October Jazz Notes from Jason Moran

Jason Moran, Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz

As our Crossroads Club enters its third season, I’m thrilled to invite my compadres in Mehliana to open the new KC jazz season. Mehliana focuses the fire that Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana bring to electronic beat music. These well-structured improvisers create new songs on the spot and are sure to transport the Crossroads Club to another dimension. Mehldau is a thrilling musician, so this is your chance to dance up to the stage and watch him create up close and personal. And Guiliana has been a devotee of brilliant beats for a while now, so this is a natural fit for his extreme sense of rhythm-making. Get ready to sway.

Mehliana

Later in the month, SFJAZZ Collective brings its constantly shifting ensemble to the Terrace Theater. The current lineup gathers bandleaders from across the globe: Australia, Israel, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the United States. There are several different voices in this great band of composers and bandleaders. For example, alto saxophonist and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón has been in the band from its inception, while trombonist Avishai Cohen—who’s part of a musical family with siblings Anat and Yuval—returns to the KC after more than a decade away. We also welcome stunning Baltimore vibraphonist Warren Wolf to the collective, as each band member takes a turn at leading the ensemble through their pieces. This group has always been a great way to hear what’s going on in contemporary jazz, and the various voices within the field. 

SFJAZZ Collective

Also in the Terrace, it’s an honor to have one of my former teachers with us: NEA Jazz Master pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams. A co-founder of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), the Chicago native has a long history of breaking through walls with sound. When I arrived in New York in the ’90s, I sought out composition lessons with Muhal, and those lessons continue to resonate today. Now 84, he has always been a role model for the generations behind him. His new quintet features the young Bay Area trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, as well as his longtime collaborator, drummer Reggie Nicholson. 

Muhal Richard Abrams

Opening up our KC Jazz Club this season, drummer Louis Hayes has made heads bop for decades. He has given bands by Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, and Oscar Peterson the kind of pep in their step that defined the sound of the hard bop movement. A longtime bandleader, Hayes brings his Jazz Communicators to share the word. There are very few originators of the language still with us, but Louis Hayes bears the torch.

Louis Hayes

Saxophonist Craig Handy also comes to the KC Jazz Club—he has toured and recorded with the finest in the biz. For the past two years, he was on the faculty of our Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. His latest recording 2nd Line Smith takes a look at the music of master organist Jimmy Smith through the New Orleans Second Line lens. Be ready to stomp your feet and clap your hands in this soulful night of music.

Craig Handy

Each new jazz season, we present musicians to you that all consider themselves “students of the music.”  I’ve heard countless masters commonly utter this phrase. Being a “student of the music” means we’re always open to new ideas of thinking, playing, and composing. Many times, we’re unsure where the inspiration will come from, but throughout our past 100 years of jazz history, it’s clear that inspiration comes from our environment. And what better way to learn about our culture than through music!

From the roots of Muhal Richard Abrams’s 1930s Chicago upbringing to Louis Hayes’s Detroit childhood in the 1940s, these two have explored countless territories in their music, earning their titles as masters. We all continue to find inspiration not only from our past, but most importantly from our present. Craig Handy identifies with organist Jimmy Smith, Brad Mehldau engages with analog synthesizer histories, and SFJAZZ Collective embraces global perspectives within jazz.

Music is about dialogue, and it’s our duty as listeners to continue the conversation once we depart a concert. We should continue to ponder what we feel as we listen to music—because that’s exactly what these artists are considering when they compose and perform it. Sometimes it’s a breeze, and other times it’s a challenge, but these are the virtues of listening to experienced musicians. They share their stories through sound.

