Friday, April 27, 2012

Singing Stein

Just enjoyed an evening of odd, wonderful Gertrude Stein. Singing Stein is Encompass New Opera Theatre's contribution to Gertrude's Paris Festival at Symphony Space. The program note, written by Encompass Artistic Director Nancy Rhodes, describes the background and the works:

Tonight you will see Virgil Thomson's Capital Capitals, the first musical stage piece he set to Stein's words in 1927. Thomson turned the text that Stein wrote in 1923 using demographic field reports and statistics into a competitive musical conversation, a joust for four gentlemen.... During World War I, Gertrude drove an ambulance in the South of France, and became intrigued with the sunny cities of Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon and Les Baux. In Capital Capitals, she fashioned a garrulous discussion among four men who represent those cities. Capturing her wit, Thomson employs a panoply of rhythmic variety, using some of his Missouri plainchant, C majorish ditties, and undulant Spanish rhythms, both lyrical and satirical.

The second piece on tonight's program was written by the distinguished composer Ned Rorem. He set Gertrude Stein's melodrama, Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters to music in 1968, creating a tour de force for five singers and piano. Stein wrote the piece in 1943 during the war, when she and Alice B. Toklas were living in the south of France. Stein, a great fan of detective stories and mysteries, weaves children's games of murder into an exploration of reality.

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