Tag Archives: Shawn Jaeger

An Operatic Apocalypse: The Drumf and the Rhinegold at Turn Park Art Space

Yesterday we took a day trip to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, lured by the chance to hear two of our favorite singers, Lucy Dhegrae and Ariadne Greif. Well, OK, also, we’d missed earlier performances of The Drumf and the Rhinegold, and it was way past time to make up for that cultural lack.

Greif reprised her role as Melania (a role she was born to perform), and Dhegrae took up the role of Marla. I bet, without much more information, you have an idea where this is headed, and you likely wouldn’t be wrong. But just in case, here’s the gist:

Having stolen the magical Rhinegold, which grants world domination to its owner, the sinister Drumf is now poised to become leader of the free world. The gold’s guardians, the beautiful Rhinemaidens Ivana, Marla and Melania, race against time to reclaim their gold from his grubby clutches. After the consecutive failures of Ivana and Marla, can Melania succeed in wresting the gold from Drumf before her time runs out?

For the creation of this uproarious 15-minute opera, we can thank composer Mátti Kovler; Tasha Gordon-Solmon, Kovler, and Gil Varod (book); and Gordon-Solmon, Kovler, Varod, Matthew Shifrin, and Toby Lightman (lyrics).

Each singer’s performance—Greif, Dhegrae, Casey Keenan (Ivana), and Matthew Shifrin (Rhinegold)—was delicious, fully inhabiting the opera’s subversive wit. Doug Fitch directed. The staging was ingenious, with audience, singers, and musicians moving in tandem as the opera proceeded through its three mini-acts. Alyona Gomberg, Tommy Nguyen and Misha Igoshin concocted the inspired costumes and set. The terrific musicians included Contemporaneous members Kate Dreyfuss (violin), Cameron West (French horn), and Fanny Wyrick-Flax (flute), as well as Evan Primo (bass) and several others whose names I wish I knew. These are musicians who take in stride everything thrown at them—including moving their music stands and instruments to new locations—without missing a beat.

Everyone in attendance left grinning like maniacs, with random bursts of laughter breaking out. This was aided and abetted by Greif. Without once breaking character, she swanned around, conveying essential information in her Slovenian accent (“I speak five languages, you know”) and directing photo shoots, like this:

And this:

And this:

The performance took place on the grounds of a quarry, now repurposed as Turn Park Art Space.

We took a turn around the grounds before heading home—a work in progress that’s already a feast for the eye everywhere you look.

Before the performance, we stopped in at No. 6 Depot for an early lunch, where we met up with one of our favorite composers, Shawn Jaeger. We’d spotted a bookstore, Shaker Mill Books, across the street, and Jaeger confirmed it was as good as it looked. Needless to say, that’s where we headed after lunch. J picked up a book about Dunkirk to add to her vast collection; I resisted temptation this time, but it wasn’t easy, and a return visit is on our bucket list.

 If you haven’t yet seen The Drumf and the Rhinegold, you must (as a friend of ours who, as it happens, just saw a stunning Ring in Budapest, is wont to say). Toward that end, a performance, complete with subtitles, is included in this post, below.

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Listening List

The Drumf and the Rhinegold, as performed on Halloween eve and Halloween, 2016

In Sicilia: Imagination Unbound

Museo Regionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Belmonte-Riso, internal courtyard

Imagination encircles the world.
Albert Einstein

On our return trip from Siracusa to Palermo, we could see, off in the distance, a great flat-topped mountain, covered with snow. When, later, we consulted our map, we realized it must have been Mt. Etna. Continue reading

Transcendental Geometry: Contemporaneous at Murray’s 2017

It was a stroke of luck to have happened on Contemporaneous when the ensemble was still at Bard and barely six months old. That was in 2010, and it’s an ongoing cause for celebration that this treasurable rara avis, a chamber orchestra dedicated solely to new music, has not only survived, but is thriving today. Over that time, as Contemporaneous continues to amass significant musical accomplishments, we, as listeners, reap the benefit in an ongoing series of musical gifts. The April 15, 2017, concert at Murray’s in Tivoli was but the latest in a long, glittering string. Continue reading

My Year in Music 2015

The musicians of Contemporaneous

The musicians of Contemporaneous

Each year I realize yet again how impossible it is to choose among the highlights, let alone write about them with any intelligence. This year is likely to be the last time I make the attempt. Every musical experience is illuminating, above all live performances, but also, particularly with ongoing advances in camerawork and technology, watching and listening online. I’m grateful, too, for the opportunity to be part of communities who love classical music of all stripes and who are generous in sharing their own responses and knowledge. I’ve learned a great deal from so many, and I only hope I’ve been able to give something of value back. Continue reading