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February 2007 Archives

February 10, 2007

The First Emperor in a theater near you

The Dresser invites you into her dressing room to sit knee to knee for a short chat about The First Emperor, some of which will be gossip.


Don’t miss the upcoming opportunity to see a re-broadcast of the January 13 performance of The First Emperor that was done live at the Metropolitan Opera, but also shown in simulcast broadcasts in movie theaters around the United States and Canada that day.

EmperorScene.jpgPhoto by: Ken Howard

This time there are two dates Wednesday, March 7 at 7 pm and Sunday, March 11 at 1:30 pm. To find a movie theater, visit fathomevents.com and under Upcoming Events click on The Metropolitan Opera Series. Next, click on the little box that shows The First Emperor and then under EVENT INFO, click Theatre Locations. The movie theater locations are alphabetic by state, so scroll through till you find one near you. After finding your movie theater, you need to Google the movie theater name to find its website where you can reserve your tickets online. Yes, it is a little trouble, dear reader, but at $18-$19 you cannot beat the price for an intimate look at a new opera.

The Dresser attended the simulcast on January 13 at FAIRFAX TOWNE CENTER in Virginia and had a wonderful experience sitting in comfortable seats in a theater that was completely sold out. Besides being able to see close ups of Plácido Domingo as the Emperor and Elizabeth Futral as the Emperor’s headstrong daughter, the Dresser could see the Chinese instruments, the Waterphone (such an odd instrument invented by a San Francisco hippy), and Tan Dun conducting the musicians who were chanting as they played! Now tell me, when has anyone ever been in the orchestra pit of an opera during a live performance? Simulcasts might be a better experience than actually being at the Met, no matter how good your seats are. Well, of course, if you like to dress to the nines in silks, diamonds, and shoes made of buttery leather, the movie house is not for you! I went in my jeans.


Having just seen the film Dreamgirls and learned that Jennifer Hudson, an American Idol finalist, but a contest loser, had to be taught how to act like a diva (The Dresser loved Hudson’s performance both musically and dramatically), the Dresser was reminded that divas need flashy clothes to put their hot personalities across. Zhang Yimou, the director of The First Emperor, hangs with the best costume designers. Yee Chung Man, costume designer for Curse of the Golden Flower, has been nominated for an Oscar.

Flower.jpgPhoto by: Ms. Bai Xiaoyan

Emi Wada, a renowned costume designer, has worked with Zhang Yimou on the films Hero and The House of the Flying Daggers as well as the opera The First Emperor.

futralwhitesmall.jpgFutraldarksmall.jpgPhotos by: Ken Howard

Emi Wada won an Academy Award for Costume Design for her work on Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 film Ran. A friend of the Dresser told her recently that she went to a wedding where the bride’s gown had been designed by Emi Wada. The interesting part of the story is that the bride had a mobility problem similar to the Emperor’s daughter Yueyang who could not walk until she made love with her father’s childhood friend.

Just a sidebar here—composer Janet Peachey said one ought to compare Yueyang's sudden ability to walk to the scene in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors where Amahl gives his crutch to one of the three Kings and then miracle of miracles he can walk. Dr. Peachey said she believed Amahl's miracle but not Yueyang's.

Women fighting over men, men fighting over women, men fighting men are what most of these films and operas have in common. The Dresser offers another poem by the prolific late Hilary Tham. This poem addresses a power struggle between two girls.


At ten I knew the magic of words like
please and than you. I learned
their darker power from a girl who pushed
me from the last seat on the school bus.
She used words like karate kicks.

“Leh ka ma hai fa kai, leh ka ba hai fun dhung.”
Your mother’s a whore! Your father’s a rice bag.

Yielding the seat, I stared out the window
at the muddy waters of the river we crossed
daily to school, where crocodiles sometimes rose
to swallow in one gulp a woman whole—shoes,
Handbag and frantic eyes.

by Hilary Tham
fom Bad Names For Women

February 19, 2007

New Classical Music: Steven Gerber, Adolphus Hailstork

When the Dresser attended a meeting of the New Room Poets’ Workshop at the home of Judith McCombs and Ernst Benjamin last week, she said to Ernie how much she continues to enjoy the music of his cousin Steven Gerber.

She first heard Gerber’s music in January 2005 when the National Philharmonic Orchestra premiered his Clarinet Concerto at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater in Rockville, Maryland. Furthermore she has been walking around listening to Gerber’s Chandos CD Symphony No 1 and other work on her iPod.

“Ernie, what I like about Gerber’s music is its lyricism.” To this comment, Ernie said his cousin’s work was initially influenced by his teachers such as Milton Babbitt, who first made himself known with Three Compositions for Piano, the earliest examples of total serialization in music. (Many music lovers find serialization (using the twelve tone scale) un-listenable.) Then Ernie said Steven would be in DC on January 18 (2007) for a concert by the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic.


