The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Read a rave review of John DeMain’s current production of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” at the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York

July 29, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Some readers have asked The Ear:

How come John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Madison Opera, wasn’t conducting at last Saturday’s Opera in the Park?

The reason is not that DeMain was taking time off and enjoying a summer vacation.

Rather, he was busy guest-conducting an acclaimed production of George Gershwin’s African-American opera “Porgy and Bess” (below top) at the prestigious Glimmerglass Festival (below bottom) in upstate New York at Cooperstown.

DeMain has enjoyed a long association with both George Gershwin’s opera and the Glimmerglass Festival (below top and bottom).

And Madison music critic Greg Hettmansberger (below), who is writing a biography of DeMain, traveled there to hear and see the production.

He filed the following review on his website “What Greg Says”:

Now you know.

And can share in the pride.

Classical music: Which contemporary composer is Bach and which one is Handel? And is it peace or a truce? Philip Glass and Steve Reich appear together at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Which one do you prefer?

September 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The New York Times referred to them as Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Frideric Handel getting back together as contemporaries.

The Ear likes that comparison, although the older Baroque composers will doubtlessly remain a lot more influential than either of the newer contemporary ones.

The two “new guys” are the celebrated living American composers Steve Reich (below top) and Philip Glass (below bottom), both of them now 77 years old and considered pioneers of New Music and Minimalism.

Steve Reich

Philip Glass

The have apparently been estranged for quite a few years. But then they appeared last week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to help mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Nonesuch Records, a pioneering label that has been home to both of them. (Below is a photo of Philip Glass, left) and Steve Reich, by Betana Sikoria for The New York Times.)

Phlip Glass and Steve Reich CR Betana Sikoria NYT

By all accounts it was a momentous event, with sold-out houses, that stirred audiences to loud cheers when they played, including Steve Reich’s “Four Organs,” which is featured at the bottom in a YouTube video of the original 1970 recording that also featured Philip Glass. (Below, the two are performing the same work in a photo at BAM by Chad Batka for The New York Times.)

Steve Reich (left) and Philip Glass at BAM 2014 CR Chad Batka for NYT

Here is a story from the Deceptive Cadence blog by National Public Radio (NPR):

And here are two stories — one is a preview for background and the other is a review — that compared their friendship to a piece of music by Reich -– from The New York Times:

The Ear tends to like the music of Philip Glass more than Steve Reich, but not always.

Still, there is no getting round the influence of both men.

Which composer do you generally prefer and why?

And what is your favorite piece by each?

The Ear wants to hear.




Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra’s John DeMain is praised by The New York Times for his conducting in two productions at the acclaimed Glimmerglass Opera Festival in New York State. Highlights are an updated version of Verdi’s “Aida” that uses waterboarding; and Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars.”

August 9, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Madison musicians don’t make great music only in Madison.

If you didn’t already know it, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director and conductor John DeMain (below top, in a photo by James Gill) is spending the entire summer at the acclaimed Glimmerglass Opera Festival (at bottom) in upstate New York in Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is also located.

That is, in fact, the reason why DeMain could not conduct the Madison Opera’s record-breaking “Opera in the Park” concert last month. DeMain is the artistic director of the Madison Opera.

His wife Barbara is also there, as is their daughter Jennifer, who is studying singing with soprano Julia Faulkner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who got a job in the Glimmerglass Opera chorus for the summer.

On Tuesday, a review by senior music critic Anthony Tommasini of the updated version of Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera “Aida,” staged by Glimmerglass’ general director and artistic director Francesca Zambello with waterboarding and other contemporary references, got a front page laudatory review in the Arts section of The New York Times. (Below, in a photo by Kari Cadel of the Glimmerglass Festival, is Michelle Johnson as “Aida” and Noah Stewart as Radames.)

Tommasini also praised the production of Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” as “powerful” and reviewed a third opera, the baroque “Armide” by Lully, which had a different conductor.

Tommasini singled out DeMain — who also conducted an unamplified version of the popular musical “The Music Man” — especially for his “lush and urgent conducting” of the Weill opera, which is based on the Alan Paton’s anti-apartheid novel “Cry, the Beloved Country.” (He also praised the artist-in-residence bass-baritone Eric Owen, who played to raves as the evil dwarf Alberich (below) in the Metropolitan Opera’s new “Ring” cycle of Richard Wagner by Robert Lepage. The review is a great read.)

Here is a link:

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