Tenor Michael Schade, known for his Mozart portrayals, was honored in the composer's homeland last month. The Austrian government bestowed on him the title of Kammers‹nger, making Schade the first Canadian so recognized. The title, which means "chamber singer," was originally awarded by the royal courts to singers who achieved distinction in Austria; today, several opera houses in Germany and Austria also bestow the title on favorite performers. Among singers from abroad previously designated Kammers‹nger by the Austrian government are Jos_ Carreras, Plšcido Domingo and Thomas Hampson.
During the Mozart year last year, Schade developed a concert program inspired by the composer's correspondence. Schade performed the program, called "Mozart's Letters," in Toronto and Salzburg last year and he plans to bring it to Montreal in May. He is also continuing to sing a broad range of Mozart's operatic roles: He appeared recently in Idomeneo in Vienna and he stops by the Metropolitan Opera in late February and early March to sing Tamino in Die Zauberfl‹te. In April, he gives recitals in Miami, Duluth, and Kitchener and Hamilton, Ontario before joining the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for a four-city Canadian tour. In the summer, he is scheduled to appear at the Salzburg Festival for the 14th consecutive year.
When Pierre-Laurent Aimard this month begins his three-year stint as the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's "artistic partner," he will show off a newfangled piano lid that he helped develop with Steinway in Austria. The new lid — actually a series of devices called "sound mirrors" — reflects the music toward the audience when the conventional lid is removed from a piano. This arrangement allows the orchestra to see Aimard when he conducts from the keyboard while the audience still hears a rich piano sound.
Aimard has already used the sound mirrors in concerts and a Mozart recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. After a London performance, The Guardian said that the sound mirrors "looked ... as if a gigantic louvered window had been dropped on to the piano." (See for yourself in the photos at left and below.)
In Minnesota, Aimard will use the device as he leads Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 13. On the same program, he will conduct works by Haydn, Messaien, and Elliott Carter. He returns to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more concerts in early May and early June. He will also serve as artistic director of the Ojai Festival in California, where the SPCO will be in residence this summer.
Add violinist Hilary Hahn to the list of classical musicians who are taking their art to people outside the concert hall. Like the cellist Matt Haimovitz, who has attracted considerable attention for playing in bars and coffeehouses, Hahn enjoys brining her fiddle to unusual places. Last month, the day after a recital in Seattle's Benaroya Hall, she made two appearances in Ballard, Washington — in the afternoon at a record store and in the evening at a bar. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which covered her performance at the Tractor Tavern (one of Haimovitz's favorite venues), says the audience greeted her with a respectful hush and listened attentively to the two solo selections she played: Bach's famous Chaconne and an arrangement of Schubert's Erlk‹nig. She also accompanied singer/songwriter Tom Brosseau in some of his music.
The tavern probably was a quieter venue for Hahn than Disney Hall in Los Angeles. When she appeared there in late January, a false fire alarm set off buzzers and lights during intermission. (A week later, another Disney Hall false alarm interrupted Gil Shaham and the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the second movement of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto.) For now, Hahn is back in the concert hall, performing concertos by Dvoršk, Goldmark and Sibelius with several American orchestras before heading off on a European tour in mid-March.
Plšcido Domingo plans another first. The superstar tenor, who is preparing to sing his first baritone role, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, is also about to venture into the Baroque repertory for the first time. Next spring, Domingo takes on the role of Bajazet in Handel's Tamerlano with the Washington National Opera, one of the two companies he also directs. Domingo will appear alongside countertenor David Daniels in the production, tentatively slated for May 2008. It will be the 127th operatic role for Domingo, who will be 67 at that time.
In the next couple of months, the globetrotting Domingo — who also directs the Los Angeles opera and conducts in addition to singing — plans a couple of special performances. He'll be in Santiago, Chile in March to perform at a 150th anniversary gala for the Teatro Municipal. In April, he performs in Lisbon in a concert being billed as his first-ever solo appearance at a Portuguese gala.
The 2006 Gilmore Artist, pianist Ingrid Fliter, makes her New York recital debut at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on March 21 in a program of works by Chopin, Beethoven and Schubert. Fliter has won acclaim for performances with a number of major orchestras since becoming the fifth pianist to win Gilmore Artist honors ... Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra will film three more installments of their highly regarded television series, Keeping Score, during the 2007-08 season. The new episodes will focus on Beethoven, Shostakovich and Ives ... Deutsche Grammophon has set a September U.S. release date for its Rolando Villaz‹n-Anna Netrebko duet album. The recording features the two opera superstars in love duets from La Bohme, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto, Rom_o et Juliette, Les Pê_cheurs de perles, Manon and other works.