John Adams

This summer marks my 25th and final season as music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, Calif. What an amazing adventure this has been, working with living composers and being at the center of so many new creations.

All composers have obsessions. For John Adams, a composer who decidedly broke with the past, that obsession is Beethoven, as heard in the new album Absolute Jest.

It was 30 years ago today that a single American hostage was killed by terrorists during the hijacking of a cruise ship by pro-Palestinian terrorists in the Mediterranean Sea. Leon Klinghoffer's death was the inspiration for a controversial opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, composed by John Adams, with a libretto by Alice Goodman and directed by Peter Sellars.

El Niño

Dec 13, 2014

It's John Adams's Nativity oratorio El Niño on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 13th at 9 pm. We'll fit in as much as we can, since the concert-length work is too long for our one-hour show.

Adams says that the birth of his daughter in 1984 was like a miracle. "Four people were in the room, and then there were five," he says, and that became the inspiration for his take on the Christmas story. Along with Latin and English, much of El Niño is in Spanish. The director Peter Sellars, who worked closely with the composer to create this, says that it's like a triptych that cannot be seen all at once. Unfold a panel to see what's there, and you hide another.

Dawn Upshaw, Willard White, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sing alongside chorus and orchestra in this grand Christmas-time pageant.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was among those who showed up at the Metropolitan Opera last night to denounce the production of The Death of Klinghoffer, which protesters say glorifies terrorism.

Chanting "Shame on the Met!" protesters, numbering about 400, said the performance of the 23-year-old opera was an affront to the memory of Leon Klinghoffer, a passenger on the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro that was hijacked by members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1985. Klinghoffer, 69, was shot in his wheelchair and dumped overboard.

This Floating World

Jul 18, 2014

Islands and dances and flutes seem to float on Now Is the Time, Saturday, July 19th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Haiku of Basho inspired Edie Hill's This Floating World for solo flute; Elena Ruehr's The Law of Floating Objects is for one flutist multiplied many times. An excerpt from A Floating Island is Matthew Greenbaum's chamber opera on an episode from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, where some are so lost in thought they don't see what's right in front of them.

The Habanera makes us think of Cuba and islands (okay, it's a stretch), and we find one in 5 Pages from John's Book of Alleged Dances by John Adams. Robert Ackerman improvises Havana Special, clarinet and bass, and there's just enough time for an Ackerman encore, Scena.

For the millennium, in 2000 American composer John Adams completed a compelling, large-scale oratorio based on the nativity story called El Niño. Now he's composed a companion piece, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a Passion oratorio mounted with his usual collaborator, the stage director and librettist Peter Sellars.

There's the unlikeliest motion on Now Is the Time, Sunday, October 6th at 10 pm. Kristjan Järvi conducts a live, rip-snortin' Roadrunner, a movement from the Chamber Symphony of John Adams. Singer-songwriter Gillian Welch's dark-edged Americana is on beautiful display in My Morphine, especially in this atomized arrangement by William Anderson of the Anderson-Fader guitar duo.

That leads nicely into the saxophone-and-piano Sleep Without Dreams, a lyrical work of Michael Jon Fink, and Dmitri Tymoczko's early string quartet This Picture Seems to Move. Andy Teirstein somehow combines into a piano trio Old West saloonery and the ecstatic mysticism of the dancing Rebbe, Baal Shem Tov, in Turn Me Loose.

Finally, for solo piano, is Terry Riley's answer to Sarah Cahill's request for music about either war or peace. He was "noodling around" on the piano one night, and his grandchildren asked him to keep playing this one bit. He did; it became Be Kind to One Another (Rag).

Twenty-five years ago today, Houston Grand Opera mounted the world premiere of Nixon in China, the first opera by a young composer named John Adams. Two days later, The New York Times described it as a "coy and insubstantial work" and "hardly a strong candidate for the standard repertory."

John Adams' rhythmically rich re-creation of a presidential trip to Beijing has established itself as a great American opera, a work of “clarity, simplicity, shocking elegance” that “will be around for the long haul” (The New York Times). A quarter-century after premiering at Houston Grand Opera under the leadership of David Gockley, this modern masterpiece made its San Francisco Opera premiere earlier this year featuring baritone Brian Mulligan. Lawrence Renes, whose conducting of Adams’ Doctor Atomic won praise from London critics, leads the orchestra.

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