Why does L.A. need its own summer classical music festival? For answers, look 6,000 miles away
A tale of two exalted European city festivals begins with surprising signifiers. Conspicuously tacked on a press office bulletin board at the tony Salzburg Festival is a large photo of John Cage. The leading 20th century anti-establishment American artist is — at least in this small Salzburg dominion through which artists, writers and administrators regularly pass — a bastion of the classical music establishment.
At that other prestigious address for classical music in summertime, Lucerne, Switzerland, posters and program books are centered with the words PRIMA DONNA in large type, the I being a graphic of a conductor’s baton extending from the manicured red nail of a lady’s right hand, which is encircled by bees. This year’s theme of the Lucerne festival is the empowerment of women in classical music, particularly as composers and conductors.
Outside observers have found such queen bee business a wee bit condescending, but given that parts of Switzerland gave women the vote only in the 1970s, this is a statement. So too is the fact that the artistic director designate of the Salzburg Festival is Austrian pianist Markus Hinterhäuser, a modern music specialist known for his penetrating recordings of John Cage’s New York School.
Social progress can seem slow in this part of the world. Tradition and history weigh heavily on Switzerland and particularly Austria, where you occasionally encounter opera goers in lederhosen.
Standard repertory and standard stars prevail as they always have in both places. Audiences remain well-heeled. As always, the festivals cater to the classical music business; it can be as easy to run into an orchestra manager or artist’s representative in Salzburg or Lucerne as it is a movie producer in Cannes.
Still something startling is in the air. Lucerne celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2013 with the theme “Viva la Revolución” and festival honchos showed up for a gala event wearing Che garb. Salzburg has yet to announce next year’s program, Hinterhäuser’s first season, but Peter Sellars has said that he will be back at the festival for the first time in almost two decades.
Salzburg and Lucerne are special places. As destination festivals, they have lost none of their importance in the Internet age, however much our expectation is that anything that matters is immediately and effortlessly available.
Indeed the website medici.tv has a smattering of this year’s offerings thus far, including a new production of Gounod’s “Faust” in Salzburg and Riccardo Chailly’s compelling performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. As I write, I am listening on the BBC Radio 3 website to a London Proms broadcast of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla conducting her first program as music director as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and with a little imagination I can feel the excitement in the Royal Albert Hall.
But vicarious reality is really equivocal reality. I’m not there, I’m at my keyboard, half listening, fooling myself while allowing Grazinyte-Tyla’s thrilling Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony to help speed my typing.
A festival, on the other hand, is a concentrated excursion away from the computer and the quotidian. It needn’t always be a special destination. The Proms, the Berlin Festival, Paris Autumn and Prague Spring and other city festivals are primarily for residents. A few small, out-of-the-way American cities have small destination festivals of note — Ojai, close to home, is one. But Lincoln Center Festival in July comes closest to a big international festival of the performance arts, and it has become less ambitious and less provocative than it once was.
What about Los Angeles? As the city weighs the feasibility of its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, let us remember what it meant in 1984 when L.A. mounted an Olympic Arts Festival that changed the complexion of performance arts in Los Angeles. Do we have it in us to do it again by, say, reviving the biannual Los Angeles Festival, the follow-up to the Olympic Arts Festival, which lasted only until 1993 and had ambitions to put us in the league with Berlin and Paris?
First, though, it might be worth considering how Salzburg and Lucerne did it, and how what they do now reverberates around the world.
The Salzburg Festival was founded in 1920 in Mozart’s quaint hometown at the foot of the Austrian Alps to be an international outpouring of opera, concerts and theater from the leading artists of the day. The Lucerne Festival came along 18 years later in reaction to Salzburg having become far too appealing to Hitler and his SS contingent. So the adamant anti-Fascist Arturo Toscanini started a festival on the shores of Lake Lucerne at the foot of the Swiss Alps.
Both festivals enhanced their reputations after World War II with star conductors, notably Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg and Wilhelm Furtwängler in Lucerne. Recordings of concerts and operas from the festivals automatically had the stamp of quality. An air of exclusivity wafted over both places as new concert halls and opera houses were built and offerings became more lavish.
Today Lucerne, which is primarily devoted to concert music, has a budget of around $27 million, while Salzburg, which produces opera and theater as well as concerts, boasts a budget more than double that.
That kind of bankrolling (most of which is private support) can, of course, lend an air of exclusivity, which both festivals have worked hard to lessen, while becoming much more expansive. And to that end, they sponsor education projects, foster emerging artists and commission new work. In Salzburg the lasting contribution from this summer is likely to be the premiere of Thomas Adés’ opera, “The Exterminating Angel,” a work meant to challenge the very essence of status quo — shockingly so in its harsh depiction of stymied high society — which will now be done at Royal Opera in London and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
I was also stuck by the Salzburg debut of pianist Yuja Wang. She may be on the flashy side for the more conservative audiences, but she couldn’t have been more modestly respectful — or daring — than to step into eminent Salzburgian shoes. At a legendary 1970 song recital here, German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, two of the most celebrated musicians of their time, performed Brahms’ song cycle “Die Schöne Magelone.” This summer, in the gilded great hall of the Mozarteum, Wang became the steady hand that saved overwrought baritone Matthias Goerne from his excesses and helped signal a new maturity for the 29-year-old pianist.
