Death of Al Ruocchio, Long-time Host of WCPE’s “Opera House”
WCPE, The Classical Station, announced Feburuary 8 the death of Al Ruocchio, the host of its “Opera House” program, a mainstay of the station for nearly 27 years. He was 69.
The station has prepared a memorial tribute at [inactive 2/10].
Spoleto Festival USA 2007 Boldly Anchored by Three Opera Rarities
Considering how the box office can run red due to the selection of an unpopular opera, program selectors for the Spoleto Festival USA must be dauntless. The Festival’s brilliant staging of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck in 1997 was rumored to have spilled a lot of red ink. Most seasons have been buffered by at least one sure-fire audience favorite. Critics, who do not have to worry about the budget, have sometimes carped that the Festival has not been adventuresome enough. With two lesser-known operas and a Western Hemisphere premiere booked, that will not be a complaint this year.
Long time attendees and radio broadcast listeners of the Metropolitan Opera may remember productions of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Rise and fall of the City of Mahagonny. It has never won the popularity of Weill and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, but Mahagonny is considered by many to be a work of remarkable stature with a beautifully haunting score and a strong operatic structure. In the New Kobbé’s Opera Book, the Earl of Harewood writes “Mahagonny itself is a baffling work, put forward by some as a kind of masterpiece-but a masterpiece to which, according to them, no kind of justice seems ever to be done in performance-an anti-capitalist satire rejected by official Marxism, whose book by the didactic prophet of modern theatre seems paradoxically to have dated far more quickly than the music of the composer.” The best-known selection from the opera is the famous “Alabama Song.” Spoleto USA has placed the opera in the hands of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. This team has turned in a long list of effectively and imaginatively staged productions in Charleston, including Rusalka, Jenufa, and Iphigénie en Tauride. Festival Music Director for Opera and Orchestra Emmanuel Villaume will direct six performances of the opera in the Sottile Theatre.
It took some digging in heavyweight reference books to ferret out information about the opera L’Ile de Merlin (ou Le Monde Renersé) by Christophe Willibald Gluck. The plot of this light-hearted fantasy centers upon the improbable society on Merlin’s Island, where wealthy women are required by law to marry poor men, all lawyers are honest, husbands and wives are always faithful, and disputes are settled by games of chance because fighting is forbidden. This opera will be staged in the intimate setting of Dock Street Theatre. Director Christopher Alden, who directed Verdi’s Luisa Miller at the 2000 Spoleto Festival USA, will stage this production. Harry Bicket, well known for his work with Baroque operas, will conduct six scheduled performances.
The legend of Dr. Faust selling his soul to the devil has provided book for many operas from Berlioz to Busoni and beyond. The Festival will offer the American premiere of Faustus, the Last Night (An Opera in One Night and Eleven Numbers) by contemporary French composer Pascal Dusapin. Dusapin’s sources range from Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century play, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, to touching upon Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein. Faustus premiered in early 2006 at the Berlin Staatsoper. It has been praised for Dusapin’s signature full-throated, sweetly angular melodies, shared by a harmony of strings. Dusapin’s libretto focuses upon Dr. Faustus’ last night on earth and involves his search for existential answers from a blind angel and a mocking Mephisto. The director will be David Herskovits and John Kennedy, Artistic Associate of Spoleto Festival USA and director of the festival’s Music in Time series, will conduct three scheduled performances in the Sottile Theatre.
One of the constant anchors of the Festival has always been the Bank of America Chamber Music series which presents three performances each of eleven programs over the course of the festival. The inimitable Charles Wadsworth is a master at selecting an enticing menu that mixes the familiar and unusual presented by an ensemble of some of the finest young musicians available. His regulars, violinist Chee-Yun Kim, violist Daniel Phillips, pianist Wendy Chen, cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Andrés Díaz, flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, clarinetist Todd Palmer, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet have developed a unique artistic chemistry. Two fine artists, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and soprano Courtenay Budd, are returning this year after a short hiatus. The first week of the festival — May 22 – June 1 — will feature pianist Wendy Chen and violinist Chee Yun Kim, longtime audience favorites. Weekend concerts often sell out and even midweek seats can be hard to get. Order your tickets as early as possible.*
Music featuring orchestra, choruses, and soloists are presented in a large number of series. Emmanuel Villaume will lead the enthusiastic young musicians of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in two concerts. On May 31 in Sottile Theater, he will lead a program consisting of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony and Ravel’s Ma Mere L’Oye. All orchestral stops will be pulled out for the June 5 program, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, held in Gaillard Auditorium.
