Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Maiden Trip to Texas

I've been in California the last few days on the mini-tour of BNF for Yale alumni with Yale School of Music students (Chrystal Williams, Eric Barry and Vince Vincent). The events went very well: curiously, the three rooms we played in could not have been more dissimilar. The space at NYU was a tiny black-box, filled to the brim with people, the singers standing three feet in front of the first row, with me at a spinet; the rehearsal room at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. was huge, fluorescent-lit, efficient but charm-free, with the audience having lots of room; and the University Club in S.F. put us in a beautiful, elegant room with a breathtaking view of the city. It was fun mixing with the three crowds, too.

Then I returned to L.A. to spend the weekend. I got to hear the L.A. Philharmonic in Disney Hall, which I think is one of the most thrilling architectural experiences I have had: the outside of the building, the lobbies and the auditorium are all full of wonder, detail, excitement. The sound was clean and bright. I liked it so much I'm going back to catch the organ recital today! (The program, by the way, featured a 1999 work by Qigang Chen, Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto, in a powerful and fresh interpretation by Joyce Yang, and "Ein Heldenleben," which — perhaps due to jetlag? — seemed to me, except for bits here and there, a terrific self-indulgent bore. Oh well....)

The next day I had another architectural and artistic high visiting the Getty Museum for the first time: indescribably uplifting in every way. I had no idea what I was in for. The interplay of outdoors and indoors, nature and art, curved and straight lines, colors, textures, the views! — I didn't want to leave! Just these two complexes are worth a trip to L.A. (And taking buses has been an adventure — you know, they work! — and a cheap way to sight-see. Having an iPhone to tell me where I was also helped....)

So on with the story:


I flew to Fort Worth last spring to catch FWO’s 2009 season: Cenerentola (Cinderella), Carmen, and Dead Man Walking. I had heard and read about Fort Worth’s museums, and was eager to see them; I got to the Kimbell and the Modern and they were indeed top-notch, not only for their collections but architecturally as well (and I had a great lunch at the Modern looking out on its pool). The downtown area was very cute, but deserted — I later learned I had arrived on the very day that the dread of the swine flu virus had hit its peak and the FW school system was shut down — the only one in the country to do so. Poor Darren, the general director, was fending off calls asking if the opera was going to go on or not. You bet it was!

Bass Hall, which opened as recently as 1998, was familiar to me from photos: unique and is quite unforgettable once you’ve seen it. In person it was every bit as impressive as I guessed it would be. Some have called it the higher neo-deco kitsch, but frankly we could use more of it.... Inside, the lobby was very pleasant to be in, light and all marble; and the auditorium is wonderful, not only to look at but acoustically. The theater is state-of-the-art and you can do just about anything you’d like in it in terms of theatrical production.

The first music I heard in the hall were the opening soft staccato chords of the overture to Rossini’s Cenerentola — not anything that will blow your socks off. And yet I was immediately impressed by the orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony, playing in the pit. These chords, so exposed, bare and demure, sounded beguiling, rounded, telling. This superb ensemble, I thought, is going to be playing my score! Of course, I’ve had other orchestras play my music, but it is always a thrill, and this will be on an entirely larger scale. I couldn’t be in better hands!

I also met many — many! — nice folks down there who either work for the opera, are on the board, or donors, or simply opera lovers. The most amazing coincidence was finally meeting one lovely Cuban woman who had been a student of Dolores Koch back in Cuba and remained a life-long friend of hers. Lolita had told me about her: she has lived in Fort Worth for many years, married to a retired Texan doctor, and is on the board of the opera. This delightful couple is another reason I look forward to returning to Fort Worth.


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