At Lucerne, a number of worthy women conductors — Grazinyte-Tyla, to be sure, but also the likes of the American big-band jazz leader Maria Schneider and the adventurous Canadian singer-conductor Barbara Hannigan — are getting important exposure. The biggest news, though, is likely to be the contribution from Olga Neuwirth, this year’s composer in residence.
I heard a performance of her impressive recent immersive work, “Le Encantadas,” in which the audience was surrounded by instrumental groups and electronic music from loudspeakers. It is a gripping evocation of the Galapagos, inspired by Herman Melville’s voyage to the South American islands, that revealed an alluring and unsettling strangeness even one of America’s greatest writers could not capture as well.
Now back home. Arguments could be made for and against Los Angeles becoming a major festival city. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, where Grazinyte-Tyla began as a Dudamel fellow and is associate conductor, does an exceptional job promoting young talent and commissioning new work. Schneider was a featured artist five years ago at the Ojai Music Festival; Hannigan will be its music director in 2019. Not all that serves as news on the European festival circuit is necessarily news to visiting Angelenos.
Moreover, much of what was new and exciting in dance and theater at the Olympic Arts Festival, which opened with Pina Bausch, the choreographer then unknown in the U.S., is now regularly presented by the Center for Art of Performance at UCLA and REDCAT. Even so, we are a multicultural city that barely scratches the surface of consequential work created in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. For that we need a festival.
So what would it take? First of all, money. Michael Haefliger, Lucerne’s visionary executive and artistic director, told me that if L.A. is going to present a festival it would require a large-scale, full-time operation.
Robert Fitzpatrick, the former president of CalArts who created the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, said that civic enthusiasm is essential to doing something exceptional. “A festival,” he said over the phone from Long Island, N.Y., “has to be a moment of discovery.”
Fitzpatrick reminded me of the fights he had when he wanted to open his follow-up Los Angeles Festival in 1986 with a Canadian circus no one had ever heard of called Cirque du Soleil. They thought he had to be kidding.
For Fitzpatrick money comes once you have the civic support. Then-Mayor Tom Bradley threw the power of City Hall behind the L.A. Festival. That, Fitzpatrick said, opened doors to donors like Lew Wasserman and Barry Diller.
There is cautious talk coming from the Music Center about an ambitious summer festival, employing its underused-in-the-summer campus, Grand Park and, I would hope, a host of potential venues around downtown. But festivals must be big and bold to matter. Let the talk turn to shouting into loudspeakers at whatever volume is necessary to drown out downtown construction and penetrate the thick walls of the nearby county and city offices.
Over the summer, future music director Patricia Kopatchinskaja wrote a piece for The Guardian discussing her favorite pieces of minimalist music – in the process discussing her approach to performing, her relationship with minimalism, and her championing of composer Galina Ustvolskaya. Read the full piece on The Guardian website or download a PDF >>
Less can be more. Arguments do not get more convincing by using more words or by shouting, and a woman does not get more beautiful by hanging lots of jewellery around her. Art forms that make their statements with a minimum of means carry a strong attraction, especially in music. And minimalism is far from a 20th-century invention. Here’s some of my favourite pieces of “minimalist” music .
For me the most outstanding and radical composer of recent times – Galina Ustvolskaja – published only some two dozen works and destroyed the rest, an act which in itself is a form of minimalism. Isolated in the USSR, she wrote the most extreme music, limiting herself to the minimum of musical material and instrumentation, but achieving the maximum of spiritual strength. Her music comes “as is” out of nothing or from deep and primordial sources. She renounces any artificial elaboration. I often think only a woman could become this kind of medium. A man would immediately try to understand, analyse, systematise, “count the legs” of his creature. Ustvolskaja did nothing of the sort.
Here is her Composition No 2 “Dies irae” (1972/3): You see the wooden box that looks like a coffin. This is an instrument of her own invention. In Orthodox Christian countries the closing of the coffin over the body of a beloved relative is a ritual: the hard sound of hitting the coffin nails becomes the memory of a cruel farewell. Throughout her music she is saying – “I give all my soul, all my heart” – and you will do so as well, either as an interpreter or as a listener. Whether you like it or not, your brain will be in serious danger of exploding, and many other pieces of music will suddenly seem an unnecessary waste of time and paper. Of course the piece was banned in her home country after its first performance.
In the lead-up to the East Coast premiere of the Josephine Baker Project, The New York Times Zachary Woolfe sat down with Julia Bullock and Tyshawn Sorey to discuss the genesis and evolution of the project, and its particular importance at this moment in time. Read the full piece on the NY Times website or download a PDF >>
JULIA BULLOCK I had been wanting to sing her songs since college, which was the first time that anyone compared me to Baker. So I was just trying to find the right opportunity, the right person to arrange them, and the right context.
