By Bridgette M. Redman
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer
ohpera, by its very nature, is usually large scale. The singers command large stages supported by choirs spread out behind them. Full orchestras perform hidden in pits while providing lively music.
The Pittance Chamber Music seeks to bring a more targeted look to opera by reducing its music to chamber performances. Since 2013, Artistic Director Lisa Sutton, who is also assistant concertmaster of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, has organized small concerts featuring musicians from the orchestra and singers from the LA Opera Chorus and the LA Opera Young Artists Program.
Now, after more than a year of pandemic silence, they have announced a new season at a new venue, featuring concerts designed to personalize the opera and give audiences a more intimate view of the artists who create it.
While their seasons normally start with concerts in the fall, this season has been delayed by COVID-19 concerns, so their first show will be in January.
“We’re all part of the Los Angeles Opera. We’re a group that’s tied together by that common thread,” Sutton said. the pit. They are heard but not seen.
Two of the three concerts of the 2022 season were scheduled for 2021 and had to be canceled.
“The artists were so disappointed we couldn’t do them, so I said we’d do them when we got back,” Sutton said.
The upcoming season is:
Theresa Dimond and Friends: 7:30 p.m.
Saturday January 22
The first gig of the year dives deep into the pit – landing in the percussion section. Hosted by LA Opera Orchestra principal percussionist and UCLA lecturer Theresa Dimond, the program features an extensive repertoire performed by musicians from the orchestra’s percussion, woodwind and string sections.
• Ingolf Dahl: “Concerto a Tre for clarinet, violin and cello”
• Arvo Pärt: “Spiegel Im Spiegel (cello and marimba)”
• Nathan Daugherty: “Burn 3 for flute, clarinet and marimba”
• Barbara Kolb: “Tribute to Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton (Flute and Marimba)”
• Gérard Lecointe: “Point Bak (Ensemble Mallets)”
“The lyrical oboe”: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 26
The second concert features LA Opera Orchestra principal oboist Leslie Reed, pianist Edith Orloff and members of the LA Opera Orchestra in a recital program of favorite works that reflect the lyrical side of the oboe, ranging from pastoral traditions to traditional folklore, including works inspired by famous paintings.
• Saint-Saëns: “Sonata for oboe and piano”
• Gilles Silvestrini: “Studies for oboe” inspired by paintings by Boudin, Monet, Renoir and Manet”
• Joseph Horovitz: “Quartet for oboe and strings”
• Gabriel Fauré: “Play”
• Jacques Ibert: “Stayovers”
• Nino Rota: “Elegy”
• Gabriel Pierne: “Serenade”
• Alyssa Morris: “Collision Etudes: (Inspired by paintings by Cassatt, Mitchell, Thomas and O’Keeffe)”
• Arnold Bax: “Quintet for oboe and strings”
“Liebes lieder! » 7:30 p.m. Saturday April 23
Pittance presents an evening featuring the complete Liebeslieder-Walzer by Johannes Brahms for vocal quartet and piano four hands. Members of the LA Opera Chorus are joined by soprano Elissa Johnston, with LAO conductors Grant Gershon and Jeremy Frank on keyboards.
• Johannes Brahms: “Liebeslieder-Walzer, op. 52 and 65″
This season, the musicians are moving to the First United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1875 and located at 500 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena.
Sutton said apart from the beautiful acoustics it is a wonderful venue as the front of the church has a stage or choir. It is spacious enough to accommodate the larger instruments needed for the first gig.
She said there was a beautiful Steinway grand piano that they would use in the third concert.
Sutton performed in space many years ago as a member of the LA Chamber Orchestra and recently returned to hear a colleague’s recital.
“I remembered how great it was acoustically and how impressive the architecture was,” Sutton said. “You walk in and it amazes you with the high ceiling and the beauty.”
She is friends with the Minister of Music, Greg Norton.
“It feels a bit like coming home with him because I’ve known him for so many years,” Sutton said. “I told him about the concert series, and he helped me organize it. I’m grateful to him for that.”
The percussions in the center of attention
Sutton said the size of the stage made the opening concert possible. At some point, they need four marimbas and a xylophone, which remain on stage for the entire program.
Sutton had wanted to play this for some time. Principal percussionist Dimond is a longtime friend and teaches at UCLA.
“She’s well equipped to speak to the public, and she does it in a very engaging way,” Sutton said. “She loves doing that, and it’s a big part of the gig.”
Sutton said the two picked the pieces. Dimond sent her pages of plays, and she listened to them all.
“Between the two of us, we figured it out,” Sutton said. “There are some things you need to consider. I like to see what she wanted to do, and she sent me a list. Next, we tweaked the staff. Each group is a good team, compatible personally and artistically.
The oboist tells stories
In a program that had to be canceled earlier because of the pandemic, Reed designed a concert around the oboe.
“Leslie Reed is the principal oboe of the LA Orchestra, which is an important position, akin to a concert mistress,” Sutton said. “She had a really wonderful idea of introducing the oboe as a lyrical instrument and focusing on how it was used as an instrument in a pastoral sense by shepherds.”
Reed wanted to make pieces based on famous paintings. Sutton is working on how they could feature these paintings in the concert.
“She had all this enthusiasm for her program, I just let her,” Sutton said. “I told him, ‘This is your program. Tell me what you want to do. She was never a featured artist on our program. We had the lead cellist, lead bass, lead clarinetist. It’s really his turn.
Singers in the History Cycle
The third concert presents Brahms’ “Love Song” waltzes performed by a vocal quartet and four hands on the piano.
The concert was the brainchild of Gershon, who served as conductor and chorus master of the Los Angeles Opera for many years.
“He’s an amazing pianist and a lovely human being in every way,” Sutton said. “These particular pieces are my favorite. I did one of the books years ago with members of the choir. Gershon wanted to do the whole cycle. I said, ‘Let’s go.’
Gershon and Frank will sit side by side on a Steinway piano and play duet. Johnston, who is Gershon’s wife, will sing soprano. Sutton is still lining up the three remaining singers of the LA Opera chorus.
“The music is incredibly breathtaking,” Sutton said. “These are beautiful and very fun pieces.”
Live chamber music returns
Sutton hopes the public is as enthusiastic about returning as his musicians. During confinement, they were sometimes able to bring together two instrumentalists to play on the other side of the room.
“They were dying to play, even without an audience,” Sutton said. “Just playing music together has been a very emotional experience for them. It’s emotional for them to come back and it’s been a real wake-up call for everyone to realize the gift they have and the gift they can share.
She said the place is very accessible. There are no stairs and parking is free in the nearby car park.
“It’s an opportunity to hear high-quality chamber music in an impressive historic location,” Sutton said. “The music is the main thing, but the setting is going to be pretty magical.”
Pittance chamber music
WHEN: Throughout 2022
OR: First United Methodist Church, 500 E. Colorado
COST: $110 for a subscription to three concerts; Subscription to three concerts for seniors $60; single ticket $40; single senior ticket $25 and single rush student ticket $10