By Ted AYALA
Looking back over the past year, I’m amazed at the unforgettable musical experiences I’ve been able to enjoy in the area. Great music making doesn’t only exist on recordings or in far-off places. The last year has proven that world-class music-making exist right here in our area – practically in our neighborhood.
Consider how fortunate we are to employ the services of the Glendale Philharmonic (GPO). The GPO has proven again and again that it is an ensemble on the rise. Its novel programming, dedicated musicianship, and community outreach have all ensured that this formidable group of musicians continues to thrive. While many orchestras would be content to rehash the classics, the GPO has given us little-heard gems such as the dazzling, “Carmen Suite” by Rodion Shchedrin based on themes by Georges Bizet. That any orchestra would play anything by Shchedrin is notable enough. That the GPO should not only meet but also relish the challenges that the composer presents to his orchestra is an indication of its quality. The next concert on Jan. 8 should prove to be another triumph to watch for.
In Eagle Rock, we have the Santa Cecilia Orchestra (SCO). Led by the charismatic Sonia Marie de Vega de Leon, the SCO is another ensemble that disproves the notion that a community ensemble will be slip-shod by nature. Not at all – the SCO is a cracker-jack ensemble of superb musicians that make short work of any technical demands. The SCO’s spotlighting of the art music of Latin America should be loudly applauded. A lot of people forget that Latin America has a vibrant classical music tradition – one that continues to this very day. We’re very fortunate to have the SCO to remind us of the musical masterpieces composed by Latin America’s greatest musical sons.
Sometimes one is confronted by music that blurs the divide between the high-brow and low. My encounter with Timur and the Dime Museum at the Los Angeles Central Library’s ALOUD series was one of the most surprising and happiest encounters I’ve had this year. Stepping sure-footedly between the worlds of art song, cabaret, and pop music, Timur Bekbosunov, star of the Dime Museum, may be one of the most exciting artists of today. His rendition of rock favorites informed by the world of opera is something that must be heard. Despite his free-wheeling act, Timur Bekbosunov is no musical slouch as he has some of the foremost composers of today’s avant-garde writing music expressly for him.
Finally, Intimate Opera of Pasadena’s (IOP) production of Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” will be a memory I will long treasure. Their dazzling and joyous production would have taught major opera houses a thing or two about how to mount an opera. No need for production gimmicks or crazy visuals. The best way to bring an opera alive and connect with the audience is by having a cast devoted to the music and a producer who serves the demands of the score. Many modern productions of opera tend to be so often about the producer. IPO knew better and Gian Carlo Menotti never sounded better.
What treasures 2011 will bring I can only imagine.