The Lusty Month of May Has Arrived

Sam Black

Scene from Carmina Burana movie -
Scenes from Carmina Burana movie -

It is officially May now, and like all those folks who get to spend a weekend in the country, it’s time to get engaged with watching little things grow. Nothing is truly new under the sun, and young men and women in the thirteenth century were very similar to young men and women in the twenty-first century. And I mean young men and women of all ages, of course. So did Carl Orff.
It’s been six years since the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra programmed the Carmina Burana, a set of vigorous lyrics from upper Bavaria in the Middle Ages, set to even more vigorous music by German composer Carl Orff (1895-1982). About 200 singers - from age 8 to 80 - will join the vibrant DSSO this coming Saturday night (May 7) for the final classical concert of the season. I certainly hope you will personally buy the last available ticket and make Symphony Hall overflow.
This will be a concert performance, as opposed to the grand visual spectacle of dance and costume that Orff imagined being part of this music. You can watch Carmina Burana - the movie, and you can watch several other computerized versions that have all sorts of actors, actresses, and images, celebrating the beginning of Spring, the inebriating effects of the Tavern, and the amorous joys of the Court, hosted by none other than Venus and Cupid themselves.
All the same, the musical effect will be throbbing, tender, rambunctious, amorous, and governed by the capricious wheel of Fortune, which spins out of control when it concerns human plans and ambitions. If you think this sounds frivolous, you are probably correct. But consider - I read last week that Carmina Burana has been performed live on this planet Earth at least once every day of the year for each of the past thirty years! This year, on the evening of May 7, 2016, it will happen in Duluth, MN, under the stimulating leadership of Music Director Dirk Meyer. I dare you to be absent!

Seventeen opera excerpts in two hours

Again this year, the Opera Studio at UMD, under the leadership of Alice Pierce, presented a dazzling variety of opera scenes, ranging from Monteverdi in the early seventeenth century, to Benjamin Britten, in the middle of the twentieth century. At least twenty-four different singers shared these cameos, in costume, and with plenty of energy to tease the audience in wondering what the rest of each opera might have to offer.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Perhaps you recognize this line, part of a poem by Pavel Friedman, written during the short time he spent at Terezin, before he was deported to Auschwitz and murdered. Writer Celeste Respanti created a one act play based on several of the experiences recounted by survivors of the Terezin experience. The Denfeld Theater Department, under the direction of Matthew Pursi, presented this drama last weekend and I applaud them for their choices. Thirteen young actors shared a variety of perspectives about Terezin, collected from the writings that survived the individuals. Duluth student Pa Ia Xiong was on stage throughout, since she portrayed one of the few survivors of the experience. By the end of the drama, she was the only one who did survive. Friedman’s poem The Butterfly is one of those precious moments caught in time, never to be fully realized. Thank you, Denfeld, for keeping these realities in our consciousness.

Homegrown and Chamber Music

As most of you know, the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival is in full swing through Sunday afternoon, May 8. Then on Tuesday evening you can catch the DSSO in chamber form at the Duluth Depot sharing the lively Symphony No. 2 by none other than Ludwig van Beethoven. It’s great to be in Duluth, in May, in the sunshine, and basking in the arts.