Posts Tagged ‘Scott Curry’
PICTURE: Scott Curry playing the Liszt piano in the Sondershausen Palace in a concert last weekend.
My attention was recently drawn to Opera Insider’s comments regarding my being “let go ” by the “artistic” director of the opera company in Perth.
Without the Insider knowing me (or me knowing him/her), in writing ” It is a sad day when a senior musician feels threatened by a musical colleague he has appointed.”, he has (along with many others in the Australian musical community) shown astute intuition, and hit the nail squarely on the head. The “senior” (I interpret this as meaning a senior citizen rather than someone to be respected) obviously (and not only for me) has a reputation preceding himself as one who does not tolerate anyone who he imagines is challenging his “musicianship”. If one quote may sum up the attitude of this person to other less provincial colleagues than himself, let it be from Tanya Buchdahl Tintner’s magnificent biography of her husband Georg (OUT OF TIME)- the “local timpanist”, as he was at the time, is quoted as calling Tintner “one of those Central European parasites” keeping perfectly good Australians out of a job. Australian he is- whoever said that he was “perfectly good” is not acknowledged.
Having been paid a princely sum to vacate my position, in which I was enjoying the respect of, and the work with, the principals, chorus, other local singers, as well as students and staff at the University of Western Australia, and looking forward to the many concerts that had been offered to me in the months to come, I was able to holiday extensively in “the east” before returning home to Berlin in late May.
The generous payout enabled me to enjoy the early European summer and an abundance of what I’d been missing in that large mining town. Although it’s been a few months since then, the first highlights that immediately come to mind are performances of ELEKTRA (at the Staatsoper, with who must currently be the world’s best exponent of this role, Evelyn Herlitzius; and at the Leipzig opera, with the magnificent Doris Soffel, with whom I’ve had the honor and pleasure of sharing the concert stage on several occasions, stealing the show as Klytämnestra). The Staatskapelle and the Gewandhausorchester played brilliantly, exhibiting their extensive experience in this repertoire. (Perth 2012 ???) I saw the new Berlin productions of MACBETH and SAMSON ET DALILAH, Barenboim playing the Liszt concerti, a fascinating play, COLLABORATION by Ronald Harwood, about the friendship between Richard Strauss and Stefan Zweig, and the subsequent circumstances surrounding the creation of their opera DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU. The last opera I caught before the summer break was however in Warsaw, in one of the most superb opera houses I know- Szymanowski’s KING ROGER (in Polish, of course, but with English surtitles !). No visit to Warsaw is complete without going to the Chopin Museum (on my previous trip there it was booked out for days to come), which, since the bicentenary of his birth, has been Disneyfied to within an inch of it’s life. On a more modest scale and well worth the harrowing trip of the 50 or so kilometers west of Warsaw, is his birthhouse in Zelazowa Wola ( a town of 65 inhabitants!). The original house has been tastefully restored but is almost upstaged by the extensive and impressive gardens that surround it. Discreetly positioned Bose speakers emit nocturnes and polonaises from between the shrubberies which, after the stress and noise of Warsaw, was very calming, but for the army of gardeners (who far outnumbered the visitors on the day I was there), on a day to day basis, I imagine to be quite numbing.
It was then back to work, at first at the Lotte Lehmann Academy for young opera singers and then the Lotte Lehmann Week, a solid month of coaching, group teaching, choral conducting and concerts in her birthplace, Perleberg, exactly between Berlin and Hamburg. These courses have been gathering momentum to such an extent, that the town has purchased a150 year-old building on the historical marketplace, and is restoring it for the use of the Academy. I was teaching in the museum (which was the building where Lehmann went to school), using the grand piano that had belonged to her in her in Santa Barbara, California, and that had been donated to the collection of Lehmann memorabilia that is featured there. I was honored to be the first to play it’s first “airing” a few years ago (accompanying Australia’s own Merlyn Quaife, who was teaching there). A Knabe grand, certainly played in Lehmann’s home by the likes of Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Klemperer, Milhaud and Lotte herself, it has a warm and rich sound, and will be completely restored in the near future.
A personal highlight for me was conducting the chorus in the final concert, in which we performed two works by Georg Tintner (Tanya had kindly enabled me access to the yet unpublished scores) from around 1933, and probably not performed since.
Back in Berlin, the season at the Deutsche Oper started with the RING, from which I saw WALKÜRE und SIEGFRIED. I have been seeing this RING regularly since it first appeared in the mid-eighties, and while it might be considered old, it has lost none of it’s initial fascination (dominated by the omnipresent “time-tunnel”), and the ever changing casts are always a good cross-section of what’s important in the Wagnerian scheme of things. Again it was Doris Soffel (jumping in at the last minute as Fricka) who triumphed, and while we’re speaking of world-class, Burkhard Ulrich as Mime is barely to be surpassed. Orchestrally it was in the best hands (considering RHEINGOLD, WALKÜRE and SIEGFRIED were played on three consecutive nights), which should be expected from a house that has Wagner as it’s staple repertoire. (Melbourne 2013 ???)
