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!

More Power to the Horns!

In the last few weeks I have been working on Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue, an opera double-bill at the Hamburg Opera in Germany. It is going to be a beautiful staging by Dmitri Tcherniakov, see a NY Times review about his work here http://nytimes.com
with four powerhouse singers in the principal roles, and the orchestra of Staatsoper Hamburg. The performances will all be in November.
I am not sure if the expression of “taking a break from sg” can be applied to my schedule. Conducting Mahler 5 does not sound like a break at all, and it sure is a great challenge for orchestra and conductor alike. Well, I am “taking a break from” opera this week and conducting a program of Mahler’s amazing symphony along with Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture and DiLorenzo’s Phoenix Concerto with the Huntsville Symphony.
http://hso.org
The latter composition was written for the amazing French Horn player William Vermeulen, whom I had the pleasure to work with on a few occasions.
http://vermeulenmusic.com
His playing and our extended horn section for Mahler 5 will sure make this week a powerful one!

I am excited and proud that our Huntsville Symphony can present such divers and exciting program to all the music lovers in the area. At the end of September for our first Casual Classics program called “Yoga with Live Music” we played compositions by Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt and John Cage at Lowe Mill. This week we are back with great symphonic repertoire at the Von Braun Center. Come and join us!

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!

When Things All Come Together

The title of this post “When Things Come Together” could also be “When Many Things Happen at the Same Time”. Professional achievements in arts do not follow a straight timeline. After finishing a highly successful conducting masterclass for the Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation (In focus: Bartók, Kurtág and Lachenmann) I dove into the preparation of the Academy of Music production of Hans Werner Henze’s opera, Elegy for Young Lovers. This is the year end stage performance exam of the students and also the closing production of Armel Opera Festival 2016. There will be a live broadcast on the website ARTE TV. Please follow the link next to the production details here:
http://armelfestival.org
Side note: today is Henze’s 90th Birthday and the percussion players of the Pannon Philharmonic presented mini-Milka chocolate bars placed in an upside down cymbal (see picture on FaceBook). I just love these “artsy” coincidences. And chocolate is always good. 🙂
In the meantime ARMEL Opera Festival performances are on every evening (and also can be watched online thanks to ARTE) therefore I spend a lot of time giving interviews to papers, TV and radio stations, cultural websites during the day.
Two days ago László Gőz, director of the Budapest Music Center called a meeting for everybody who participated and helped the making of the first ever studio recording of Peter Eötvös’ opera entitled “Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)”. BMC staff members and leadership (practically the producers of the recording) and colleagues from the Hungarian Radio and from Palace of the Arts (they were co-producers of the 2014 recording and live performance) were there along with the composer himself and his wife (also librettist of the opera). We opened champagne and talked about the long process of how this wonderful recording finally came to life. It took more than two years but things definitely did come together for this project.
I am planning to write in detail about this and another World-premiere recording (Dohnányi: The Tenor) I conducted in 2014-15 once both CDs are available to the general public.

Things all came together in the last few weeks: a busy and successful conducting masterclass, a very promising Henze production rehearsal period, an exciting opera festival, and an intimate celebration of a new product: a contemporary opera’s World Premiere CD recorded in 2014, with a September 2016 release date.

We Are Children

On October 7 the jury of the New Hungarian Music Forum, after a live radio-broadcast orchestra concert, has made its decision. As the conductor of both the chamber ensemble and the orchestra concerts, and a member of the final jury I had the chance to work with all 7 young composers during the heavy workload rehearsal week. For me it was demanding and due to my dual role somewhat schizophrenic, too. It is definitely not easy to put on a concert by doing everything you can to make young composers compositions sound the best and judge them at the same time. The musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra along with our one soloist, Gabor Czaban Hungarian beat boxer did an amazing job.

Here are the results:

Chamber Ensemble Compostions:
1st Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Melodiemusik
2nd Prize: ALESSIO ELIA – Disappearing Rainbows
3rd Prize: MARCELL DARGAY – Monument of the Immortal Immigrant
and (!)
LÁSZLÓ SÁNDOR – Divertimento – Giuoco dei suoni

Based on the Jury’s unanimous decision there was no first prize awarded in the orchestral round. The money was evenly distributed between the split prize winners.

