(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Exsultate! Kiera Duffy with Gustavo Dudamel and Los Angeles Philharmonic

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mozart: Exsultate,
Jubilate, K. 165
(Kiera Duffy, soprano); Serenade in D Major, K. 320, Posthorn

Friday, May 25, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances: Tomorrow at 2 p.m. (includes the Overture
to The Marriage of Figaro)

Information: www.laphil.com

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“Casual Friday” concerts have always been a somewhat odd
creation: a truncated version of the week’s Los Angeles Philharmonic program
played without intermission, preceded by a talk from an orchestra member and
followed by a question-and-answer period or a chance to schmooze with orchestra
members amid drinks afterwards. The idea is to create a shorter program aimed
at those not used to attending an orchestral concert, although if you factor in
the post-concert conviviality, it’s usually not much shorter, and many of those
in attendance are concert veterans.

 

This week’s program, shoehorned between performances of the
orchestra’s presentation of Mozart’s Don
Giovanni
at Walt Disney Concert, is
already short; in fact, if they had started at 8:05 instead of 8:11, Gustavo
Dudamel and his reduced forces could have added the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and still ended
at 9:30. They could play the entire program tomorrow without intermission and
call it “Casual Sunday.”

 

60414-Kiera Duffy.jpg

However, any concert with young American soprano Kiera Duffy
(pictured left) as the centerpiece is always a major event, IMHO, and last
night validated that opinion. Her vehicle was Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, which Mozart wrote at the age of 17 during his
third visit to Milan. The three-movement work is best known for its jubilant
“Alleluia” final section, which, by the way, Duffy, Dudamel and the Phil took
at quite a brisk clip.  Duffy sang the piece with a gleaming
tone, sailed exquisitely through the runs and trills, and delivered sublime
musicality throughout the 17 minutes.

 

Dudamel (who conducted without a score, although Duffy used
one) and the orchestra supported their soloist sympathetically.

 

The other piece on the program was Mozart’s Posthorn Serenade, which Dudamel and the
orchestra had played two weeks ago on Thursday and Saturday. As was the case
then, the orchestra played wonderfully, with the winds (most notably David
Buck, flute, Marion Arthur Kuszyk, oboe, and Sarah Jackson, piccolo) and James Wilt on posthorn holding
the major share of the spotlight. Dudamel seemed more relaxed and animated in
his conducting.

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On Deck:

The Phil concludes its 2011-2012 indoor season next
weekend (Thursday through Sunday) with the world premiere of John Adams’
oratorio, The Gospel According to the
Other Mary.
This is a bookend to Adams’ nativity oratorio, El Nio, which had its premiere in
December 2000 in Paris and was later performed in Los Angeles.

 

Dudamel conducts the orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale,
six soloists and three narrators (counter tenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings
and Nathan Medley — Bubeck and Cummings performed in the world premiere of El Nino). Mezo-soprano Kelley O’Connor sings
the role of Mary Magdalene.

 

The first half of The
Gospel According to the Other Mary
tells the Biblical stories of the family
of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus (including the raising of Lazarus
from the dead). The second half deals with Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and
resurrection.

 

As they did with 
El Nio,  Adams and librettist Peter Sellars weave
contemporary writings into the Biblical stories that are at the heart of  TGAOM,  using material from American social
activist Dorothy Day and poet/essayist June Jordan, contemporary poet Louise
Erdrich and Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos, along with the 12th-century
mystic and abbess Hildegard of Bingen. Moreover, as was the case with El Nio, the orchestra plays a central
role in the new work.

 

A fully staged version of this new oratorio will be
performed next March, first in Los Angeles and then in New York, London,
Lucerne and Paris.

 

Information (which
includes a link to Adams discussing the new piece): www.laphil..com

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.