- Jason Moran

Behind the Curtain of the New Production of “La bohème”

FROM SET DESIGNER LEE SAVAGE AND COSTUME DESIGNER JENNIFER MOELLER

“When we began conceptualizing the design, it was important to us to find the perfect political and cultural context to heighten the story. We imagined our band of artists as a melting pot of eccentric personalities like Picasso, Cocteau, Hemingway, Modigliani, and Kiki de Montparnasse who embody just the right balance of hedonism and danger. Montparnasse would be their world—the heart of intellectual and artistic life in Paris during the post war period. Gritty, toughtalking, die-hard emigrant artists populated this district as an alternative to Montmartre. Painters, sculptors, writers, poets, and composers came from around the world to thrive in the creative atmosphere and for the cheap rent.”

Behind the Curtain of the New Production of “La bohème”

FROM DIRECTOR PETER KAZARAS

“The new WNO La bohème will be an exuberant and romantic production of a favorite operatic story. The decision to place the story in Paris in 1919, just after World War I, reminds us just how young and vulnerable these protagonists are, and of what they must have endured during the war. The riotous Café Momus scene will celebrate all that Paris was and was about to become: a cradle for expatriates of many races and cultures, a tumultuous melting pot of modernism and Dada, and a place where it was possible to dream of a better world.”

Behind the Curtain of the New Production of “La bohème”

FROM WNO ARTISTIC DIRECTOR FRANCESCA ZAMBELLO

“Visually, I went to wonderful American designers who have made a fresh, beautiful look on Labohème with a glance to the past. It’s a production that has the universality of its themes at the core of its physical being. That’s one of the hardest things to capture when you want to create a new world for any opera and make us see and hear these classics with a new eye and a new ear.”

Christine Goerke (Florencia) 
We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:
Q: Have you sung opera in Spanish before? In how many languages have you sung, over the years?
A: I haven’t!! In fact, I’ve been working very hard for the last few months so that I don’t sound like I’m singing Italian! I’ve sung in English, German, Italian, French, Czech, and now Spanish.
Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: The Princess Bride—all-time favorite, but I’m was a huge Star Wars geek as a kid—mostly because of an insane crush on Mark Hamill—does that count?!
Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
 A: An Eagle.
Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A: Becoming a singer via being a clarinet / music education major was quite a bump in the road. I have to credit my stint as a choral singer to Robert Shaw with teaching me how to really listen to all the sounds around you. My teachers, Diana Soviero and Elaine Bonazzi, held my hand as I tried to figure it all out… I’m still trying to do that!
Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?
A: I love that Florencia Grimaldi is such a realistic and truthful character. We all have had someone in our lives that make us wonder, “what if?” Our choices all come with consequences. Some of them are good, and some we’d like to change. In the end, we can only move forward having learned and grown from our experiences. Knowing that they are forever a part of our soul and psyche is often gift enough.

Christine Goerke (Florencia)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you sung opera in Spanish before? In how many languages have you sung, over the years?

A: I haven’t!! In fact, I’ve been working very hard for the last few months so that I don’t sound like I’m singing Italian! I’ve sung in English, German, Italian, French, Czech, and now Spanish.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?

A: The Princess Brideall-time favorite, but I’m was a huge Star Wars geek as a kidmostly because of an insane crush on Mark Hamilldoes that count?!

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?

A: An Eagle.

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?

A: Becoming a singer via being a clarinet / music education major was quite a bump in the road. I have to credit my stint as a choral singer to Robert Shaw with teaching me how to really listen to all the sounds around you. My teachers, Diana Soviero and Elaine Bonazzi, held my hand as I tried to figure it all out… I’m still trying to do that!

Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?

A: I love that Florencia Grimaldi is such a realistic and truthful character. We all have had someone in our lives that make us wonder, “what if?” Our choices all come with consequences. Some of them are good, and some we’d like to change. In the end, we can only move forward having learned and grown from our experiences. Knowing that they are forever a part of our soul and psyche is often gift enough.