I performed a group of her songs in my New York debut recital, and Peter’s producer caught wind of it. And Peter said that if I would be interested in it, he was hooking up with Claire Chase [the International Contemporary Ensemble’s founder], and they brought Tyshawn on board and Claudia Rankine to write poetry. There was a part of me that didn’t know how much I wanted a white man grandfathering all this. But I think one of Peter’s great strengths is he brings together artists that seem to have a unique perspective and purpose . . .
Were you, are you, thinking about current events?
BULLOCK These issues, they’re always on my mind. When Michael Brown was killed, that happened 20 minutes from my home in St. Louis. All these issues are things I live with and think about daily. Yes, I understood the timeliness of what we were writing. Hearing her sing “Si J’Étais Blanche” [“If I Were White”] in 1925 is just as relevant as singing it now.
I’m half-white, and I thought it was really important as a performer to talk about my complex feelings about going into an industry predominately run by white people. Issues with exoticism still come up. Objectification still comes up. To have an opportunity to speak about that in music was great. I need to say those things right now, and the world needs to hear how I think. And to be given a platform to do it, it’s a gift both Tyshawn and I have been given.
SOREY The music that we make is comprised solely of our life experiences. The police brutality that we’re experiencing right now, it’s been happening for a very long time. I was born and raised in Newark, and police brutality and shootings happened near my block. The difference between then and now is that the media is talking about it. To do a reimagination of the Baker songs to me — even though the music per se might sound a particular way for a particular time — the lyrical content is timeless, and I wanted to create something musically to reflect what we’re experiencing now.
Is it still changing?
BULLOCK We’re all trying to share and experience and re-evaluate. So I can’t say when we’re going to have a finished product on this. I think everyone was in agreement that the first third of it, even though the music was amazing, needed to kind of get it going. So we’ve talked about establishing the relationship between Tyshawn and I, and having a more playful element to open it, creating a more welcoming space. And we’re always talking about what new songs to do .
The Festival continues to be a place for experimentation and discovery for both artists and audiences. Each year after the Festival, we send out an electronic survey to ticket buyers. For those who participated, we thank you for taking the time to share your feedback about your experience.
As we continue to comb through the results and comments, we would like to share some initial findings.
We collected 931 emails of ticket buyers. 41% responded by completing the survey.
Survey respondents also shared their memorable moments from the 2016 Festival. Here is a selection from both returning and new ticket buyers. Thank you for participating in our survey!
“This year’s festival introduced me to music and artists unfamiliar to me. It all excited me. I attended only the Thursday and Friday concerts and I am looking forward to streaming the concerts I missed. I loved the talks; they helped me understand the intentions of the composers as they created their pieces. Thank you Peter Sellers for an exquisite program!”
“Experiencing music within my community is so much richer than listening to music alone. The community, seeing friends and acquaintances, is as important as hearing the pieces.”
“Aruna Sriram was magnificent. I love and study Indian classical… It was great to be in the presence of a master.”
“Roomful of Teeth was truly exciting! Peter Sellar’s enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring!”
“The Friday June 10 ‘The Mystic House’ program with Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices, and Carla Kihlstedt’s ‘All Night We Walk in Circles…’ was as electric, exciting and all-consuming a program as I have heard in years. I was totally absorbed musically and emotionally. I returned home on a cloud of inspiration and joy.”
“Davonne’s version of Caroline Shaw’s three songs: the reaction that Caroline displayed after having heard that performance of the songs she has heretofore sang herself was reflective of the high level of artistry of the people gathered for the Festival, and inventive programming provided the artists. It doesn’t get better than this, folks!”
“I found magnetic energy in the engagement of the audience. I will not forget the look on my young daughters face when Dina El Wedidi sang, with a voice clear and bright and so full of life.”
“Watching the Sunday afternoon performance of ICE and YOLA debut their collaborative graphic score with my 5-year-old son.”
“Seeing a female conducting a piece composed by a woman about Simone Weil featuring a woman of color as a soloist was just amazing. The talk beforehand was stunning. I can’t applaud the festival and Peter Sellars enough for choosing to foreground women. The fact that this year’s festival touched on both Simone Weil and Claudia Rankine is a testament to the depth of the artistry of all involved.”
“The friendliness, camaraderie of the Music Festival. It is truly like a big family!”
“I have enjoyed watching this festival evolve as I have attended off and on since high school in the 1960s to now and it just gets better.”
“The entire experience is unique and transporting. Maddening and magical.”
The 2016 Ojai Music Festival with Music Director Peter Sellars embodied the spirit of the Festival with an openness to exploration and risk-taking, adventure and surprise, embracing the new and welcoming the unfamiliar. Relive the 2016 Festival anytime by watching our archived live streaming concerts here.
Feedback from our audience, artists and members of the press is important to us. Read excerpts here or download the full PDF version.
