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In the title role, Johan Botha offered a powerful, ringing tenor with tireless vocal heft. After three hours, his steely top tones were still secure and thrilling. The rich, mellow warmth of Zeljko Lucic's strong baritone commanded attention. His beautiful cantabile line brought forth memories of Ettore Bastianini and Robert Merrill. This singer is the authentic Verdian article. (Lucic's teacher and coach is the great Yugoslavian mezzo Biserka Cvejic.) As the tormented King Phillip II, James Morris showed serious signs of vocal wear, his pitch sometimes unsteady. As the evening wore on, he gained vocal strength and freedom. His aria 'Ella giammai m'amo' was movingly projected. Morris was commanding in his scene with the Grand Inquisitor. A dark basso profundo, Paata Burchuladze was vociferous and frightening as that evil character. In a piece of Technicolor casting, the Kirov's Evgeny Nikitin unfurled a deep, typically black Slavic bass as the mysterious monk. Kiera Duffy impressed with a lovely lyric soprano as Tebaldo. Ileana Montalberti's high floating tones were indeed heavenly (as the celestial voice in the auto-da-fe scene). Under John Oliver's strong direction, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (singing without scores) offered thrilling ensemble vocalism. Levine produced an evening of high voltage, exciting Verdi.

Generation of 1938 - composers at Tanglewood. Photo © 2007 Michael J Lutch
Generation of 1938 - composers at Tanglewood. Photo © 2007 Michael J Lutch

The Tanglewood Music Center's Festival of Contemporary Music is a festival within a festival. Under the direction of John Harbison, this year's event was devoted to the Generation of '38 -- an astonishingly large and varied group of composers born in 1938, give or take a year. At the two concerts I attended the stylistic range was vast, the quality of compositional invention uneven. At the opening concert on 29 July at Seiji Ozawa Hall, David Borden's electronic Earth Journeys: For Alvin Curran, written for the 1973 film The Exorcist, was the essence of cinematic horror in tone but also an early example of repetitive, minimalist principles. Harvey Sollberger's The Advancing Moment (1981), a coarse, loud exercise, did anything but exert forward momentum. It was a test of instrumental extremes that taxed the talents of the student musicians to little avail.

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Copyright © 4 September 2007 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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