This year’s major choral work will be Verdi’s Messa da Requiem which will be presented June 4 in Gaillard Auditorium. Festival favorite Joseph Flummerfelt will lead the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, the Westminster Choir and members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus. This concert is likely to become a sellout.
This year there will be two separate pairs of repeated concerts featuring the Westminster Choir. New this season will be Les Angelus, which features just the women, held May 28 and June 2 in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The ever-popular full choir’s recital will be held May 31 and June 7 in the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul. This venue has some sight-limited seating because of columns.
Five Intermezzi Series programs often feature smaller orchestral forces in programs that will range from Haydn through Weill will be held in St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.
John Kennedy’s Music in Time Series often presents cutting-edge music. This year’s program will range across Dusapin, Stockhausen, and Weill.
A new concert work by Philip Glass, Book of Longing, will receive its American premiere during the second week of the festival followed by two repeats. The Press Release describes it as “enigmatic and playful” and it will be played by “an ensemble of singers and musicians drawn from indie rock, classical and new music circles-and will include Glass on the keyboard.”
This year’s Dance Series is cast from strength. Elements of break dancing and hip-hop are found in the work of Rubberbandance Group which will give four performances. Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company will also present four programs. Prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvilli will lead the State Ballet of Georgia in five performances of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The Spoleto Festival Orchestra will accompany the dancers. The New York-based contemporary dance company Shen Wei Dance Arts will offer only two performances.
CVNC has not yet been able to cover plays given at the Spoleto Festival. The highlight of this season’s theater offerings is the return of The Gate Theatre of Dublin, Ireland. Their two previous visits quickly sold out. They will give 19 performances of Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife.
The Spoleto Festival USA will be held May 25-June 10 in Charleston, South Carolina. Full information can found at The local paper, The Post and Courier, provides online news items and updates at (Registration — free… — is required.)
by William Thomas Walker


Douglas Nielsen and Linda Tarnay to Receive the American Dance Festival’s 2007 Distinguished Teaching Honor
February 1, 2007, Durham, N.C. – The American Dance Festival (ADF) will award the 2007 Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching to internationally renowned teachers Douglas Nielsen and Linda Tarnay in a ceremony on Sunday, June 10, 2007, at 8:00 p.m. in Reynolds Industries Theater at Duke University.
Established at ADF in 1991, the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching honors teachers who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of modern dance. This award, endowed through a generous contribution from Luise Elcaness Scripps and additional support by Walter Beinecke, the daughters of Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke and the ADF, signifies the importance of honoring these treasured leaders as they preserve the thread to the past while shaping the future of this art form.
Douglas Nielsen initially studied dance at the California Institute of the Arts under the direction of Bella Lewitzky and Donald McKayle. He was a member of Gus Solomons Company/Dance in New York and Batsheva Dance Company in Israel and the companies of Pearl Lang and Paul Sanasardo. In 1987 the ADF selected Doug to participate in a pioneering effort to help establish the first modern dance company in China, the Guangdong Dance Company, which led to other international teaching assignments in Argentina, Chile, Czech Republic, Brazil, Estonia, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and most recently, Mongolia. In 2003 Doug received the prestigious Lester Horton Dance Educator Award for excellence in teaching, presented by Donald McKayle. He currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, as Professor at the University of Arizona School of Dance.
Linda Tarnay is Chair of the Department of Dance at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, where she has taught technique, composition, improvisation and repertory for 30 years. She was a member of the ADF faculty for 15 summers, codirected the ADF Young Choreographers and Composers Program, and also directed the ADF International Choreographers in Residence Program. As director of her own company, Linda Tarnay and Dancers, she won grants from the NEA, NYSCA and the Creative Artist Public Service Award (CAPS). A founding member of Dance Theater Workshop, she continues as a trustee of that organization as well as of The Yard, where she serves as artistic advisor.
Previous recipients of the Chair include Pearl Primus, Daniel Nagrin, Betty Jones, Bella Lewitzky, Anna Halprin, Donald McKayle, Bessie Schönberg, Matt Mattox, Pauline Koner, Viola Farber, Mary Anthony, Walter Nicks, Jane Dudley, Sophie Maslow, Pearl Lang, Martha Myers, Carmen de Lavallade, Gus Solomons, Jr., Gerri Houlihan, and Dr. Charles “Chuck” Davis.
For more information on the ADF and all of its programs, … call 919/684-6402 or visit the ADF website at
[News item provided by the ADF.]
(Except as noted, news items compiled by John W. Lambert)
*Edited, updated 3/22/04.