Symphony Orchestra Compositions:
1st prize: –
2nd Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Quintet and ANDREJ SLEZÁK – inSpiral
3rd Prize:GYULA BÁNKÖVI – Greenlight-garden Night

MÁTÉ BALOGH was the winner of special prizes by the International Eötvös Institute for Contemporary Music, Editio Musica Budapest and the Danubia Symphony Orchestra.
GYULA BÁNKÖVI won the special prize of the palace of Arts Budapest (MUPA)
MARCELL DARGAY and ANDREJ SLEZÁK received a 1.000.000 Hungarian Forints value press portfolio each from fidelio.hu

More info in Hungarian here:
http://fidelio.hu

On October 9 & 11 at the Solti Hall of the Liszt Academy of Music I conducted the new version of ‘Spring Awakening’, a one act opera by Mate Bella. With the beautiful and very expressive staging of Andras Almasi Toth, and the great singing of young singers with the accompaniment of the UMZE Ensemble this opera was an instant success. The music is modern but definitely expressive and audience friendly in the best possible way.
Read details about the production:
http://cafebudapestfest.hu

On Saturday, October 17 amazing cimbalom player, Miklos Lukacs and Thrensemble will be performing a concert under my direction at the Budapest Music Center. On there program: compositions by Igor Stravinsky, Peter Eotvos and Kornel Fekete Kovacs. After the concert we’ll be staying at the concert hall to make the world premiere recording of Peter Eötvös’ piece called ‘da capo’ for cimbalom and ensemble for future release by the BMC label.

For further information on the concert in English click here:
http://bmc.hu

‘We Are Children’ is the title and the theme of the 2015-16 season of the Obuda Danubia Symphony. I was invited to conduct the second subscription concert of their classical series called ‘GAME’ at the grand hall of the Liszt Academy on Tuesday, October 20. I had my third rehearsal with the orchestra this morning and I am already having a lot of fun.
About the program:
http://odz.hu

With Stravinsky, Ligeti, Dohnanyi and Milhaud to conduct I am most definitely GAME! 🙂 Music is PLAYING (both in English and in Hungarian you PLAY when you make music) in the most noble sense of the word. If you make or just enjoy art in any form you preserve something of your inner child. Being able to do just that is a true gift of life.

Milano-Budapest-Huntsville

Welcome back everyone!
I hope you all had a great summer and you are ready for the next season of great classical music.
My 2015-16 season starts on September 4 with a concert performance of Lady Sarashina by Peter Eötvös at festival Triennial di Milano as part of the Milano World Fair.
http://triennale.org
I will be conducting the cast of the October 2014 Budapest production and the Hungarian Radio Symphony at Teatro dell’Arte.
See the blog post about the Budapest production here:
http://gregoryvajda.com

I have the honor of conducting the first two shows of a brand new concert series with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Budapest Music Center.
On the program:
Haydn: Symphony No. 6 “Le Matin”
Haydn: Piano Concerto in D-major
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale”

The solo piano part of the Haydn concerto will be played by Misi Boros, an amazing young talent, winner of the Hungarian classical music TV talent show “Virtuozok”
http://bmc.hu
There will be two shows, one at 4pm, one at 7:30pm on Saturday, September 12. The Hungarian Radio will do its usual live broadcast that you can listen to online.

After Milano and Budapest I am ready for Huntsville. I will lead the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra in a blockbuster program of music by Britten and Vaughan Williams. This will be my first time conducting ‘A Sea Symphony’ by RVW. You don’t want to miss the amazing voices of Tiffany Bostic-Brown, Terrance Brown and the Huntsville Community Chorus! If you are in or around Huntsville on September 18 you don’t want to miss this performance!
Happy New Season!

Conduct Me!

Just got home from an hour long live radio interview at Klub Radio. I spoke about the past, about Hungary and the U.S., about conducting, playing the clarinet and composition.
I got to speak about Peter Eötvös
http://eotvospeter.com
the Huntsville Symphony
http://hso.org
the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
http://mrze.hu
and first and foremost about the Armel Opera Festival.
http://armelfestival.org
If you happen to speak or at least understand Hungarian, you are welcome to listen to the show online here 🙂
http://klubradio.hu
The show is called ‘Örömzene’ which translates as “jam session for fun”.
The last segment of the interview was all about the two hour daily program of the Armel Opera Festival in the frame of the the Sziget Festival
http://szigetfestival.com
the biggest rock-pop music summer festival in Central Europe.
Starting tomorrow the Armel Opera Festival presents a two hour long fun and interactive musical program including a series of “Opera Sitcom” performed by the students of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, directed by Andras Almasi Toth. I’ll be leading the audience in an interesting improvisation exercise based on a composition by Peter Eötvös called “Triangel”. Audience members will be distributed triangles of all shapes and sizes and I will play along with me, also hitting three different size triangles wherever I can. The program ends with ‘Conduct Me!’ where brave audience members can get a crash course in conducting from me and get in front of the orchestra and singers and conduct live. On the rep: Aria of The Queen of the Night, Brindisi by Verdi, Prelude and Habanera from Carmen.
I am looking forward to the challenge of engaging audiences that are not necessarily familiar with classical music and opera and make them realize how much fun it actually is to discover Mozart and even contemporary classical music for yourself. I am also happy to share the same island (on river Danube) with several thousand of music lovers and artists like Robbie Williams, the Gogol Bordello or Mariza.