Matthew Steffens (Principal Dancer) 
We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:
Q: Have you performed in a Spanish language opera?
A: I have done a lot of operas in my career and have never danced, fought or flown in one that is in Spanish so this is REALLY exciting. I teach dance in Mexico every summer, so it’s fun to continue to work on my comprehension skills.
Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: The important part of Fantasy is that it takes you somewhere. I think Peter Pan and Finding Neverland really did that. While it’s not traditional fantasy, Pedro Almodovar’s films often take me to an altered reality in which i would like to live.
Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
A: A cheetah. They’re so gorgeous and fast and focused!
Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A: I received a lot of my dance training right here in Washington D.C. at Joy of Motion Dance Studios. Helanius Wilkins was a HUGE influence in my interest in becoming a well-rounded dancer with the ability to do modern & contemporary work. Florencia calls upon us to use LOTS of different styles of dance and meld them together. As an artist, I’ve worked with great directors like Robert Lepage, Bart Sher & Julie Taymor in the opera world. They are SUCH visionaries when it comes to creating an opera, and as a dancer they really connect the story and the singers and the dancers. While we have only been in rehearsal a week, I can already see the importance of that to Francesca [Zambello] and that is inspiring.
Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?
A: The most challenging thing is that I have to be a piranha, bird, iguana, the amazon forest—nothing in the human realm—AND, the HUGE BOAT. We envision a lot in rehearsals…”The boat will move here” and until we get into tech and see where it really is, that is very challenging. The most compelling thing is the connection between the dancers and the singers. So often dance is so separate from the show, but in Florencia they are so inter-connected. We are ALL on the same journey down the Amazon and I’m excited for audiences to go on that ride with us.

Matthew Steffens (Principal Dancer)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you performed in a Spanish language opera?

A: I have done a lot of operas in my career and have never danced, fought or flown in one that is in Spanish so this is REALLY exciting. I teach dance in Mexico every summer, so it’s fun to continue to work on my comprehension skills.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?

A: The important part of Fantasy is that it takes you somewhere. I think Peter Pan and Finding Neverland really did that. While it’s not traditional fantasy, Pedro Almodovar’s films often take me to an altered reality in which i would like to live.

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?

A: A cheetah. They’re so gorgeous and fast and focused!

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?

A: I received a lot of my dance training right here in Washington D.C. at Joy of Motion Dance Studios. Helanius Wilkins was a HUGE influence in my interest in becoming a well-rounded dancer with the ability to do modern & contemporary work. Florencia calls upon us to use LOTS of different styles of dance and meld them together. As an artist, I’ve worked with great directors like Robert Lepage, Bart Sher & Julie Taymor in the opera world. They are SUCH visionaries when it comes to creating an opera, and as a dancer they really connect the story and the singers and the dancers. While we have only been in rehearsal a week, I can already see the importance of that to Francesca [Zambello] and that is inspiring.

Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?

A: The most challenging thing is that I have to be a piranha, bird, iguana, the amazon forestnothing in the human realmAND, the HUGE BOAT. We envision a lot in rehearsals…”The boat will move here” and until we get into tech and see where it really is, that is very challenging. The most compelling thing is the connection between the dancers and the singers. So often dance is so separate from the show, but in Florencia they are so inter-connected. We are ALL on the same journey down the Amazon and I’m excited for audiences to go on that ride with us.

Melody Moore (Florencia – Sep. 24 performance) 
We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:
Q: Have you sung opera in Spanish before? In how many languages have you sung, over the years?
A: I have sung “Vivan los que rien” from De Falla’s La Vida Breve in audition, but never a full opera in Spanish. I’ve sung in only five language so far.
Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: Lord of the Rings - any. I loved the series Gregor the Overlander —the Underlander Series by Suzanne Collins (who also wrote Hunger Games). Also loved the triology called Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness and ANYTHING Margaret Atwood ever writes.
Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
A: An owl. Quiet, always watching, solitary and wise.
Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A: Every teacher that told me what I did not already know about myself—that I had talent, that I had something to say, that I had purpose.
Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?
A: Having only one performance in which to impart her story.

Melody Moore (Florencia – Sep. 24 performance)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you sung opera in Spanish before? In how many languages have you sung, over the years?

