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New Musicological Research

As I mentioned last Friday, I read a paper at the Fall Meeting of the Capital Chapter of the American Musicological Society on Saturday. My paper was an expanded version of what I read in Manchester in July, part of ongoing work on the Ballet de la délivrance de Renault (1617). Barbara Haggh-Huglo (University of Maryland) read a paper on Guillaume Dufay, relating the plainchant office he composed for Cambrai Cathedral, the Recollectio Mariae to possible treatises on plainchant which he may have encountered in his education. Christina Indianos-Svilich (a graduate student at Catholic University) presented her research on the doxastikon, a type of Byzantine hymn, found especially in Greek Orthodox sources. Christina is a trained Byzantine cantrix, who sings with the Romeiko Ensemble (see my review of their concert last December).

Ronit Seter spoke about the BBC's 1997 broadcast of Krzysztof Penderecki's monumental choral work The Seven Gates of Jerusalem, produced by Antony Pitts. You may know Penderecki, as I did principally, as the composer of dissonant avant-garde works like Threnos den Opfern von Hiroshima für 52 Saiteninstrumente (Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima for 52 string instruments, 1960). Seven Gates, composed for the 3000th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem (see this .PDF file of part of the 7th movement), is an example of the composer's return to more traditional sounds in the post-70s part of his career. Dr. Seter demonstrated how the BBC producer of the broadcast reshaped Penderecki's traditional, Catholic, eschatological vision of Jerusalem as the holy eternal city into a more realistic, multicultural depiction. The last paper was presented by Denise Gallo (Library of Congress), a fascinating study of Walt Whitman's relationship with opera. Denise has gone through the Whitman archives (also see these notebooks from the Whitman Collection) at the Library of Congress, looking for operatic references in his letters, newspaper articles, and prose works to compare with images of singers in the poems.

By the way, to continue adding to my list of 20th-century operas, Krzysztof Penderecki did compose some operas, beginning with Die Teufel von Loudun (The Devils of Loudun, 1969), an adaptation of Aldous Huxley's book. He has also completed Paradise Lost (1976/78), after the work of John Milton; Die schwarze Maske (The black mask, 1984/86), premiered at the Salzburg Festival; and most interesting of all, Ubu Rex (1990/91), an opera buffa premiered in Munich, based on the famous play Ubu Roi (1896) by Alfred Jarry.

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