SummerFest Synergy concerts will merge classical, jazz, Kurt Weill, opera and dance
As unlikely as it may seem, vocal jazz star Cécile McLorin Salvant, acclaimed operatic countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, orchestral collective The Knights and Dance Heginbotham will perform – together and separately – at La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest. , from Wednesday to Sunday.
Teaming up with these accomplished artists, with dissimilar skills and varied genres, is no accident. They perform here in the third season of the Synergy Initiative, which was co-founded by Clara Wu Tsai and Summerfest artistic director Inon Barnatan.
“Clara and I wanted to bring in people from different fields who could create points where art forms can merge,” said Barnatan, speaking from the company’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.
“Because we often think in such rigid categories, it’s interesting to blur the lines a bit. We also want our 21st century concert hall to open up and be more innovative.
In tune with this spirit, the first concert in the Synergy series spotlights singer Salvant, who studied classical piano and baroque voice before forging her own brand of jazz. Her new album, “Ghost Song”, draws from a variety of genres and non-musical inspirations such as the books of Emily Brontë and Marcel Proust, visits to art museums and deep introspection.
On Wednesday, Salvant will perform a SummerFest concert at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall. She will be accompanied by pianist Sullivan Fortner, guitarist Marvin Sewell, percussionist Keita Ogawa and bassist Yasushi Nakamura. The evening will highlight “Ghost Song”, which includes pieces written by her and others.
“I try not to discriminate between my originals and the songs I perform,” Salvant said over email. “I want to blur those boundaries in my mind, as well as genre and even instrument boundaries.”
The following evening, Thursday, Salvant and pianist Fortner will join other musicians for “An Evening with Kurt Weill” at the Baker-Baum. The famous German composer, who died in 1950, wrote the satirical “Three Penny Opera” and “The Seven Deadly Sins”. His best-known songs include “Mack the Knife” and “September Song”.
“I think I’ve known ‘Mack the Knife’ for as long as I can remember,” Salvant said. “I record Weil’s songs because I really like them. They are surprising, funny and moving.
SummerFest artistic director Barnatan, who is good friends with Salvant and Anthony Roth Costanzo, predicts hearing their voices together will be “incredible”.
This spring, Costanzo reprized his 2019 lead role in Philip Glass’ “Akhnaton” at the Metropolitan Opera. He will be in London in early September for that city’s famous classical music festival, BBC Proms. He will perform “Glass/Handel”, an interdisciplinary work he created and recorded in 2018.
Costanzo returns to London at the end of September with New York cabaret legend Vivian Justin Bond. The two will do a month-long fall residency of “Only an Octave Apart,” which they premiered and performed in New York City earlier this year. Their album of the same name was released recently.
“Countertenors cannot be in certain operas; their repertoire is not Carmen, Tosca or La Boehme,” said Costanzo, who – like Salvant – is a Grammy Award winner.
“Repertoire with countertenors is rarely done, especially in this country. What can you do to have a more exciting career? It made me think beyond the limits of my art form.
Playing Weill is a welcome new opportunity for him.
“I’ve always liked Kurt Weill, but I’ve never sung his songs in my career. I like new challenges,” Costanzo said.
“Weill has a whole atmosphere in his music and his universe that comes out very strongly. His music has both a witty ironic element and a global melancholy. It’s fun to play those two things against each other. There is a lot of grain in his music, which suits me and Cécile.
“An Evening with Kurt Weill” will be a “semi-stage” concert guided by Zack Winokur, a sought-after director and co-founder of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC). He and Costanzo are longtime friends and colleagues.
“Zack is very unique in our business,” said Costanzo, who will join Winokur on Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the Artist Lounge, a free and informal SummerFest event. “He, like me, worked in all kinds of styles. He is able to bring this interdisciplinary know-how to what we do.
“What Zack does that is incredibly important to artists like Cecile, The Knights and Sullivan Fortner – who will also be performing that night – is he breaks down barriers to allow us all to truly be there. comfortable and to be ourselves. This is often how we can give our most convincing performances.
“At the concert, we’ll be doing more Weill music than anyone else, but we’ll be exploring a lot of other composers. We will do classical, jazz and American standards. It will be a fantastic assortment for the public.
The final part of the Synergy Series is a series of performances on Saturday and next Sunday at JAI, a small flex-use venue opposite the Baker-Baum.
The Knights, a New York-based chamber ensemble, arranged “The Planets” for just 10 musicians. Composer Gustav Holst’s immense and masterful trek through the celestial bodies will be presented in what SummerFest calls a “lightly immersive music, dance and theater” experience.
Four members of New York’s Dance Heginbotham will also be performing, a troupe known for its high energy and love of collaboration.
“We have four ‘Planets’ shows with 100 viewers each time,” Barnatan explained. “Basically, the public will surround us. It will be an intimate and interactive journey.
“The Synergy initiative allows us to see what we can do in the sandbox we have. And the result is these innovative and exciting events.
SummerFest: Synergy under influence: Cécile McLorin Salvant
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday; prelude interview at 6 p.m.
SummerFest: Synergy: An Evening by Kurt Weill, featuring Cécile McLorin Salvant and Anthony Roth Costanzo
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Both concerts are held at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center’s Baker-Baum Concert Hall, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla
SummerFest: Synergy: The Planets, featuring The Knights with Dance Heginbotham
When: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. next Sunday
Where: JHA at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla
Call: (858) 459-3728
On line: theconrad.org
Wood is a freelance writer.