In her final moments onstage as a Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra artistic partner, Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja clutched a bunch of red carnations and wore a WWII gas mask. Yes, she’s leaving sooner than we hoped or expected. But what an exit.
Since her first appearances as artistic partner in 2014, when she played with her parents, both folk musicians, Kopatchinskaja has brought drama, excitement, surprise and sublime musicality to her performances. She usually plays barefoot, her slight form bending and swaying, her feelings written all over her face.
With the SPCO, she played canonical and contemporary music with equal passion and virtuosity. She invented cadenzas. She wore a skeleton costume and stalked the stage. She sang, once while lying on her back. She interrupted Bach with interludes by Kurtag and Schoenberg with Webern. She made audiences laugh during Beethoven and sweetened Mozart with bits of bluegrass.
And sometimes she turned a concert program on its head. Last weekend’s performances were supposed to start with music by Robert and Clara Schumann, continue with Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony and end with Mendelssohn’s effervescent Concerto in D Minor for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra, sending everyone skipping and smiling into the night.
Instead, they began with the Mendelssohn. At the piano was Russia’s Polina Leschenko, whom SPCO Artistic Director Kyu-Young Kim introduced as “Patricia’s favorite pianist in the world.” (Kopatchinskaja and Leschenko released an album earlier this year, “Deux,” that one reviewer called “a feast of edgy, risk-filled music-making.”)
The Mendelssohn was a playful, virtuosic dialogue. For the concert’s second half, the piano was moved to the far left, with a floor lamp tucked into the curve. A small square table sat at the center front of the stage, draped in black cloth. The scene looked and felt intimate, like a chamber concert in a private home.
Kopatchinskaja addressed the audience, explaining that while the first part of the concert had been about “joy and youthfulness, drinking songs and fireworks,” the second part would be about “love and farewells.” She asked us to think about what “farewell” means today. She quoted David Attenborough, who last week warned world leaders that if we don’t do something about climate change, civilization will collapse. She urged us all to speak out.
Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano and Robert Schumann’s Theme from “Ghost Variations” for Solo Piano followed. Leschenko played Robert Schumann’s Elegy, adapted by Benjamin Britten, on a piano behind the wooden screen at the back of the stage, with eerie green light shining through the slats. Tender love letters between Robert and Clara were read aloud, and a description of Robert’s tragic mental illness.
Haydn’s “Farewell” had a sense of urgency. The famous ending – in which the musicians exit the stage one by one, until only two violins remain – was supposedly written as a joking hint to Haydn’s employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, that his overworked musicians needed a break. That’s not what it meant here. As the SPCO musicians slowly walked off the stage, turning off the lights on their music stands, they laid or tossed red carnations on the black-draped table and floor at the front.
When the only light left on was Kopatchinskaja’s, she bent down, reached under the table, rose and put on a gas mask. Then she gathered an armful of carnations and stood silently as the lights came on and the musicians returned to the stage for the curtain call.
This was also Kopatchinskaya’s farewell to the SPCO and the musicians she had worked with for four years. No reason was given for her shorter-than-usual term as artistic partner; most others stay around at least five years. We were told she’ll be back.
Randy Reyes is out at Theater Mu
If you haven’t heard, the big Twin Cities theater news late last week was the termination of Randy Reyes as artistic director of Theater Mu by the theater’s board.
On Thursday afternoon, this letter appeared on the Theater Mu website:
Dear Theater Mu Community,
From its inception, Theater Mu has been dedicated to producing performances born of arts, equity, and justice from the heart of the Asian American experience. We aspire to celebrate and empower Asian Americans through theater. In doing so, Theater Mu is committed to maintaining a welcoming and equitable environment.
A few months ago, Theater Mu received complaints about its artistic director. While our investigation into the matter did not find that any unlawful conduct occurred, we discovered conduct that did not reflect the culture we strive to achieve at Mu and did not reflect the high standards to which we hold Mu leadership. After reflection, the board has concluded that Mu must end his employment with the organization. We are grateful for all that he has brought to Mu over the years, and are disappointed that it has come to this conclusion.
Theater Mu remains, more than ever, dedicated to its mission, to the Asian American actor’s community, and to the Asian American community in the Twin Cities. Though this is a difficult and disappointing time, we believe that Theater Mu has the ability to learn, grow, and change from this experience. We hope to have the opportunity to demonstrate this over the next few months.
Theater Mu Board of Directors
Board chair Reggie Reyes (no relation to Randy Reyes) told the Star Tribune, “We looked at our policies in the era of #MeToo to make sure we have the language to protect the people we work with and that work for us. We would hope that every organization would make sure they have robust policies.”
Managing director Shannon Fitzgerald said, “Moving forward, our season is still in place. Randy will not direct the shows. All the productions will move forward with new directors in place.”
Both Reggie Reyes and Fitzgerald declined to discuss the complaints against Randy Reyes, and Randy Reyes isn’t talking to the press.
Randy Reyes, who has acted in and directed many Twin Cities shows, was appointed artistic director of Theater Mu by founder Rick Shiomi in 2013.