Friday, January 14, 2005

MTT turns 60; acknowledges partner

That Michael Tilson Thomas actually turned 60 on Dec. 21 just past is but a mere detail. Yet at last night's bash at Davies Hall, the San Francisco Symphony made a convincing effort to make up for the belatedness of the acknowledgment.

The birthday boy speaks

With all the pizzazz of a celeb-filled gala event, MTT was joined on stage by Frederica Von Stade, Renée Fleming, Lisa Vroman, Audra McDonald and Thomas Hampson, with program choices that ranged from Bizet's L'Arlesienne to selections from Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne; Verdi's "Eri tu" from Un ballo in maschera; ensembles from Bernstein's On the Town; the scherzo from Mahler's First Symphony; entries by Copland, Ginastera, and Tchaikovsky; and showtune standards by Gershwin and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Michael Tilson Thomas' own songs were also offered convincingly, in readings one a piece by the soloists.

Flicka, Vroman, MTT, Audra, Renee: More applause, please

Tom asks Renée: "How come your bouquet is bigger than mine?"

The evening's line up reminded one of Apple's new iPod "shuffle", a playlist of disjointed entries designed to accommodate the birthday boy's wishes and the celebrity performers at hand. But performances were all top notch, with both soloists and orchestra dutifully coming thru with the goods for MTT.

Lots of coyness and puffy charm to go around, but there were some genuine moments scattered throughout the evening, as MTT attempted to establish a mood of intimacy with a crowd of 3000. In particular, this was the first time (to my knowledge) that MTT, in thanking the audience and supporters, publicly recognized his partner Joshua Robison's support, from the maestro's podium. Notably, Gavin Newson was in attendance.

MTT's Bday party: Brazilian band Boca do Rio sets the beat

The concert proper was followed by another one of the SF Symphony's fabulous tented parties, decorated by Stanlee Gatti on a theme of blue and orange polka dots. Patrons danced to the Brazilian beat of a group called Boca do Rio, while drinking champagne and chomping on glazed cupcakes iced with the initials "MTT." An odd but welcome surprise was a bonus performance by a gamelan ensemble and Balinese dancers -- apparently the latest fad amidst MTT's interest pursuits.

Heck, you can do anything you want when you're 60.

MTT's Bday party: Gamelan

MTT's Bday party: Balinese dancer

© 2005 C. Chang

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