In part because this 70-year-old festival’s musical leadership changes each year, its audience — loyal and attentive, with a bourgeois-bohemian vibe that aptly reflects the sheltered, fragrant Ojai — is unusually open to variation and exploration. And just four days long, the event is compact enough to give the sense that its offerings are the product of a single mind rather than a committee. This was Mr. Sellars’s personal playlist, leave it or — more often — take it. – The New York Times
As the great Southern California music retreat, the Ojai Music Festival offers venturesome refuge from normal life for locals and visitors to this blissed-out valley. – Los Angeles Times
Passion finds sustaining nourishment and intimacy in Saariaho’s exquisite chamber score, demonstrating her signature sensitivity to timbre and balance and offering affectingly dark-hued instrumental colorings – Musical America
The role of the work’s narrator (a fictitious sister for Weil created by the librettist, Amin Maalouf) was assumed by the rising soprano Julia Bullock, who lent the performance controlled vigor, tonal purity and fierce commitment – The Wall Street Journal
Her captivating Partita for 8 Voices was a close-harmony vocal exploration by Roomful of Teeth (in which Shaw is a vocalist) of four antique dances that sway and stretch in surprising and captivating contemporary ways. The work won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for composition. Baritone Davóne Tines and the Calder Quartet’s later performance of Shaw’s By and By (freely set bluegrass and gospel texts) galvanized all present. In the fine acoustics of the Besant Hill School’s Zalk Theater, the rendering by Tines induced tears from many — the composer and Sellars himself among them. – Classical Voice North America
It is not only Saariaho’s work that is gripping, but the entire array of composers on “the front edge” of the next generation that Sellars celebrates. As it happens, most of those brought together for the festival are women, a disparate group with distinctive ideas for the future of music. They, and many of the performers, also represent many countries and multiple continents, brought together to illuminate musical possibilities for the 21st century. – Ventura County Star
If all this sounds like a recipe for confusion, that’s only partly the case. Despite his deliberately esoteric approach, there’s an emotional center to Vivier’s work that this performance managed to communicate very directly to the audience, and many were visibly moved by both the music and the occasion, proving once again that certain musical experiences could only happen in Ojai. – Santa Barbara Independent
Chase silently appeared on stage, an ominously chilly electronic soundscape rising in the background. She launched herself at a tam-tam, rattling and grinding metal sticks along the surface at full fury, before picking up her bass flute. Throwing her whole body into the music, slowly breathing in and whisper-shouting into her instrument, she demonstrated why she is truly one of the most vibrant performers on the concert stage. – I Care If You Listen
May 27, 2016
I spent the last day at our first rehearsals in New York for Ojai 2016. Most of artists are in New York so it is most efficient to do much of our preparation work there. We will be holding rehearsals there through June 1, and then the artists then come to Ojai June 3 to resume preparations June 4.
Yesterday started with a rehearsal for Josephine Baker A Portrait at ICEhaus, ICE’s home in Brooklyn. Soprano Julia Bullock has long been an advocate of Josephine Baker, the astonishing black American singer who in 1925 emigrated to Paris and became one of the most famous entertainers in the world. For Ojai, Peter Sellars and Julia Bullock have devised a very unique musical portrait of this remarkable artist with new and mind-bending arrangements by composer/drummer/trombonist/pianist Tyshawn Sorey. I first heard of Tyshawn from Vijay Iyer in planning for the 2017 Ojai Festival. Claire Chase suggested last summer that Tyshawn collaborate for the Baker project. The results are simply amazing – fresh, insightful, moving and powerful. The work is scored for Julia Bullock and a small ensemble of ICE payers – violin, flute, bassoon, oboe, and guitar – plus Tyshawn himself on piano and drums.
This was followed by the arrival of singer/composer/violinist Carla Kihlstedt to rehearse her At Night We Walk in Circles and Are Consumed by Fire. Carla thrilled Ojai audiences in 2009 with her unforgettable performance of Lisa Bielawa’s Kafka Songs for soprano and violin, in which Carla unbelievably performed both parts simultaneously. Carla’s work, a setting of dreams, involves herself as singer with a nine-piece ensemble of ICE, and will be performed Friday afternoon at 3pm. The work is magical.
Finally, I went to the Park Avenue Armory to hear two the first two rehearsals of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus. This fiendishly difficult work is scored for seven vocalists (all from the remarkable Roomful of Teeth) and seven members of ICE, all masterfully conducted by Eric Dudley, also a member of Roomful of Teeth. As Christopher Hailey has written in the program book, “Kopernikus, more an oratorio than an opera, is a series of scenes depicting the journey of the alto soloist, Agni (the name of the Hindu god of fire), as she encounters, in death, a succession of mythical and historical gures (sung by the other six solo singers), including Lewis Carroll, Merlin, a sorceress, the Queen of the Night, a blind prophet, an old monk, Tristan and Isolde, Mozart, the Master of the Waters, and Copernicus and his mother. “ As Vivier himself writes, “these characters are perhaps the dreams that accompany Agni during her initiation and finally into her dematerialization.” The composer has urged “we not try to read any meaning into what happens but try to feel what’s happening. Not try to understand, but to enjoy what’s happening. It’s for this reason that it’s written in large part in an invented language of phonetic sounds”.
