Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, John Adams!

Composer John Adams
 John Adams is one of the best known and most often performed of America's composers. Adams was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 15, 1947. During his youth, growing up in Vermont and New Hampshire, he was strongly influenced by the intellectual and cultural institutions of New England. He received both his BA and MA degrees from Harvard University, where he was active as a conductor, clarinetist, and composer. His principal teachers included Leon Kirchner, David Del Tredici and Roger Sessions.

Gerald Finley sings the aria "Batter, my heart"from Doctor Atomic:

In 1971, Adams began an active career in the San Francisco area, teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (1972-83) and serving as new music adviser and composer-in-residence for the San Francisco Symphony (1978-85). 

A number of his pieces have leading roles for baritones, including J. Robert Oppenheimer in Dr. Atomic, Nixon in Nixon in China and the critical roles of the captain, terrorist (Rambo) and Klinghoffer in The Death of Klinghoffer. He also wrote the Walt Whitman-inspiredpiece The Wound-Dresser, which is scored for baritone voice, 2 flutes (or 2 piccolos), 2 oboes, clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet (or piccolo tpt), timpani, synthesizer, and strings.

Thomas Hampson sings John Adams's The Wound-Dresser:

His creative output spans a wide range of media: works for orchestra, opera, video, film, and dance, as well as electronic and instrumental music. Such pieces as Harmonium, Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, and The Chairman Dances are among the best known and most frequently performed of contemporary American music. In these works he has taken minimalism into a new and fresh terrain characterized by luminous sonorities and a powerful and dramatic approach to form. He was the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer prize.

Joseph Maddalena sings "News, news, news..." from Nixon in China:

Ad for "Nixon in China" at the Eugene Opera
Upcoming performance of operas by John Adams include Nixon in China at the Eugene Opera on March 16 and 18. The role of Nixon will be played by barihunk Lee Gregory.

From March 10-18, the opera will be performed at Lyric Opera of Kansas City with James Maddalena reprising his definitive performance as Nixon, and barihunk Daniel Belcher playing Chou En-Lai. 

Nixon travels to France in April as the Théâtre du Châtelet  produces the opera with barihunks Franco Pomponi in the title role and Kyung Chun Kim as Chou En-Lai.

Sidney Outlaw and Franco Pomponi singing John Adams

The Death of Klinghoffer opens at the English National Opera on February 25th with Alan Opie as Klinghoffer, Christopher Magiera as the Captain and rising young talent Sidney Outlaw as Rambo. If you haven't heard Outlaw perform yet, he is not to be missed.


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