A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy birthday Bernd Ulken

Bernd Ulken, a great Wagner fan, had a major birthday celebration this week, so I stayed at Cooperstown for the celebration. His wife Esther Nelson surprised him by having Tim Hoekman (Codirector of Glimmerglass Opera's young artists program) and me set some of Bernd's favorite German poems. The one I set was von Platen's Der Pilgrim vor St. Just.

Here's a link to a nice reading and translation of the poem by one Pavel Chichikov.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Glimmerglass: All Orpheus all the time

This summer, Michael MacLeod of Glimmerglass Opera, had the innovative idea to program all of the Glimmerglass repertoire around the Orpheus theme. I just saw them all in three days. The operas ranged from the familiar (Monteverdi, Gluck, and Offenbach) to the exotic (Glass and Haydn). The approaches ranged from the brilliant (Sam Helfrich's intriguing treatment of the Glass and Lillian Groag's elegant Gluck) to the horrific (Christopher Alden's trashing of the Monteverdi).

Glimmerglass did a fantastic job with all five productions. Even the Alden Monteverdi had moments of brilliance and maintained high musical values throughout.

None of these five operas completely keep you from asking "Why can't he avoid looking back at her?" or "What's with this arbitrary rule anyway?" but we're not really allowed to question the validity of old Greek myths, are we.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

William Gibson

I love what one of my favorite writers, William Gibson, said recently to Salon:

"I basically agree with Mr. Bigend in "Pattern Recognition" when he argues that our present has become so unutterably brief and ever-changing that we have no ground upon which we can stand and project a future historical arc as H.G. Wells and Robert Heinlein were able to. The short form of that is, none of us know what the hell is going to happen next."

And also: "somewhere now there's a team of people working on something that's going to profoundly impact your life in the next 10 years and change everything. You don't know what it is and they don't know how it's going to change your life because usually these things don't go as predicted."

...A challenging environment when trying to figure out where opera fits in. Perhaps our old stuff provides stability and comfort. Or perhaps its so day-before-yesterday.

For example, what if the two major opera houses in New York start doing "regietheater" How do we react to that? I mean, the professional theater in Memphis is doing Jerry Springer, the opera.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A parting word

Every summer I write songs while I'm in Hawaii and I did this one this year. I will post the music on my myspace music page soon. It's a little controversial, but it's the way I feel about how things are going there... more cars, more development, more conspicuous consumption.


Is that the sound of the surf
Or the noise of the cars?
The lights of the city
Obliterate the stars.
O Hawaii, what are you doing to yourself?

There's more and more for the rich
And less and less for the poor
Is the almighty dollar
Gonna be the only thing that's sure?
Oh Hawaii, What are you doing to yourself?

Pele would cry
And Queen Liliou would too.
Oh stop before it's too late
Oh Hawaii, Oh Hawaii
I'm so blue over you Hawaii.

Is paradise found
Gonna be paradise lost?
Are your land and your people
Going to pay the ultimate cost
Oh Hawaii,what are you doing to yourself?

If the law of the land
Is perpetuated in righteousness
Then it's time to be righteous
It's time for us to stop this mess
Hawaii, what are you doing to yourself?

Pele would cry
And Queen Liliou would too
Oh stop before it's too late
Oh Hawaii, Hawaii, Oh Hawaii
I'm so blue over you
I'm so blue over you
I'm so blue over you

Monday, August 6, 2007


Hawaii Opera Theatre uses its summer show to introduce new audiences to the company and to build bridges into the community. It is a real asset to them.

After the final performance at Hawaii Opera, everyone sings Aloha oe onstage. After so many years and so many wonderful friends here, it is actually too hard to participate in...

Back home to Memphis tomorrow!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Last performance this afternoon

4th and 5th shows

The Friday night and Saturday afternoon shows went well. The Saturday afternoon show was promoted as a family performance so the vibe was a little different--less clapping until the very end.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Old Hawaiian Farmers

Fred Cachola's presentation emphasized Kamehameha's skill in logistics, including building heiau and large military operations. Kam I was also good at feeding his people. These furrows, visible near the end of the day in the mountains of Kohala are what is left of large farming operations which supplied things like sweet potatos.

Kohala Coast

For the most part the Kohala coast line is rugged, with few beaches or harbors. It has an isolated beauty that hopefully will not be ruined by overdevelopment.


The native plants at Lapakahi State Park are suffering because the earthquake last year cut off their water supply. Water is being trucked in but some of the plants don't like chorine. All of the lauhala trees looked a little droopy while we were there. This variety has magnificent bark.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Today, we visited the Pu'ukohola Heiau, a sacred temple that was built by Kamehameha the great. It was one way he consolidated his mana on his way uniting the islands under his rule at the end of the 18th century. Some parts of the site were damaged by an earthquake last summer.

We also went to Lapakahi State Park, which is the site of a former Hawaiian fishing village.

We also visited Kamehameha's Birthplace is in a remote spot near Hawi. It is down a dirt road from the tiny Upulo Airport. It is very odd that the birthplace of Hawaii's most revered monarch is so inaccessable. The two birthing stones are revered objects.

Kohala Bound

It is an honor to be taken on a tour of Kohala (the northernmost part of the Big Island of Hawaii) by Fred Cachola. Fred is a longtime member of the HOT ensemble and has been in every show that I have conducted in Honolulu. Fred was born and raised in Kohala and is particularly active in Hawaiian affairs. For example, when we got to the visitor center at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park I found out he was one of the people who was instrumental in the creation of the park, which houses restored fishponds that were created by the Hawaiians. The park also has some extraordinary petroglyphs, including this one of a European ship.

Fred is still involved in Kohala, where is currently building a house. Fred has been part of the campaign to keep the Kohala coastline from being overdeveloped and turned into gated communities. My "tour" coincided with a chance for Fred to pass some of his knowledge on to his grandson and to be on-camera for a distance learning class being created by the Kamehameha Schools.