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‘General Groves’ To Sing In Los Alamos

on November 8, 2019 - 7:27am
By ANN MCGLAUGHLIN
Artistic Director
Los Alamos Concert Association
 
Did that headline give you a bit of a start? Notice the quotation marks? They should reassure you that something interesting (but not creepy) is going on. 
 
What’s going on is, in fact, a pretty big deal for Los Alamos. 
 
A star of New York’s Metropolitan Opera is scheduled to sing here Dec. 5 and he’s not just any star.
 
Bass-baritone Eric Owens created the role of General Leslie Groves in the world premiere of John Adams’ opera Doctor Atomic. He went on to make his Metropolitan Opera debut in that role and he just opened the new Met season singing the title role in a smash hit revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess
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The fact that he will be coming to Los Alamos directly from the Met stage is quite a coup for this little town. I like to imagine that when we asked if he would be willing to take this gig he said, “Los Alamos? Heck, yes!” After being immersed in the story of Oppie, Groves and the Trinity Test, his curiosity about this spot on the map must surely have been piqued.
 
This is a singer of astonishing dramatic range. He’s sung multiple Wagnerian roles, premiers of new music, oratorio performances with major orchestras and song recitals, which is what we will hear in Los Alamos.
 
The single piece he will perform, Winterreise (Winter Journey) by Franz Schubert, is a bit like a one-man opera. It’s a collection of 24 songs (a “song cycle” in classical music parlance) in the voice of a man who has discovered that his beloved has married another.
         
This is a towering work in the history of German art song and few singers are up to the task of not just getting through it but conveying all its dramatic intensity.
 
A music critic of my acquaintance told me recently that he would be happy to listen to Eric Owens read pages out of the phone book. He has that kind of spell-binding voice.
 
I’d like you to watch this YouTube clip of Owens talking about how he gets into character before taking the stage. You’ll get to hear that marvelous voice and see an approachable, nice guy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWStB8lYCgQ&t=39s
 
Owens will not be on the stage alone. His piano partner in the performance will be none other than Jeremy Denk, one of America’s foremost pianists who happens to have been raised in Las Cruces.
 
Not too many kids from New Mexico go on to receive MacArthur “Genius Grants”, but Jeremy did. If you need any proof that despite his New York address he is a true New Mexican, I personally witnessed him ordering triple green chili on his burger at the Brew Pub after he performed here in 2013.
 
Watch this totally charming video of Jeremy talking about his childhood piano teacher in Las Cruces. 
 
I hope that these two great artists will be rewarded with a large and enthusiastic audience when they perform here at 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5 in the Duane Smith Auditorium.
 
Mark your calendar and check out the Los Alamos Concert Association website for full concert and ticket information. www.losalamosconcert.org.

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