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. 🙂

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

8+1+1/2 Operas

The next year (this time I mean 365 days and not “next season”) is about to bring 8+1+1/2 operas. Let’s start with the +1. After the successful recording session and Hungarian premiere performance of Peter Eotvos’
Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)
http://eotvospeter.com
the composer, myself and the amazing sound engineers of the Hungarian Radio have just concluded the final editing of the studio recording of this work. This hopefully means that a commercial recording of the work will be out soon, most likely with the BMC (Budapest Music Center) label. A professional TV recording of the live performance at the Palace of the Arts will also be aired on TV sometimes in 2014. I will keep you posted.
The “half opera” is in fact an adaptation of the newest music theater work by Peter Eotvos. The world premiere is just happening at the end of June in Frankfurt, Germany. The opera is called ‘The Golden Dragon’
http://eotvospeter.com/commissions
and it is based on a play by famous writer, playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig. I’ll be doing the English language adaptation of this work originally written in German. This involves adapting the text to the music (I’ll be working from the official English language translation + a raw translation of the libretto) and also doing some compositional work in case it is needed.

In the next two weeks I’ll be working with one of the professional orchestras of the city of Budapest called Concerto Budapest.
http://en.concertobudapest.hu
They reside at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music where we will be performing 5 chamber operas under the title “Operatic Sketches”. One of the works is entitled Roman Fever and was written by the head of the Composition Department, Gyula Fekete.
http://www.bmc.hu
The other four works are world premieres composed by students, sung by students of the Academy of Music. The stage director is my good friend (and writer of the libretto of my one act opera, Barbie Blue) Andras Almasi Toth.
More info here:
Operatic Sketches
http://zeneakademia.hu/en

In September 2014 I’ll be the conductor of the new fully staged production of ‘The Tenor’ by Ernest von Dohnanyi. This will be the first staging of this work since the 1930s and the season opening production of Erkel Theater. Another production I am doing at the Academy of Music is, guess what, yet another Eotvos opera. 🙂 A combined group of professional and student musicians and singers and myself are presenting ‘Lady Sarashina’
http://www.eotvospeter.com
as the closing performance of Cafe Budapest (Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival) in October, 2014. This will be the fifth Eotvos stage work I conduct.
In May 2015 I am conducting a shortened version of Ferrucio Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust
http://en.wikipedia.org
as part of the “Faust Festival” at the Hungarian State Opera.

And finally “opera #8” and obviously the most exciting challenge for me in Season 14-15 is the World Premier of my own work
Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South
Naturally I will be posting a lot about this project. For now here is a link to the book ‘Georgia Bottoms’
Mark Childress
http://www.crazyinalabama.com

You may also look up and LIKE the page ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ on FaceBook.

“All music –smiles the minister –is incidental”

Tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:30PM (Budapest time) singers Alinka Kozari, Katalin Karolyi, Gyorgy Philipp, Ensemble UMZE and myself will perform an extremely versatile and exciting program. All three pieces are Hungarian Premiere. The concert is part of the program of Budapest Spring Festival 2014. The venue for the concert is the amazingly beautiful concert hall of the Budapest Music Center.
http://www.bmc.hu

Balazs Horvath ‘Assemblage’ is a composition for ensemble with instrumental soloists who also act. The violinist is the musician who wants to take over the lead from the conductor; the horn player is the actual, real “soloist” (with very difficult material to play). The bugle player is dressed as a clown and behaves as such. The bassoonist acts like “your typical orchestral musician” (not my opinion, so direct your criticism directly towards the composer! ☺) The ensemble enters by playing on pots and pans while the conductor leads the procession in a drum major function (I do have a real drum major baton!) There are Four Scenes and for the 4th one the musicians move to the back of the hall mirroring their downstage seating. We even take a bow at the end with our back to the audience.
This is a very well written, very well thought through “instrumental theater” piece. It is a lot of fun and all of us are having a ball.
Visit the composer’s website here:
http://www.balazshorvath.com

‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, CH, CBE, composer and conductor, Master of the Queen’s Music was written in 1969 and is still a fully valid, musically and dramatically engaging, powerful piece of music theater. (How does one become the Master of the Queen’s Music after being an experimental, avant-garde composer is a different story and should be the topic of a separate blog entry.) A strong and captivating performance is in the making with Gyorgy Philipp as “King George III” with some serious contemporary overtones in the direction of Andras Almasi-Toth. Let me just say, that while homeless people are banned from public spaces in the City of Budapest “our King George” is dressed as a bum and acts totally crazy and inappropriate. He won’t let security to remove him from the theater hall and ends up leaving on his own terms, exhausted, figuratively and literally naked with the accompaniment of the conductor and the drummer.
Here is some reading material about ‘8 Songs’:
http://www.classicalsource.com

The well-known story of the Pied Piper comes to life in the 40 minute long masterpiece by George Benjamin. Two singers (soprano and alto) are playing and acting all the characters. The Minister would do anything to get reelected. The Crowd wants only one thing, to get rid of the rats in the city. (Rats? Just watch out for the projected images in Andras Almasi-Toth’s interpretation! You’ll find even more contemporary political allusions… Let me state at this point, that this concert was supposed to happen over a year ago. The fact, that we are playing it just two weeks before the Hungarian general election is merely a coincidence! ☺) And the story of the Pied Piper continues…
George Benjamin’s music is almost unknown to the Hungarian audience. I am really happy to be able to present this major work of his with really great singers in both roles. Here is another great work about the power of music.
Read more about this chamber opera –about the power of music –, in a NY Times review from 2007:
http://www.nytimes.com

Tomorrow’s concert is a journey from Instrumental Theater through Monodrama to Chamber Opera; and music, of course is much more than just incidental.