia Bottoms, my co-librettist, Mark Childress (who will also be here for the Hungarian premiere) and I have added two completely new scenes and changed one of the old ones to make the story more complete. Changes were needed also to give a little resting time and more than a minute to change costumes for rebecca as Georgia Bottoms. The staging will be done by Andras Almasi Toth, and the other 9 roles will be sung by talented Hungarian singers, including Andrea Meláth, head of the Vocal Department of the Liszt Academy. Here are the dates for the performances:
October 8 and 10
and a link to the website of CAFe Budapest:
https://www.cafebudapest.hu

Music For Different Summers

Bartók: The Wooden Prince (complete ballet with live sand animation)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (performed with live dance)

I have started my summer by leading the conducting master-class with the rep above at the International Bartok Seminar and Festival. It was an honor to be a professor at this esteemed festival. John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti and other world class musicians and composers have visited the Bartok Festival in small town Szombathely, Hungary back in the days. It was truly the place to be in the summer when I was a student. I myself have started there as a conductor student some 20 years ago, also have studied chamber music with Gyorgy Kurtág as a clarinetist.
This year I’ve had the honor to teach 10 active and a few passive students from all over the world. The closing concert was beautifully presented and very well attended.
After a short stop in Huntsville (there is always something to do when I am in town, and I did use my time wisely for business luncheons, meetings and planning) I have spent the last 10+ days in Portland, OR. I have taken on the role of Incoming Music Director of the Portland Festival Symphony in the last couple of years.

http://www.portlandfestivalsymphony.org

This wonderful organization has been providing free classical music for the Portland audience for over 35 years now. Playing live classical music in very different neighborhoods of the city for kids and adults is a fascinating and very rewarding mission. This year I have programmed overtures by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert along with my own piece “Rough and Ready, an American Outdoor Overture” composed directly for PFS and its outdoor concerts. The concert series ends today with an all strings concert.

I am ready for a brief vacation with my two sons, Balazs and Vince after this week. Well be spending our time in and around Huntsville, AL, and will be visiting the great city of New Orleans, too. After our annual “father and sons” vacation I will be flying to the Island of Jersey to start a hopefully long tradition of “Opera Island”. Armel Opera Festival is branching out and I am really excited about being part of this exciting new experiment. I will definitely post more about “Opera Island” at the end of this month. In the meantime, please check out the Jersey Opera House website for the Armel Festival program here:

http://www.www.jerseyoperahouse.co.uk

It sure feels like the extreme hot weather has been chasing me around. Hot and hotter weather in Szombathely, Budapest, Huntsville, and even in Portland (it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, that’s over 42 degrees Celsius). Yet the character of Summer is still different at these very different places, so is the music I have been working on. I find the summer of 2017 striking a nice balance between time off and good work. And yes, there is always composition time whenever I can get it. The new version of my first opera, “The Giant Baby” is in the making. Premiere at the end of June, 2018.

Les feux d’artifice

“The fireworks have ended. They did not last long.”
http://www.youtube.com
These are the last words of Rufus Wainwright’s opera “Prima Donna”. The premiere is this afternoon at the Kodály Center in Pecs (Southern Hungary), second performance on June 28 in Budapest with a live HD broadcast on Arte Concert. Check out the cast here:
http://www.armelfestival.org
Watch out for the broadcast details on FaceBook and on Twitter! Until then here is a concert video from Paris with the fully orchestrated version of the song.
http://www.youtube.com

I have spent a lot of time this past month with wonderful “prima donnas” and talented singers in productions of the following operas:
Kamillo Lendvay: The respectable Prostitute
Gyorgy Ligeti: Le grand macabre
Mate Bella: Spring Awakening
Gabor Peter Mezei: By the Catafalque
Arpad Solti: La Violetta

After “MagyarFeszt” (a festival of Hungarian operas organized by the State Opera), I was invited to teach a conducting master class with Peter Eötvös at his Contemporary Music Institute. It was a great week with the Danubia Orchestra and the music of Wolfgang Rihm and Zoltan Kodály. Next week, with the June 28 performance of “Prima Donna” opens the 10th Armel Opera Festival and Competition. I will also conduct the final gala concert of the Armel Festival with award winning singers from France and Hungary. It’s going to be a nice change of pace with music by Mozart, Donizetti, Bizet, Gounod and others.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

From Frankfurt to the Red Comet

Last week I made my debut with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. It was an amazing experience with a great orchestra made of open minded and friendly musicians. The audience at the “Sendesaal” of the Frankfurt Radio was very appreciative and enthusiastic. There was a fun pre-concert talk as well attended by about 200 people. On the program entitled ‘The Hungary of Eötvös’, there were all Hungarian contemporary pieces from four generations of composers including myself.’Concertino’ by József Sári, ‘Passacaglie’ by László Tihanyi, ‘Leviation’ by Péter Eötvös and my ‘Drums Drums Drums’ for three percussion players and orchestra.
http://www.hr-online.de
I was really happy about the reception of my percussion triple concerto. There was a ‘rock-concert feel’ to the performance and also to the reaction of the audience, just what I was hoping to achieve. I am looking forward to the next performance of this composition of mine in January 2018 with the Pannon Philharmonic!