When the Dresser looked up the information on the Internet, she discovered that this concert would also feature music by Adolphus Hailstork, whose opera with David Gonzalez We Rise for Freedom: The John P. Parker Story will premiere with the Cincinnati Opera in October 2007. The Dresser, also known as the Steiny Road Poet, spoke with Hailstork in 1998 when she was looking for a composer to work with her on Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On. Excited, she contacted the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic to ask for last minute press tickets. The call back came from the Philharmonic’s conductor Ulysses S. James who was impressed that the Dresser knew about Gerber and Hailstork.

The concert featured the first movement of Gerber’s Symphony No. 1 as a Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic 2006 Composition Competition Finalist. Along with classical repertoire (Beethoven’s well known Violin Concerto, Op. 61, D Major for this program) the WMP is featuring one of their contest finalists in selected programs. They are also performing in this 2006-2007 season selected work by African-American composers. In the February 18 concert, WMP performed Hailstork’s Symphony No. 1 in its entirety.

When Gerber was asked to take a bow and provide a few comments, he said that the orchestra got the tempos of his work absolutely right.


What the Dresser likes about this movement is that the brooding minor register moves into a delicate lyricism expressed by the violins and then proceeds to an almost minimalist run that is answered by the plucking of cello strings. There is also something in this movement that reminds the Dresser of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and since it was snowing as the concert begun, the sound of birds in Gerber’s music was most welcomed.

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February 24, 2007

Marin Alsop Conducts Glass at the BSO

On February 22, 2007, Marin Alsop, the new conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, threw a gala birthday party entitled Life: A Journey Through Time for one of her favorite composers—Philip Glass. Glass, a native of Baltimore born January 31, 1937, until this time had never had his work played by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Alsop selected two major compositions for this program presented at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland.


Photo Credit: Clark Vandergrift

The first, Concerto for Saxophone Quartet, featuring guest artists of the Capitol Quartet was fit fanfare for the introduction of the absent 70-year-old composer to the overly appreciative audience who clapped after each of the first three movements until conductor Alsop sped up the beginning of Movement IV. The second work, an East Coast premiere and the title work Life: A Journey Through Time, was performed with a balletic display of images from nature that was projected across three huge screens mounted above the orchestra.


Because the Dresser adores symphonic music that features the saxophone, she won’t rush by Concerto for Saxophone Quartet, which was performed with gusto by the Capitol Quartet. Here’s a profile of the movements:

I: sweetly lyric.

II: more jazzy and syncopated, a great opportunity to show off the range of the sax family—soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.

III: opens blandly and somberly featuring the tenor sax. Toward the end of this movement comes a conversation between the soprano and alto saxophones.

IV: offers a quick tempo of shifting meters with lots of percussion and the alto sax giving way to more emphasis on the tenor and baritone sax.

Glass wrote two versions of this composition: orchestral and chamber. One of his most performed classical works, the piece was commissioned by German’s Raschèr Saxophone Quartet and this group premiered the work in Stockholm, Sweden in 1995. In case you think the sax belongs to America, and American Jazz at that, the Dresser wants her readers to know that the saxophone was invented for the orchestra in 1840 by Antoine (Adolphe) Sax, a Belgian living in Paris.


So why wasn’t Philip Glass at the East Coast premiere of Life: A Journey Through Time? Maestro Alsop explained that Glass was on his way to Hollywood to attend the 79th annual Academy Awards ceremony. Glass was nominated for his original score that accompanies the film Notes on a Scandal that stars Judi Densch and Cate Blanchett. This is the third time he has been nominated. Alsop, who, as a violinist played on several Philip Glass recordings and was a soloist in the 1983 U. S. premiere of his multimedia work, The Photographer, did not seem to begrudge the composer’s choice. Still, Alsop was a key catalyst in the creation of the seven-part Life: A Journey Through Time.


In 2004, Frans Lanting, a nature photographer frequently commissioned by National Geographics, came to Alsop in her capacity as Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and suggested that his project on the evolution of life might be worthy of musical collaboration.


Photo Credit: Paul Schraub

In early 2005, Alsop and Lanting met with Glass who, although he said he didn’t have time for this, agreed to the commission. What transpired was a score adapted by composer/arranger Michael Riesman from works that Glass originally composed for smaller ensembles or solo instruments. In fact, all of the seven parts, except “Out of the Sea,” have some association to film collaborations that include settings for Dracula (“Elements (second part)), La Belle et La Bête (“Out of the Dark”), and the 1996 film The Secret Agent (“Elements (first part)). What makes the running visual projects dance is the work of visual choreographer and video editor Alexander V. Nichols.

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About February 2007

This page contains all entries posted to THE DRESSING in February 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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