Despite the staggering difficulty and complexity of the music, I was totally unprepared to experience the sheer exhilarating beauty of the music live (I had only previously heard a DVD of a staged performance from Amsterdam), the result of the absolutely incredible virtuosity and commitment of Roomful of Teeth and ICE. Watching Peter Sellars coax, explain, and give meaning to text was a revelation. In planning this festival, Kopernikus was clearly a priority of Peter, who has long believed in the piece, but never done it before. I cannot wait to hear how the many rehearsals develop (there are three more full days of in New York, before three days in Ojai. The work is the final concert in the Libbey Bowl on Sunday June 12 before everyone heads off for the festival finale in Santa Paula.
We are in for some incredible musical experiences week after next!
– Tom Morris
Enjoy a family-style boxed dinner under the oaks in Libbey Park alongside other music enthusiasts prior to the Saturday Evening concert, June 12 at 6pm. This gourmet boxed meal includes dinner, dessert, and wine from the Ojai Vineyard. $40/person – advance reservation required.
**Saturday Supper is currently sold out – view a list of nearby restaurants or visit the Tipple & Ramble booth in the park for alternative options**
Five Spice & Brown Sugar Lacquered Salmon with Scallion-Sweet Chile & Ojai Kumquat Jam
Toasted Quinoa & Wild Rice Salad with Asparagus & Caramalized Shitakes
Wilted Kale & Roasted Peppers marinated in Ginger Vinaigrette
Flourless Chocolate Torte with Fresh Berries
Shredded Vegetable & Teriyaki Marinated Tofu Summer Rolls with Kaffir Lime-Kumquat Sauce
Toasted Quinoa & Wild Rice Salad with Asparagus & Caramalized Shitakes
Wilted Kale & Roasted Peppers marinated in Ginger Vinaigrette
Flourless Chocolate Torte with Fresh Berries
**Both meal options are gluten-free**
About the Chef: Rachel Main
Rachel has two decades of fine dining and event experience, working for some of the most famous chefs in the country including Chef Thomas Keller and Chef John Besh. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts from Nicholls State University in South Louisiana. After college, Rachel worked as a private chef traveling the world, throwing lavish parties on yachts, on islands, in mansions…Finally Rachel moved back home to Ventura County, and she’s been cooking up great meals at Main Course California ever since. Not only is Rachel our Executive Chef; she is also is our go-to special events specialist, helping our clients stay in-the-know on new venues, culinary trends, and décor ideas.
What Inspires Rachel: The Los Angeles Wholesale Flower Markets. Traveling is one of my favorite ways to see ingredients used in creative new ways. I always come up with a few new menu items each time I travel!
Rachel’s recipe to die for: Our Famous Coffee & Brown Sugar Spice Grilled Tri Tip with my family’s recipe for Smoky Braised Collard Greens & Caramelized Onions. It’s the perfect fusion of California Wine Country Cuisine and South Louisiana Home Cooking – just like me!
What do you think is a party necessity? Great music can set the tone for your event instantly, especially during the welcome reception. You can make anyone feel at ease with an awesome groove, delightful, tasty passed hors d’ oeuvres, and a refreshing cocktail…A heartfelt “thank you” note after the party is always a nice touch, too!
The Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO program is laying the foundation for all of Ojai’s public school children to become musicians, starting at a very early age. In first and second grades, the students experience songs, games, rhythmic activities and simple sound/symbol matching. This year, BRAVO has expanded its reach to third graders, who are beginning to read musical notes. Weekly lessons are taught by Laura Walter using the principles of ETM (Education Through Music).
Next year, when these students are in fourth grade, they will be given the opportunity to sample a variety of instruments, provided by BRAVO. These early musical opportunities are paying dividends, as students are inspired to play instruments or sing in chorus at the intermediate, junior and senior high school level. Students who do not move into further music training have developed an appreciation of music which will serve them well throughout their lives.
According to Kathy Broesamle, ETM volunteer and grandparent of three public school music students, “it’s no wonder that Nordhoff High School has such a strong music program that encompasses classical, jazz, choral and theatrical elements. We are blessed with highly talented and devoted teachers, as well as students who, thanks to BRAVO have a solid music background.”
BRAVO, made possible by the Ojai Music Festival, is funded by community donations and the proceeds from the Holiday Home Look-in and Holiday Marketplace, which will be on November 12-13, 2016.
Watch videos with 2016 Music Director Peter Sellars and other Festival artists who will be in Ojai this June! Use the playlist below to browse and play, or watch more videos from past years on our YouTube channel >>
Q2 Music and WQXR
Ojai Music Festival and Peter Sellars
Hosted by Helga Davis
Music and Conversation with 2016 Ojai Music Festival Director and Performing Artists
Friday, May 13, 2016
The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space
44 Charlton Street (corner of Varick Street)
New York, New York 10013
$30 general admission
Please join us for an evening of live performances from artists featured in the upcoming 2016 Ojai Music Festival and a conversation with the world-renowned music director, Peter Sellars. He will also share insights and anecdotes from a prodigious, colorful and unique career as a driving force in the creation of new music and bringing 20th and 21st century operas to the stage.
Champagne Reception to Follow
Kindly respond to Alex Spinks by Monday, May 2, 2016
646 829 4274 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ojai Music Festival and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts are excited to announce An Evening With Peter Sellars, 2016 Ojai Festival Music Director with Alex Ross, on Monday, May 16, 2016 at 7:30pm.