Armel Auditions

Tomorrow I am off to Paris for a couple of days to listen to 70+ singers auditioning for the International Armel Opera Festival’s 2016 program.
http://armelfestival.org
On April 2 there will be another round of auditions in Budapest at the French Institute. After these rounds I have to pick the young singers who get to compete in these exciting productions among others:
Maria de Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzolla
http://piazzolla.org
Senza sangue by Peter Eotvos
http://eotvospeter.com
Elegy for Young Lovers by Hans Werner Henze
http://wikipedia.org

After the Easter Holidays I am going to do pre-rehearsals for Dr. Faust by Ferruccio Busoni, a semi-staged production that I will be conducting at the Budapest Opera in May.

After Opera High

What do you do after the successful premiere of your own opera? You start working immediately on changes based on audience reaction and other factors. Mark Childress and I have been on the phone, Skype, and email several times a day talking about additions and changes to Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera Of The Modern South. Mark has written a few awesome and extremely funny short scenes already. In short, there are new words now for me to put into music. However I do need a few weeks of time to detach from the highs of the premiere week before I can start writing music again for Georgia Bottoms.

In the meantime I am composing music for a Norwegian full length stop animation feature. The production teaser is due next week. I am receiving the final version of the teaser for a last look before it gets sent out to the distributor hopefuls. I won’t tell you anything else about this project now, not even the title of the film. I promise to give you an update when it is appropriate.

Another project I picked up again (started working on bits of it a few months back) is the English language adaptation of Peter Eotvos’ latest opera, The Golden Dragon.
http://schott-music.com
It is a lot of fun to be able to get creative with someone else’s music and also to brush up on my German a little bit.

Stay tuned for more posts about upcoming concerts and projects! I’ll be back next week!

Bang On A Can Verdi

I am writing this entry during a short, self-imposed break from watching the movie Men, Women & Children while flying somewhere over the Atlantic in the course of my travel- an 18 hour journey on planes and at airports in between. I am going from a program with handful of musicians and the intimacy of a 300 seat hall to a 200+ chorus with full orchestra at a 2K+ seat auditorium. This is a must see movie. I won’t spoil it for you…all I am saying now is that people are different, fascinating, boring, engaging, well rounded, screwed up in different ways, and it is all “out there” in cyber space since the invention of the internet. This movie is comforting in a way because it tells us there is nothing new under the sun as far as human behavior goes. It is very honest about how people live more and more in the virtual world of Facebook and war games and dating sites. I guess this is what I am doing with this blog no different from billions of other people (Note to self: google the number of personal blogs in the world!). Creating a virtual copy of yourself and talking to a practically unknown audience (yes, I know I should track data on how many people and from where, are actually reading this) is an intellectually exciting thing to do. Realizing how many other people are doing the same thing all around the world is humbling.

Traveling often creates time that needs to be used in ways that don’t come into play with a regular day job. Reading, watching movies, writing a blog post off line and posting it later, thinking about stuff, making plans are all part of “being on the road”.
Trying to make sense of “lost time” while getting from A to B has become a lifestyle for me. It is a necessity and as always I am trying to make the best of it.
I just remembered a quote from American composer David Lang (Note to self: nice job connecting the dots and making this post more than just babbling!) “And time eventually will pass” [check quote!] The quote is from the notes to ‘Little Eye’ a movement from the 40+ minute chamber music cycle by Lang entitled ‘Child’. ‘Child’ is a very honest, naive, simple yet labyrinth like musical piece. UMZE Ensemble just played it under my direction as the second half of a concert with flutist Claire Chase at Budapest Music Center. I think programming this minimalist piece was a pretty good idea after listening 45 minutes of complex, difficult music by composers like Jozsef Sari, Peter Eotvos, Dai Fujikura or Gregory Vajda.
Letting your thoughts wander while listening to repetitive music is a liberating and also -to me at least- somewhat disturbing experience.

By now most of you are probably thinking, “Where is he going with all this?” or “Hello, we were promised some Verdi here!” All right, since this type of stream of consciousness blogpost cannot be finished, only stopped, I am stopping it right here.
Going from David Lang to Giuseppe Verdi with thousands of miles traveled in between is my reality. Very different programs with very different bands at very different places-yet similar and connected. There is a powerful pop music quality to the Verdi Requiem. There is a lot of pop music in David Lang’s art. Simple lines, repetition, basic musical ideas painted with plain colors. Raw power.
This physical reality however feels a lot like our virtual reality: seemingly random things interconnected with the help of search engines and our personal preferences. Bringing us back to the movie Men, Women and Children ☺.
Bang on a can Verdi.

Going from Lang to Verdi is natural after all. It is real life.