These evenings were the perfect inspiration for a concert of music by Liszt and Wagner that I played a few days later in the magnificent Riesensaal of the Sondershausen castle (the hall of the giants, housing sixteen massive statues of Greek gods) on the so-called “Liszt piano”, a Bösendorfer built in 1875 (and only completely restored in 2010) that had been played by Liszt on his numerous visits to Sondershausen, the last time shortly before his death. A day after his 200th birthday in October, I’ll be playing more Liszt, this time in Berlin, sharing the stage with the biographer Oliver Hilmes reading from his recently published “Franz Liszt- Biography of a Superstar”.
The coming weeks are an absolute smorgasbord in our two opera houses, and I especially look forward to WOZZECK, FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, DER ROSENKAVALIER and a new DON CARLO.
Many years ago, a friend in Berlin who had been watching an Australian series on TV called “Neighbours”, asked me rather cautiously if I knew anything about Perth. I said no, just that it was very far away, to which, explaining his curiosity, he added “if a character leaves the series, they either die or move to Perth”. Well, I’m very much back from the dead, and if there is one quote from Tanya Tintner’s book that would refer to my time in that isolated place… Georg Tintner after a church concert in New Zealand in 1943- “These good people really do what they can. But how laughable the whole thing is! How unnecessary for them, what a waste of energy for me…”
Keep up the good work Mr. (Mrs?) Insider,
Best wishes from Berlin,
Scott Curry is a Brisbane born Australian pianist, vocal coach and conductor. He studied piano with the Schnabel pupil Nancy Weir at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. He moved to Berlin 30 years ago and worked there at the University of the Arts. He has also taught at the Lotte Lehmann Academy and the Sydney Conservatorium. He has appeared in concert and worked with internationally acclaimed singers such as Doris Soffel, Jochen Kowalski, David Wakeham, William Matteuzzi, Merlyn Quaife and Anke Höppner. In Australia he has worked with Queensland Opera and State Opera of South Australia and performed at the Melbourne and Barossa Festivals.
As soloist, Lied pianist and chamber musician he has appeared at the Berlin State Opera, the Dresden Festival for Contemporary Music, the Berlin Festwochen and concertized on the Liszt piano in Bayreuth. He has conducted Baroque and contemporary repertoire at the Stuttgart State Opera, the Komische Oper Berlin, the Düsseldorf 6 Days of Opera Festival, the Rheinsberg Music Academy, the Herrenhausen Festival, the Berlin Chamber Opera as well as the German première of Prokofiev’s Maddalena, the Berlin première of Händel’s Amadigi di Gaula and the European première of Gordon Kerry’s Medea. As director of musical studies, repetiteur and chorus master he has worked on about 80 different operas in Germany and Austria.
Scott was appointed as the new Head of Music for the West Australian Opera with great fanfare in July of 2010. He returned to Australia to take up this appointment after living in Germany for 30 years, hoping to work with singers and share his extensive knowledge of German opera. West Australian Opera’s Artistic Director, Richard Mills said at the time of his appointment “We feel fortunate to have secured Scott as the company’s Head of Music. His musical skills and expert knowledge of operatic repertoire will be highly valued in this unique position.” . The Weekend Australian‘s Perth music critic, Mark Coughlan, said he had hoped Curry would help raise the musical standards at WA Opera.
Scott was heavily involved in the collaboration between the Western Australian Opera and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions production of a major Baroque opera for the Perth International Arts Festival in 2015 (see article on the proposed production from the 31st May 2011 on this site).
3 months into his probationary period he was acrimoniously ‘let go’ by the Artistic Director, Richard Mills in an operatic drama befitting of Wagner himself.
Curry had offered to help Mills prepare his work with Elektra and the Ring cycle, which Mills is due to conduct in a $16 million production for Opera Australia. One observer has suggested Curry may have assumed too much importance at the Western Australian Opera.
Scott is quoted as saying that he had a wonderful time in Perth with people who were grateful for what he was doing. He returned to Berlin at the end of May this year to work with musicians who appreciate him.
His departure leaves a significant gap for the Western Australian Opera, especially with Richard Mills being so busy with his composing and conducting commitments. It is a sad day when a senior musician feels threatened by a musical colleague he has appointed.
Another fine Australian musician sadly lost to our shores.
Management and staff at the West Australian Opera are working with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions towards the production of a major Baroque opera in 2015.
The production is anticipated to be mounted in conjunction with the Perth International Arts Festival. International and Australian experts in Baroque music, drama, dance and visual spectacle will recreate a major Baroque work, with all its emotional impact, for modern Australian audiences.
West Australian Opera’s musical team, will work with researchers from Australia and overseas to ensure not only a cutting-edge production, but major research outcomes produced and publicised through industry internships, masterclasses, an international symposium and public events.
Scott Curry, the recent short lived and respected Head of Music for the West Australian Opera was to have been be actively involved in this project.
It is unclear which opera is being considered for production, or whether the production will be affected by the recent resignation of the West Australian Opera Artistic Director, Richard Mills to take up the same appointment at the Victorian Opera effective from the commencement of 2013.