A: I have sung “Vivan los que rien” from De Falla’s La Vida Breve in audition, but never a full opera in Spanish. I’ve sung in only five language so far.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?

A: Lord of the Rings - any. I loved the series Gregor the Overlander the Underlander Series by Suzanne Collins (who also wrote Hunger Games). Also loved the triology called Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness and ANYTHING Margaret Atwood ever writes.

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?

A: An owl. Quiet, always watching, solitary and wise.

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?

A: Every teacher that told me what I did not already know about myselfthat I had talent, that I had something to say, that I had purpose.

Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?

A: Having only one performance in which to impart her story.

Durell R. Comedy (Principal Dancer)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you performed in a Spanish language opera?
A: This will be the first opera that I’ve performed in where the libretto is in Spanish; I’ve performed in operas sung in Italian and English.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon….AWESOME book about fairies and the myths behind them! :)

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
A:HA! Probably a dog, specifically a beagle!

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A: Working with Mark Morris, the first choreographer I’ve worked with in opera, helped me to see that dance doesn’t have to be mere decoration or entertainment. It can also be used to facilitate the telling of the story, maybe even more than the actual libretto.

Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?
A: Wearing only one costume but playing many different characters challenges me to be very specific with how I use my body to portray each character effectively.

Durell R. Comedy (Principal Dancer)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you performed in a Spanish language opera?

A: This will be the first opera that I’ve performed in where the libretto is in Spanish; I’ve performed in operas sung in Italian and English.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?

A: Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon….AWESOME book about fairies and the myths behind them! :)

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?

A:HA! Probably a dog, specifically a beagle!

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?

A: Working with Mark Morris, the first choreographer I’ve worked with in opera, helped me to see that dance doesn’t have to be mere decoration or entertainment. It can also be used to facilitate the telling of the story, maybe even more than the actual libretto.

Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?

A: Wearing only one costume but playing many different characters challenges me to be very specific with how I use my body to portray each character effectively.

Robert Israel (Set Designer)
We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:
Q: Have you sung opera in Spanish before? In how many languages have you sung, over the years? A: I only sing when I’m alone or with people.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: Wings of Desire, Eight and a Half, and Beauty and the Beast

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?A:My Dog

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A:Philip Guston, Mandy Rice Davies

Robert Israel (Set Designer)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you sung opera in Spanish before? In how many languages have you sung, over the years?
A:
I only sing when I’m alone or with people.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?

A: Wings of Desire, Eight and a Half, and Beauty and the Beast

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
A:My Dog

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?

A:Philip Guston, Mandy Rice Davies

Eric Sean Fogel (Choreographer)
We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:
Q: Have you choreographed for a Spanish language opera?
A: In the past year I have worked in two countries speaking two different languages  in rehearsal and operas stretching over four languages.   One of which was bi-lingual.
Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.
Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
A:Easily a Scorpio, also my sign.
Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A: I am particularly drawn to operas that focus on the theatrically and musicality and visual artistry equally, which makes one of my greatest influences in the way I approach opera Francesca Zambello.
Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?
A: Using the dancers to personify animals and nature allows us to dig deeper into Florencia’s story of transformation. Being able to create a world of Magic Realism blending our principal singers and dancers with the visuals of our design team is so compelling. Not often do you get to create a true world of fantasy.

Eric Sean Fogel (Choreographer)

We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:

Q: Have you choreographed for a Spanish language opera?

A: In the past year I have worked in two countries speaking two different languages  in rehearsal and operas stretching over four languages.   One of which was bi-lingual.

Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?

A: I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.

Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?

A:Easily a Scorpio, also my sign.

Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?

A: I am particularly drawn to operas that focus on the theatrically and musicality and visual artistry equally, which makes one of my greatest influences in the way I approach opera Francesca Zambello.

Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?

A: Using the dancers to personify animals and nature allows us to dig deeper into Florencia’s story of transformation. Being able to create a world of Magic Realism blending our principal singers and dancers with the visuals of our design team is so compelling. Not often do you get to create a true world of fantasy.