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts joins forces with the Ojai Music Festival for the first time to present a lively Arts & Ideas conversation between groundbreaking opera and theater director Peter Sellars and The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. The conversation will take place on the stage of the Bram Goldsmith Theater on Monday, May 16 at 7:30pm.
Sellars, Music Director of the 2016 Ojai Music Festival in June, has gained international renown for his transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces such as John Adams’ Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, as well as for his distinctive collaborations with an extraordinary range of artists including Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, dance pioneer Reggie Gray and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. Ross, a 2008 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, is the author of The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
“I am delighted that we can welcome Peter and Alex to our stage for this event,” said Paul Crewes, The Wallis’ new Artistic Director who takes the reins full time next month in April 2016. “Our Arts & Ideas series has enjoyed great success this season, and our exciting new affiliation with the Ojai Music Festival will surely deliver another great night captivating discussion between these two brilliant men.”
“We are delighted to be collaborating with The Wallis for this exciting event with Peter Sellars, our 2016 Music Director and a passionate advocate for the intersection of music and community, and Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker and acclaimed writer on music of our time,” expressed Thomas W. Morris, Artistic Director of the Ojai Music Festival are now available for $25 – $35. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit TheWallis.org, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Ticket prices subject to change.
Prepare for June by listening to upcoming Festival artists using our Spotify playlists.
Imagine a world where wonder happens every day. March is “Music in the Schools Month” and the Ojai Music Festival is bringing that to life. The Festival’s BRAVO Education and Community Program brings the joy of music into classrooms throughout the Ojai Valley and two Ventura area schools with the Imagine Concert, the Music Van, Flutes Across the World, Artists-in-Residence programs, and weekly Education Through Music workshops in every Ojai Unified Elementary school. The children are filled with wonder!
When we create music, the brain uses many networks to process phrases, melody, rhythm, and timbre, or tone color. The brain’s auditory areas light up, but so do areas responsible for motor skills, emotions, and creativity. Music employs many sensory systems at once. We are seeing, we are hearing, we are saying, we are doing. Because of this, memory and intelligence improve. Read More
We are all terribly saddened with the news of Steve Stucky’s untimely death Sunday, after a virulent battle with cancer over the last few months.
Steve is of course most well known to the Ojai community for The Classical Style, his comic opera written with librettist Jeremy Denk for the 2014 festival and premiered to critical acclaim. Finding the right composer to set Jeremy’s somewhat unbelievable idea for an opera about musicology was at first a daunting task, but Steve brought exactly the right blend of ingenious new music, reverence for past music (the story after all is about Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven), and a sublime sense of emotional meaning to the story through his music. Watching the creative partnership between them over the two years of project development was an inspiration and joy.
What I remember most was Steve’s infectious and uncontrollable sense of humor. During those long working rehearsals for The Classical Style, he would suddenly burst into laughter at one of Jeremy’s wry turns of phrase, and just as easily chuckle at his own musical jokes imbedded in the score. But Steve was also a deeply caring and emotional man who didn’t hide tears at the touching entrance of Robert Schumann at the end of the opera signaling both the end of the classical style and the birth of the romantic era.
Steve was a great composer, a marvelous musician, and above all a superior human being. He was well known to Southern California audiences through his long association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I got to know him through his work as board chair of the American Music Center and subsequently New Music USA. He was always a delight to be with.
Our hearts go out to his wife, Kristen, and all the members of his family, and we are thankful for his indelible role in the Ojai Festival. We still had so much more to do together.
Photo: Steven Stucky at the 2014 Festival premiere of The Classical Style (Timothy Norris)
Vijay Iyer: 71st Festival, June 8 to 11, 2017
Esa-Pekka Salonen: 72nd Festival, June 7 to 10, 2018
Barbara Hannigan: 73rd Festival, June 6 to 9, 2019
Patricia Kopatchinskaja: 74th Festival, June 11 to 14, 2020
Mitsuko Uchida: 75th Festival, June 10 to 13, 2021
“Ojai prides itself on the wide-ranging breadth and depth of its music directors – from conductors, composers, instrumentalists, choreographers, and theater directors to established musical personalities and emerging artists of the future. The fundamental requirements to serve as a music director are to be a serious and curious musical artist of unquestioned excellence and to fully embrace a sense of adventure. He or she must be someone whose musical predilections will surprise, provoke, and delight. Soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Mitsuko Uchida fulfill these requirements – and along with Peter Sellars, Vijay Iyer, and Esa-Pekka Salonen – will bring to the Ojai Music Festival a truly distinctive and distinguished artistic arc through its 75th anniversary in 2021.”
