After many months of no live concerts and no Hollywood Bowl season last year, I was finally back for in-person performance. The program was as follows.
CATELLANOS: Santa Cruz de Pacairigua
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian”
I wanted to write something a little more at length about the actual music, but due to commitments and not enough planning ahead, I will instead only write about the experience of being back at the Hollywood Bowl. Saying that words cannot describe how I felt is a little cliche, and frankly, it’s an easy way out.
To say it was a mixture of emotions is an understatement. For weeks leading up to the concert, I grew more and more excited about finally being able to attend an in-person event after what felt like an eternity. On the day before, however, my excitement was tempered by nervousness and a growing fear of the once again increasing COVID-19 cases. Entering the Hollywood Bowl felt I felt an enormous sense of relief. We had made it through the worst of the pandemic, and we were back. I had so much fear about the uncertainty of the pandemic. So much in fact that I can’t bring myself to write the scenarios that haunted my thoughts.
It was wonderful to be back, even though it did feel a little different. I enjoyed my food and wine but was rushing to get my mask on once I was finished eating to be as safe as possible even though I’m fully vaccinated. Once the music started, I felt the usual sense of peace where I lose myself in the music and forget about everything else in the world. It was good to be back.
After nearly 16 hours of flight, we were beginning our descent into Hong Kong, and shortly I would be setting foot on the Asian continent for the first time. I stowed away my belongings and folded up my tray table. I began to listen to Nixon in China from the beginning as I stared intently out the window. After fleeing daylight as we flew west, the sun was finally catching up and the first daylight in nearly twenty-four hours begun to illuminate the dense clouds we were now passing through. Precipitation had started to collect and slide across the window. I imagined that monumental landing in China by Nixon in 1972.
I want to be respectful of everyone’s present-day opinions and beliefs. My landing in Hong Kong is the closest thing I had to compare to that landing in Peking airport. Whether you consider Hong Kong independent or a part of China is beyond the scope of this humble blog and is an issue I try to educate myself on frequently.
The week before my first trip to Asia in 2017, I attended a performance of Nixon in China at Walt Disney Concert Hall. This production projected historical footage from Nixon’s visit to China above the action of the opera. I was at once captivated and fascinated. I knew little about this historic encounter, and I wanted to learn more.
This opera was conceived when in 1983, Peter Sellers approached John Adams and suggested he write an opera about Nixon’s visit to China in 1971. John Adams, by this point, had never composed an opera before and was hesitant at first but agreed to compose this historical opera. Alice Goodman was invited to be the librettist, and the three set out to examine the personalities of the principal figures and go beyond the stereotypes. During this time, John Adams was interested in the origin of myths and saw an opportunity in this opera to show how contemporary history could have the seeds for a myth.
I can’t help but feel the larger-than-life and legendary presence of these opera characters and historical figures. John Adams did a superb job at illustrating this world event as containing the origin of a myth through the music, which includes elements of minimalism, neoclassicism, jazz references, and big band sounds along with passages echoing Wagner and Johann Strauss. I do not possess the knowledge to have deduced the claims of the last sentence on my own. Still, when I listen and watch the opera repeatedly, I can hear those musical influences, and every time my connection with this opera evolves.
Isn’t opera a fascinating art form? I was going to see this opera once again in person last year, but those plans went out the window. So the next best thing is what I am doing now. Streaming the opera on Met of Demand and polishing off the rest of that Justin Sauvignon Blanc that I started last night.
I poured myself a glass of a 2020 Justin Sauvignon Blanc to watch tonight’s broadcast of past Hollywood Bowl performances. The theme for the night was musicals and movies. Despite not being the biggest fan of musicals, I thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s show, including Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Kristin Chenowith.
Several years ago, Brian Stokes Mitchell would stir up some unhappy memories of a certain persona non grata. I couldn’t remember this singer’s name for the life of me. As if I developed a mental block. Tonight, I genuinely enjoyed his music and was utterly indifferent to any past memories. The singer that stole the show in tonight’s broadcast was Audra McDonald. What a magnificent voice and incomparable talent! The two songs that stuck deep and got me emotional were “Smile” and “Make Someone Happy.” Both of those songs have been among my favorites for many years.
I am so grateful for these broadcasts as they have let my mom and me get a little dose of performances during the pandemic. In just a little over two weeks, we will be back at the Hollywood Bowl after almost two years since we’ve been there and our first live performance in nearly 18 months. I can hardly wait.
As to the wine…it was wonderful and tasted amazing after having some peaches and a plum. I wasn’t planning on having the fruits, but I didn’t want to let the fruits go to waste and I wanted to get those extra nutrients. I was afraid the sweetness of the fruits would make the wine taste dry, but it actually pared rather well!