The Ojai Music Festival, traditionally a showcase for difficult and rarely performed works, on Saturday will feature Igor Stravinsky's little-known opera, "The Nightingale," as part of three days of concerts this weekend.
The performances in Ojai's Libbey Park will be by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of composer/conductor Pierre Boulez.
The opera, although not staged as a costumed performance, will be sung in Russian by the principals of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera and the Pacific Chorale. Soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson will sing the title role.
"The Nightingale" is seldom staged largely because it is not a full-length opera, said Jeannette O'Connor, the festival's artistic director. Just over an hour long, it resembles more a one-act opera in three scenes than the three-act work that it purports to be, she said.
"I know of only one performance done in the U.S. this year and that was on the East Coast," O'Connor said. "It's a challenge for singers, very difficult."
O'Connor, who flew to New York after last year's festival to meet with Boulez and Ernest Fleischmann, executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said the decision to perform the opera and the other musical selections for the five concerts was made during a three-hour planning session.
"We each came with our ideas, but I pretty well knew what kind of music Mr. Boulez would be interested in doing," she said.
Boulez, considered one of the classical music world's pre-eminent composers, is making his fourth appearance as music director of the festival. One of this century's most celebrated musical figures, Boulez--as conductor of both the New York Philharmonic and London's BBC Symphony Orchestra--has aggressively championed difficult new music.
Acclaimed Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, popularly known for his compositions in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey," will have five works performed this weekend. Ligeti, who was to be the festival's composer-in-residence--an honor previously given such luminaries as Stravinsky and Aaron Copland--had to cancel his appearance because of illness, O'Connor said.
The opening concert, "A Choral Fantasy," at 8 p.m. Friday will feature principals of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera and the Pacific Chorale in works by Schubert, Debussy, Ravel, Ligeti and Stravinsky.
The Andritti String Quartet will perform at 1 p.m. Saturday. In a rare West Coast appearance, the quartet will present a program of music by Boulez, Ligeti and Berg.
The Saturday evening performance, beginning at 8 p.m., will include "The Nightingale" and two works by Ligeti.
New York pianists Ursula Oppens and Alan Feinberg will make their debut performance as a duo-piano team during an 11 a.m. Sunday recital featuring music by Brahms, Mozart, Ligeti, Lutoslawski and Bartok's "Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion."
The festival will close with Boulez conducting three of his major works, presented as a tribute to Lawrence Morton, Ojai Festival artistic director emeritus, who died two years ago.