Is opera your guilty pleasure? Do you revel in drama, romance and full orchestral sound? There is nothing like meeting friends, hearing the whisper of fine clothing, and settling in your favorite seat for a few hours of enjoyment. Each year, Carmel Bach Festival presents opera excerpts that stretch our imagination and challenge the musicians. This year we heard selections from four different operas from four different musical eras.
As expected, it was standing room only in the foyer of Sunset Center on Wednesday afternoon for the much anticipated recital by Daniel Swenberg playing lute and Dongsok Shin performing on a lautenwerck. Anyone attending the Carmel Bach Festival in recent years has gotten an earful (and eyeful) of the lute and its cousin the theorbo, but the lautenwerck is a horse of a different color. It is basically a harpsichord, but strung with gut instead of steel strings, and they are rare — I am sure that most of us in the audience had never seen or heard one before.
On Monday, June 15th, at Sunset Center, with the Bach Festival well under way, audiences attended “Psycho!,” where Peter Hanson and his string orchestra played a wide variety of pieces: “Holberg Suite” by Edward Grieg, “Shaker Loops” by John Luther Adams, and after intermission, extracts from the soundtracks of Psycho, Dunkirk, The Deer Hunter,The Lord of the Rings, Schindler‘s List, and an encore (which we’ll get to), as well as the famous Air on the G String by this festival’s namesake, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Carmel has inspired many people. Over the decades, stretching as far back as early 20th Century, creative people have thrived in this small town by the sea. On Sunday, July 14, 2019, day two of the 82nd Carmel Bach Festival, we enjoyed a glimpse of what Carmel has inspired in Maestro Paul Goodwin. Every conductor and director has a vision with much joy to share. Attending live performances seems the only way to understand and receive that joy and vision. At first blush, one wonders how Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, by Johann Sebastian Bach is related to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Incidental Music, Op 61 by Felix Mendelssohn. Andrew Oster gave us some insight with his pre-concert lecture. His well-presented thoughts with recorded excerpts made it easier to enjoy the afternoon’s concert. I’ve decided to let the musicologists discuss the connection. It is enough for me to honor Felix Mendelssohn for his work in reviving Bach’s music.
The weather outside was cool and foggy, but the ambient feeling of heightened anticipation was considerably warmer as those arriving to attend the opening night of Carmel Bach Festival 2019 were offered complimentary wine, treated to a free pre-concert lecture by Karen Hiles and invited to mingle in the courtyard and terraces of Sunset Center to enjoy the traditional “Tower Music” that has been a much-enjoyed and festive pre-concert event for so many years.
Although the Carmel Bach Festival may have teased us with three pre-festival events earlier in the week: two vocal master class open sessions at First Presbyterian Church, a chamber concert at St. Dunstan’s and an annual gala dinner at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, the Carmel Bach Festival 2019 officially opened Saturday night at Sunset Center with a performance of Haydn’s great masterpiece, “The Creation.”