Classical Notes

Lord returns to head NEC’s opera program

Stephen Lord will become artistic director of the opera studies program at New England Conservatory. Stephen Lord will become artistic director of the opera studies program at New England Conservatory.
By David Weininger
Globe Correspondent / May 21, 2010

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Stephen Lord is headed back to Boston. Lord spent 16 years as music director and principal conductor of Boston Lyric Opera, where he won plaudits for his guidance in repertoire ranging from Mozart to Strauss. Currently music director of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, he is slated to become artistic director of the opera studies department at New England Conservatory, where he will oversee all aspects of the program. The appointment takes effect in September. Beginning in the 2011-12 season, Lord will also conduct one mainstage production per season, NEC announced this week. He will keep his St. Louis position.

The school also noted that Luretta Bybee, a faculty member and mezzo-soprano, will assume the post of executive director and chair of the department. Both appointments are part of a reorganization intended to boost NEC’s profile in the world of opera education; other recent endeavors have included a partnership with Opera Boston and the establishment of an artist diploma program in opera.

Lord has been increasingly visible in the opera world since leaving the BLO post in 2008. This past season he made conducting debuts at English National Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In joining NEC, Lord has stated goals of offering more individual attention and more concentrated tutorials to students. He also plans to present concert performances as well as staged opera, in order to expose orchestral students to opera.

Women’s voices
The women’s chorus Cappella Clausura specializes in unearthing little-known music composed by women, and while its repertoire encompasses everything from the early Middle Ages to the present, its focus lies in the Italian Baroque. During that era, a number of women living in female monasteries were able to compose and publish their own works, something largely impossible outside that rarefied world.

Conversely, one composer the group will present this weekend gained prominence as a composer and performer in secular society: Barbara Strozzi, described as “the female secular Monteverdi’’ in an e-mail exchange with Amelia LeClair, the chorus’s music director. Strozzi’s duties as a singer at her father’s literary club allowed her to compose and publish her own works, “unlike any other woman that we know of in her day.’’

Strozzi published over 125 vocal works, and Cappella Clausura will perform some of her madrigals. “Her rhetorical composition is daring and unique,’’ wrote LeClair. “It is written by a woman who was a highly skilled vocalist, and who clearly understood the deep satisfaction of stretching boundaries just beyond the norm.’’

The remainder of Cappella’s unusual program is given over to instrumental works by Isabella Leonarda, an Ursuline nun whose violin sonatas are, LeClair noted, probably the earliest such works to have been composed by a woman.

Saturday at Parish of the Messiah in Newton, Sunday at First Lutheran Church in Boston.

BEMF concert series
Two British choral groups — one a longtime favorite, the other a relative newcomer — bookend the Boston Early Music Festival’s 2010-11 concert series. The series, announced last week, opens on Oct. 15 at St. Paul Church in Cambridge with a performance by the young, highly acclaimed chorus Stile Antico, which made its Boston debut at the 2009 festival. The group’s program, “In Paradisum,’’ includes swan songs and memorial works by Byrd, Gombert, Josquin, and Schütz. On April 1, the Tallis Scholars make their annual visit to the same venue; the program centers on Tomás Luis de Victoria, the 400th anniversary of whose birth will be observed next year.

Other events of note include BEMF’s annual chamber opera (Nov. 27-28), which this year is Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,’’ fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout in an all-Mozart program (Feb. 25), and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (March 12, a coproduction with the Celebrity Series of Boston). Sir Roger Norrington, who’s become a regular presence with the Handel and Haydn Society, brings the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to Sanders Theatre on March 15 for a program of music by C.P.E. Bach. Subscriptions and tickets go on sale in July.

David Weininger can be reached at