– Thomas W. Morris, Artistic Director
(FEBRUARY 9, 2016) — As the Ojai Music Festival anticipates the upcoming 70th Festival (June 9-12, 2016) with Music Director Peter Sellars, Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris announces the artists who will serve as Music Directors through the Festival’s 75th anniversary in 2021. Following previously announced future music directors Vijay Iyer (June 8-11, 2017) and Esa-Pekka Salonen (June 7-10, 2018), soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan will be the 2019 music director (June 6-9), violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja in 2020 (June 11-14) and pianist Mitsuko Uchida in 2021 (June 10-13). Since the late 1940’s, the Ojai Music Festival’s tradition has been to welcome a new Music Director each year to ensure vitality and diversity in programming across Festivals. Read More
We are thrilled to announce Luke Martin as the 2016 Steven Rothenberg Internship Fellow. Luke is a composer pursuing his M.F.A. at CalArts and was first an intern at the 2015 Festival. The Rothenberg Fellow and Festival Internship Program are made possible by the generous support of Fred and Ila Rothenberg, in memory of their son Steven Rothenberg.
Luke Martin (b. 1992) is an experimental composer, musician, and poet currently living in Valencia, CA. His work focuses on the concepts of liminality, neutrality, and fragility and is primarily interested in exploring limits of perception. More specifically, he is interested in the use of silence, listening, text, and sound as equally considered elements in the compositional practice; for instance, the composer’s task is not only to consider the parameters of determined sound making (both text and instrumental), but also the parameters of how we listen, and how we may interact with and frame silence. The composer, then, seeks to create situations of possible events which the audience, performer(s), and composer all experience concurrently. Further, Luke considers the social and political disposition of a performance a very connected aspect of his work: how can one critically think about the hierarchical roles and power relations at work in a given performance, and then potentially subvert or support them. Recently inspired by David Dunn’s notations for listening and Lasse Thoresen’s spectromorphological analysis of electronic music and sound, Luke is in the beginning stages of developing a notation for silence (i.e., incidental sounds, contingency).
Among his many influences, Luke is particularly inspired by the work of Samuel Beckett, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Peter Ablinger, Luigi Nono, the Wandelweiser Collective, and Gertrude Stein. He is currently in his final year of the M.F.A. music composition program at California Institute of the Arts, studying with Michael Pisaro. Originally from Massachusetts, Luke received his B.A. in English and Music from Colby College in Maine, graduating magna cum laude, phi beta kappa, and with honors in music composition/theory. He has received awards ranging from a Kennedy Center Award for Music Composition to the Mollie Seltzer Yett Prize for Music Academics. Aside from composing, Luke performs in a noise/no-input feedback duo ‘sinecure,’ plays tennis, guitar in both jazz and experimental music settings, enjoys canoeing with family and friends in Maine, and always appreciates a good game of cribbage.
For over 30 years, the Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO program has been enhancing the existing public school music curriculum by offering interdisciplinary music lessons. The goal is to help make music an integral, enjoyable, and exciting part of the everyday learning process while providing critical music education opportunities for Ojai Valley students. John Zeretzke is part of the BRAVO Artist Residency program.
Founder and director of the non-profit organization and NGO, “FLUTES ACROSS THE WORLD”, Mr. Zeretzke is holding music workshops in the Philippines, where children will be receiving free hand-decorated flutes made by children in America, including Ojai. He will be distributing flutes to students in poor schools in the Philippines that are built on dumpsites, refugee children from tribal conflicts in remote jungle areas, a school for the blind, tribal schools on the edge of inner Mindanao wilderness areas and more.
This week, he will be leading music instruction and personally delivering the flutes. The stories of these children and their lives are hard to believe, but we reach out to them through this program.
He is joined by a supporter in Manila, Ramon Moreno, who is a Commander with the Philippines Coast Guard Auxiliary and works with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Also in partnership are the St. Vincent de Paul organizations in California and the Philippines, and other Filipino organizations for humanitarian outreach.
Workshops for local students will continue this winter and spring, made possible by the BRAVO Education program of the Ojai Music Festival. Our students should be very proud of the work they have done to make this possible. Our local children are working to spread the joy of music to others throughout the world. This is a powerful way to help share the vision of peace, joy and connection in a world today that needs just this kind of outreach to help create a better future for tomorrow.
– Laura Walter, January 2016
Dear Ojai Festival Friends:
We are all saddened by the news this morning of Pierre Boulez’s death at the age of 90. He passed away peacefully and quietly in his sleep last night.
That Pierre was one of the seminal thinkers and musical intellects of our time goes without saying, his legacy as a composer is unquestioned, and his setting of standards as a conductor and programmer are unparalleled.
My deepest thoughts this morning go to Pierre Boulez as friend and mentor. He was relentless in forging close and long-lasting relationships with organizations and individuals with whom he felt the common bond of beliefs and commitment. One of those was the Ojai Music Festival, which he considered as one of his important artistic homes. He holds the record for the most times as music director in the Festival’s history – seven times between 1967 and 2003, spanning over half of the Festival’s history and over half of his life. He had close personal creative relationships with four of the Festival’s artistic directors – Lawrence Morton, Ara Guzelimian, Ernest Fleischmann, and myself, which means his ties to Ojai reach back as far as 1954. I am so proud that we appropriately celebrated his 90th birthday last June.
