By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Mozart: Exsultate, Jubilate, K. 165 (Kiera Duffy, soprano); Serenade in D Major, K. 320, Posthorn
Friday, May 25, 2012 • Walt Disney Concert Hall
Next performances: Tomorrow at 2 p.m. (includes the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro)
“Casual Friday” concerts have always been a somewhat odd creation: a truncated version of the week’s Los Angeles Philharmonic program played without intermission, preceded by a talk from an orchestra member and followed by a question-and-answer period or a chance to schmooze with orchestra members amid drinks afterwards. The idea is to create a shorter program aimed at those not used to attending an orchestral concert, although if you factor in the post-concert conviviality, it’s usually not much shorter, and many of those in attendance are concert veterans.
This week’s program, shoehorned between performances of the orchestra’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Walt Disney Concert Hall is already short; in fact, if they had started at 8:05 instead of 8:11, Gustavo Dudamel and his reduced forces could have added the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and still ended at 9:30. They could play the entire program tomorrow without intermission and call it “Casual Sunday.”
However, any concert with young American soprano Kiera Duffy (pictured left) as the centerpiece is always a major event, IMHO, and last night validated that opinion. Her vehicle was Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, which Mozart wrote at the age of 17 during his third visit to Milan. The three-movement work is best known for its jubilant “Alleluia” final section, which, by the way, Duffy, Dudamel and the Phil took at quite a brisk clip. Duffy sang the piece with a gleaming tone, sailed exquisitely through the runs and trills, and delivered sublime musicality throughout the 17 minutes.
Dudamel (who conducted without a score, although Duffy used one) and the orchestra supported their soloist sympathetically.
The other piece on the program was Mozart’s Posthorn Serenade, which Dudamel and the orchestra had played two weeks ago on Thursday and Saturday. As was the case then, the orchestra played wonderfully last night, with the winds (most notably David Buck, flute Marion Arthur Kuszyk, oboe, and Sarah Jackson, piccolo) and James Wilt on posthorn holding the major share of the spotlight. Dudamel seemed more relaxed and animated in his conducting.
• The Phil concludes its 2011-2012 indoor season next weekend (Thursday through Sunday) with the world premiere of John Adams’ oratorio, The Gospel According to the Other Mary. This is a bookend to Adams’ nativity oratorio, El Niño, which had its premiere in December 2000 in Paris and was later performed in Los Angeles.
Dudamel conducts the orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, six soloists and three narrators (counter tenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Nathan Medley — Bubeck and Cummings performed in the world premiere of El Nino). Mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor sings the role of Mary Magdalene.
The first half of The Gospel According to the Other Mary tells the Biblical stories of the family of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus (including the raising of Lazarus from the dead). The second half deals with Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.
As they did with El Niño, Adams and librettist Peter Sellars weave contemporary writings into the Biblical stories that are at the heart of TGAOM, using material from American social activist Dorothy Day and poet/essayist June Jordan, contemporary poet Louise Erdrich and Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos, along with the 12th-century mystic and abbess Hildegard of Bingen. Moreover, as was the case with El Niño, the orchestra plays a central role in the new work.
A fully staged version of this new oratorio will be performed next March, first in Los Angeles and then in New York, London, Lucerne and Paris.
Information (which includes a link to Adams discussing the new piece): www.laphil.com
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.