The French connection. Time Out Chicago, January 31, 2008. Susan Graham sings Berlioz's Les Nuits d'ete this weekend with the Chicago Symphony and Pierre Boulez. That creamy voice of hers seems darn near ideal for Berlioz's music, and given the railings against ego-ridden singers to be found all over the place in his Memoirs and, even more wickedly deliciously, Evenings at the Orchestra, I think old Hector may have agreed.
Here's a clip of Graham singing "Le Roi de Thule," from a staged production of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust. Having sat through one production of this work at the San Francisco Opera (Warning: young critic eagerly overwriting), I'm inclined to agree with Berlioz's biographer David Cairns and Boulez, both of whom look askance at this sort of thing. "An unfortunate tragedy," I think Boulez called it back in Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship.
Speaking of which, Boulez was at the MusicNOW concert Monday night reviewed here, but didn't stick around for the beer-and-pizza reception. (I asked for water, and was told they only had beer. New Music Roadhouse could be a great contemporary series.) For those who've been there, you'll know the layout of the Harris Theater isn't quite ideal. The hall is underground, so you either have to walk down five flights of stairs or take the elevator to go from street level down to the hall. To get back out, you do it in reverse. It's rather laboriously labyrinthine.
Boulez, 83 years old this March, could be seen taking those stairs extremely quickly, his gaze firmly set two landings away.