Golda Schultz to sing evocative program at Music Fest performance
Program plays into conversation about “the world of music” in the 20th, 21st centuries
Operatic soprano Golda Schultz relies a lot on trust when she takes the stage for a performance: trust in the instrument of her voice, trust that it will carry throughout the venue, trust in singing by feeling and in the series of clicks she uses to assess the acoustics of the space.
But it’s not faith alone that ensures a successful performance for the explained emerging singer, who will be the selected soloist with the Aspen Symphony Orchestra at Friday night’s Aspen Music Festival and School concert at the Benedict Music Tent.
Schultz can “choose the images I want to share in how I color the words themselves,” she said during a “High Notes” discussion with conductor Benjamin Manis and Music Fest president and CEO Alan Fletcher on Aug. 4.
It’s a fitting talent for the evocative, nostalgic program she will perform Friday night: Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” an aria for Igor Stravinky’s “The Rake’s Progress,” Clarice Assad’s “Sin Fronteras” and Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” She returns to Aspen following a Music Fest debut in 2018 where she performed selections from Mozart and Canteloube.
With the Stravinsky aria — Anne Trulove’s “No word from Tom,” a lament for a lost lover — Schultz separated the libretto from the score for a close reading to identify those points of emphasis.
“The opera itself is a very very interesting dissection of human flaw, and what is it to be a person of moral character?” she said.
Then, too, there is the pacing of the selection; it can have a piercing effect, Schutz suggested.
“It takes you to this quiet moment of deep reflection, and then out of that there is this crazy power into the fast section of the aria. … (It’s) a very strong notion of being like an arrow shooting to the heart of the matter. And it’s fiery and full of hope,” Schultz said.
Barber’s “Knoxville” is likewise a selection where a close reading of the text gets to the heart of the matter; Manis, the conductor for Friday’s performance, recommended that audiences consider reviewing the portrait of the Tennessee city seen through the eyes of a child.
The words themselves are not the work of Barber but of James Agee, who wrote the prose poem about his hometown; even without orchestration, “it feels musical when you read it out loud,” Manis said.
As with the aria, Schultz engaged with the literature of “Knoxville” in her preparations.
“I think that’s what’s been so interesting for me about this piece — just getting in to the text and the language,” she said.
There’s a “childish wonderment” to the piece that stems from the sense that life could keep moving or stop in its tracks, Schultz observed.
“It really just evokes… a nostalgia, bittersweet longing for things to stay as they are and also recognizing that there is a necessity to go forward,” she said.
Another youthful selection, Ravel’s “Mother Goose,” likewise speaks to simpler times. The work was composed with the initial intent that it would be played by two children on one piano — no grand orchestra, no exotic instruments. It has since expanded in depth and breadth of orchestration, but it remains “unbelievably, perfectly simple,” Manis said.
The most contemporary of the four works, “Sin Fronteras” composed by Clarice Assad in 2017, diverges from more sentimental themes in its exploration of a world “without borders” — musically as much as culturally or geographically. The piece is “full of influences from across the spectrum,” Manis said.
But change and evolution remain central, just as “Knoxville” is in some ways about growing up and “The Rake’s Progress” delves into human flaws and morality.
“The whole sort of germ of the piece is the development and change that happens to only really a few sort of musical ideas that then become expanded and changed and reflected upon in really interesting ways, combined in interesting ways,” Manis said.
“Sin Fronteras” also plays into broader conversations about the world of music over the course of the last 120-odd years. The program for Friday’s performance is rooted in a question about what that looks like in the 20th and 21st centuries, Schultz said.
“It’s more wonderful and exciting and it’s so full of … human emotion and connection,” Schultz said.
“It’s boundless, and it’s exciting to be part of that musical conversation.”
It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.