Knowing and working with Pierre through the years fundamentally influenced my own sense of programming and love of musical adventure. While ill health curtailed his performing and traveling over the last four years, he always expressed, in my frequent visits to him in Baden Baden, a profound interest in what was happening at Ojai, and was always misty-eyed with the recollection of his first visit to Ojai in 1967 in Lawrence Morton’s convertible and of the wall of pungent orange blossom scent as he crested the Upper Ojai Valley. The fact that Ojai thrives today with its fearless embrace of the new, its stellar heritage of innovative artists, and its lively and engaged audiences is a tribute to Boulez’s beliefs, his considerable commitment as a conductor/composer/collaborator, and his deep abiding love of Ojai.
Thank you with all my heart, dear Pierre.
Thomas W. Morris
January 6, 2016
“The Ojai Valley has long been recognized as a rare and beautiful natural site that invites retreat, renewal, and regeneration, from Chumash ceremonial life to Krishnamurti’s legendary talks under the trees. The valley has both a grandeur and a human scale that inspire and allow the deepest human questions to resonate, and create a setting for the most personal search for answers. The magical play of light across the canyon and the heady aroma of orange blossoms bring the senses to life, awaken the mind, and create a profound aura of openness and well-being.
Music incites many of the same thoughts and emotions, with similar immensity and intimacy and awe. The 70th Ojai Music Festival will gather this powerful energy and spirit of inquiry and reflection into a weekend of peak experiences and secret revelations.
For the first time the composer Kaija Saariaho will come to Ojai. We will feature two of her most potent and visionary works. Her new chamber version of The Passion of Simone, a meditation on the life of the courageous French philosopher Simone Weil, written to a wise and humane text by Amin Maalouf, will receive its American premiere with the extraordinary young soprano Julia Bullock. It is a work of startling integrity and permanent challenge in dark times, with a flame of hope that burns brightly and intensely in the darkness. The fierce commitment and brilliance of that flame will be embodied by ICE and Roomful of Teeth, conducted by Joana Carneiro.
Kaija Saariho’s newest operatic creation is a sequence of two Japanese Noh plays in versions by Ezra Pound, entitled Only the Sound Remains. Again Ojai will offer the American premiere. These two plays will be performed in the tradition of Japanese Takigi Noh, outdoors, lightly held in the gentle grasp of a protective arroyo under a radiant early morning sky for Feather Mantle, a play of illumination, transcendence and evanescence, and just before midnight under an intense starlit sky for Always Strong, the harrowing and haunted story of a young warrior’s spirit struggling to return to life on earth.
This year’s festival will have its rituals. Mornings will begin with liberating and exhilarating Sonic Meditations by Pauline Oliveros realized by the glorious and willing musicians of ICE. At mid-day there will be concerts of the kaleidoscopic and more rarely performed chamber works of Kaija Saariaho. The later afternoons will offer music of longing and consolation. Caroline Shaw’s works will be paired with Carla Kihlstedt’s phosphorescent exploration of dream worlds, At Night We Walk in Circles and Are Consumed by Fire, and Du Yun’s peeling away the surface of the world in An Empty Garlic. Read More
The Festival is currently accepting applications for its 2016 Internship program. Each year, the Ojai Music Festival Arts Management Internship Program welcomes 12-14 college students and recent graduates to go behind the scenes of a renowned summer music festival. Interns work closely with the staff and production team, providing critical support and gaining invaluable hands-on experience and skills for their future careers.
Thank you to everyone who joined us this past weekend for the Holiday Home Look In and Marketplace! We’re so glad you were able to attend and hope to see you next November. Thank you to all the volunteers, musicians, and home owners who helped to make the home tour and marketplace so special. And an extra special thank you to the Ojai Festivals Women’s Committee for all their tireless work to put on such a spectacular event.
Each year the Holiday Home Look In welcomes local designers and florists, each of whom are assigned a home on the tour and tasked with bringing their own vision of décor and the holidays to life. This year, designers Digs Floral and Botanical Designs, Angela’s Flowers, Kitty Bartholomew, and Teri Formanek and Sandy Sylslack will be showcased. And if you haven’t yet purchased your tickets, you can do so online here >>
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14
10am – Rachel Holdt, vocal and ukelele
11am – Smitty and Julija, piano and vocal
1pm – David Cosby, guitar
3pm – Hatter’s Tea, guitar and vocal
10am – Ray Sullivan, guitar
12pm – Bonnie Griffin, flute
2pm – Audrey McPherson and Dori Riggs, flute duet Read More
Lynn Malone and the design team at Digs Floral and Botanic Designs in Ojai is thrilled to once again put their talents and imagination to work for the Holiday Home Look In. New to the tour last year, Digs went all out to create masterful holiday floral designs for a Rancho Matilija home. This year, the Digs design team returns by popular demand, to embellish Blue Heron, another beautiful home in Rancho Matilija – this time with an array of multicultural holiday decor. When asked which holiday they would like to focus on, Digs’ designers agreed that they are truly inspired by them all. The florals throughout the home will honor several holiday traditions, some of which have roots in other parts of the world. The homeowner’s travels, experiences and interior design aesthetic have also inspired the floral décor.
Once again, Digs designers hope to inspire guests with unique decorating ideas for the upcoming holidays. And, if DIY is not your idea of holiday fun, their designers are always happy to be of assistance. Some of the creations you’ll see on the tour will be available at Digs throughout the Holiday Season.