Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 25, 2018

REVIEW: A Week at Tanglewood, La Boheme, Emanuel Ax

by Shera Cohen

Photo by Hilary Scott
The rains came exactly six bars into Mimi’s aria in Act I of Puccini’s “La Boheme”. Thunder and lightning put a damper on Kristine Opolais’ lush soprano voice. While the elements immediately scattered many of the opera lovers seated on the lawn, nothing stopped the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of this best of the classics. The lawn folk rushed under the Shed’s awnings, into the gift shop, to their cars, or remained a bit soggy in their beach chairs. Fortunately, for all, the weather returned to its former status after about 10 – 15 minutes.

Welcome to Tanglewood, where the venue is equal in beauty, importance, and feeling to the music performed here. Two of the larger stages are The Shed and Osawa Hall. Numerous smaller sites dot the many acres, most used for education, rehearsals, and small concerts. Indeed, there is never silence at Tanglewood. Even the sounds of birds literally chime in from the rafters in the Shed. A few extra notes of nature never intruded on “La Boheme”.

Conducted by Maestro Andris Nelsons and directed by Daniel Rigazzi, the semi-staged work proved that opera doesn’t necessarily need the ancillary trappings to be perfect. The voices of the nine principles, Tanglewood Chorus, and BSO Children’s Choir created the full opera from opening notes to finale death scene [not a spoiler] with emotion and energy.

On this particular Tanglewood week, concerts were scheduled every day (morning, afternoon, and/or evening).

The day prior to “La Boheme,” pianist Paul Lewis exquisitely tackled another opera composer when he performed “Siegfried Idyll” by Wagner. The following day, another pianist, Yuja Wang, played Beethoven and Bernstein. This is “the year” of Leonard Bernstein, as 2018 would have marked his 100th birthday. Tanglewood staff have peppered the season with Bernstein music.

Usually, there’s not much to do, culturally speaking, on Monday nights. However, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra (different from BSO, but nearly as beautiful) challenged themselves with the best of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Well, Tuesdays are not very popular either. Wrong again. Tanglewood Music Center’s vocalists took the stage at Ozawa Hall.

An entire evening of Mozart followed. Four lengthy sonatas were performed as duets by notes pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Pamela Frank. Every seat in Osawa Hall was filled as well as a large expanse on the lawn behind the back wall. Both performers were confident and somewhat unassuming before their appreciative audience. “Maniax” t-shirts were apparently the clothing of choice, worn by many adult fans sitting in their “Maniax” section of the hall.