The first radio broadcast of the Frankfurt concert will be on May 15 followed by a re-broadcast not long after. I will keep you posted.

I am back in Hungary now gearing up for many performances to come. The next two long months have kicked off with a project of the International Young Soloists (musicians from the UK and Hungary) with a program of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to be played at two small venues this week. In the meantime I have started working with the singers for Ligeti’s ‘Le Grand Macabre'(performance at the Erkel Theater on May 26: hence the RED COMET, if you remember the famous coloratura soprano aria!), and had my first read-though rehearsal with the Modern Art Orchestra. The latter one is Hungary’s leading Big Band. On May 28 at the Budapest Music Center I will be conducting a few arrangements of my music (Adagio from the Clarinet Symphony among them), and some great music by Duke Ellington and Pat Metheny among others.
http://www.bmc.hu

I will post more later about the upcoming opera productions in the frame of the “Hungarian Opera Festival” in the month of May and June. Stay tuned for a revival of the “Hungarian Late Night” show and two performances of “Spring Awakening” by Máté Bella and “La Violetta” by Árpád Solti at the Liszt Academy!

Crazy Schedule

Yeah, I know it is the Oscars tonight. I am going to have to read about it in the news this week.

It is true that I don’t shy away from working long hours for an extended period of time. Sometimes, however, the perfect storm happens. Tomorrow and on Tuesday I will be rehearsing with the Hungarian Radio Symphony 10AM-5PM, then at the Liszt Academy for the “Hungarian Late Night” production of the Budapest Opera 6PM-10PM. After the rehearsals I will be working with the musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony orchestra at the Budapest Music Center to record my newest composition ‘Alice Etudes’ for clarinet an string quartet. On Wednesday there’s another Radio Symphony rehearsal and the dress rehearsal for the one act operas. Thursday is the day for dress rehearsal and concert with the Radio Symphony. On Friday we premiere the one act operas of the “Hungarian Late Night” production, The second performance is on Saturday.

Looking forward to a wild ride! Wish me luck and check out the following links:

https://www.mrze.hu
https://www.zeneakademia.hu

And this…
Come on Ladies and Gentlemen, somebody please push this over the finish line! 😉
Thanks
https://www.gofundme.hu

Sudden and Light

‘What do you make so fair and bright?’

‘I make the cloak of Sorrow:
O lovely to see in all men’s sight
Shall be the cloak of Sorrow,
In all men’s sight.’

‘What do you build with sails for flight?’

‘I build a boat for Sorrow:
O swift on the seas all day and night
Saileth the rover Sorrow,
All day and night.’

What do you weave with wool so white?’

‘I weave the shoes of Sorrow:
Soundless shall be the footfall light
In all men’s ears of Sorrow,
Sudden and light.’

The poem above is by Yeats and it provides the lyrics to my orchestral song composed for my next concert in Budapest. On Tuesday at the helm of the Hungarian Radio Symphony I conduct a program of the following compositions:

Haydn: Farewell Symphony
R. Strauss: Morgen!

Haydn: The Desert Island (L’isola disabitata) Overture
G. Vajda: The Cloak, The Boat and The Shoes [World Premiere]
R. Strauss: Four Last Songs

The concert program is designed as an homage to Jozsef Vajda, my late father who has passed this February at the age of 68. He served as the principal bassoonist of the Radio Symphony for 28 years. It is an honor to be able to present a concert in his memory as part of the Liszt Academy concert series of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The program revolves around the gesture of ‘farewell’ and includes pieces I have heard my Father play several times (like the Haydn Symphony). The wonderful Eva Batori will be singing the soprano part for all the songs. Please listen to the concert live or stream it for two weeks after the concert at:
http://mediaklikk.hu

Read a great analysis here about the Yeats poem I put into music in my “Lullaby for Soprano and Orchestra”:
http://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com

Hotel Room With Seven Doors

“Which hotel room has seven doors and enough place for a torture chamber, an armory and a treasure chamber?” – asks critic Peter Jungblut of http://br-klassik.de in his review about the Eötvös/ Bartók double bill of Staatsoper Hamburg. Stage director Dimitri Tcherniakov merged “Senza sangue” and “Bluebeard’s Castle” into a 2 hour long evening with no intermission, and made the two operas into one “Dramatic Soul-Exploration”. After participating in the long rehearsal process of the production (we had our very first rehearsal on September 26) and attending the premiere with composer Peter Eötvös himself in the pit, I am now looking forward to conducting my first of this impressive show. Great singers, powerful music, touching video shorts, captivating images with mesmerizing lighting: this is all Senza sangue-Bluebeard’s Castle, and more. Come and experience it live if you can this month in Hamburg!
I will be the conductor of two more performances after today’s show: one on November 23 and the last one of this run on November 30. In between two shows, on November 22, I will be conducting a concert with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. The program is comprised of a World Premiere orchestral song for soprano I composed in memory of my Father and compositions by Haydn and Richard Strauss.
More about this concert soon!

In Nature’s Realm

I am back in Huntsville. The weather is beautiful as always in September. As my friends in Europe are starting to wear their rain coats and sweaters, I still get to dip in the swimming pool in the morning. I love how summer is stretched out here in the South.

Our 2016-17 Season at the HSO is starting with a kind of musical meditation on Nature and on Human Life.

Dvořák: In Nature’s Realm, op. 91
Smetana: The Moldau, from My Homeland
Fauré: Requiem, op. 48

Guest Artists:
Tiffany Boltic-Brown, Terrance Brown and the Huntsville Community Chorus

Visit our website for more information on our opening gala and on the rest of the season.
http://hso.org

Talking about “meditation”, very soon musicians of the Huntsville Symphony and myself will be presenting a Yoga Session with Live Music at one of my favorite venues ever: Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
http://lowemill.net
More about this concert soon!

Last week was busy (indeed, the Season does not start with the first fall performance but with all the preparation the precedes this part of the year). After finishing the editing of the studio recording of my composition “Clarinet Symphony” (it sounds great and I am hoping to report soon about what happens to the recording itself) I traveled to Szeged (Southern-Hungary) where I did a few pre-rehearsals for Armel Festival’s presentation of The Magic Flute at the Hackney Empire Theater in London, England. I am also preparing for the long rehearsal period at the Hamburg Opera starting at the end of September. I will be adding another opera to my repertoire: Peter Eötvös’ Senza sangue (Without Blood)
http://eotvospeter.com
This new work will be staged alongside with Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle (an amazing piece of music soon to be a 100 years old!).

Nature, music, lot of travel: Season 16-17 here I come!

Two World Première Opera Recordings

Just five days to September.

Are you ready for another season of great music?

Here are two World Première opera recordings for your listening pleasure to start with!

Péter Eötvös: Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)
http://bmc.hu

In this new composition, Péter Eötvös explores the hypothetical question: what would have happened if our culture which is explicitly based on the Bible had chosen Lilith (Adam’s first wife) to be the ancestress of mankind, instead of Eve? Adam and Eve (his second wife) and the listeners alike are guided by Lucifer through past, present and future. In Paradise Reloaded, Lilith’s intentions define the course of events; she eventually attains her goal but at the end of the story Adam still does not choose her as his partner. Adam has to choose between two women who have different outlooks on life. His choice determines the fate of the generations to come. The conclusion promises a new beginning for all characters – hence the Reloaded in the title – in a new Paradise, but this will no longer be the same as the one they left.
The opera was premièred in October 2013 in Vienna, followed by its February 2014 Hungarian première in Budapest. The cast of soloist on the CD is the same as of the première in Vienna. I conducted both the recording session (Studio 22 at the Hungarian Radio) and the Hungarian live performance (Palace of the Arts Budapest) both with the Hungarian Radio Symphony. The sound quality of this recording is just amazing. The sound level is like that of a pop music recording with clear details and amazing energy. The recording is available via the website of the Budapest Music Center (see link above) and through record distributors all over the world (see list on BMC website).

Ernst von Dohnányi: The Tenor

What happens when a singing circle (well, really a good old, German style Barber Shop Quartet) operating according to classical middle-class values is forced to accept a talented but depraved and penniless musician? Primeval, genuine emotions break through bars of false convention. Or do they? This is the theme of The Tenor, the most celebrated Hungarian comic opera of the 1930s. This delightful, cleverly written opera is full of humor and great musical ideas. Mendelssohn and Webern quotes are incorporated into the chamber orchestra-like texture of the composition. The vocal parts are beautiful and inventive and all roles are great fun to play. I was the conductor of the Hungarian premiere of “The Tenor” (the first one since the late 1920s!) and of the studio recording of the work with the cast of the stage production and the musicians of the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra.

Read about the Opera Trezor recording series of the Hungarian State Opera here
http://opera.hu

If you are interested in this two CD-publication you can purchase it at the Budapest Opera House’s Gift Shop (Opera Shop), or you may contact me directly. I will make sure you get a copy!