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Ozawa solidifies future as Vienna maestro

LENOX -- Seiji Ozawa drove his vintage red Chevy Suburban up to the loading dock behind the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood Tuesday and jumped out wearing a Red Sox Champions baseball cap, a T-shirt, and Armani jeans.

After rehearsing with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's former music director stood in a corner of a dressing room crowded with well-wishers and spoke briefly about his recent decision to extend his contract as music director of the Vienna State Opera through 2010, when he will be 75.

Ozawa said he had been involved in so much advance planning that it seemed sensible to remain for an additional three seasons (his original contract went through 2007). Also in 2010, there will be a new general manager, succeeding Ozawa's colleague Ioan Holender -- and indeed a whole new Austrian government, which holds legal authority over the Opera House.

In future seasons, Ozawa will conduct new productions of Verdi's ''Otello," Mozart's ''Idomeneo," Wagner's ''Tannhauser," and, he hopes, a major late-20th-century opera he didn't want to name.

His new contract permits him to fulfill engagements in Florence and Paris after his original contract expired, and to continue his operatic and educational work in Japan. He has also founded a new opera company in Tokyo, featuring international singers and productions, and he directs the summer Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto, Japan, he created to honor his teacher, Hideo Saito. This year's major production will be a rare semi-staging of Schoenberg's ''Gurrelieder," and next year will bring another semi-staging, Mendelssohn's oratorio ''Elijah."

He seemed very happy to be back at Tanglewood, where he spent many summers with his children as they grew up. His daughter, Seira, a writer, and his son Yukiyoshi, a film and television actor, joined his wife, Vera, to cheer Ozawa on from a box in the Shed at Tuesday night's Tanglewood on Parade concert.

Ozawa also found time to sit down with his successor, James Levine, and composer John Williams for a short TV interview with WBZ-TV's Joyce Kulhawik.

All spoke warmly about the Boston Symphony, Tanglewood, Symphony Hall, and the Boston public. Ozawa said, ''The BSO is like a beautiful park, which must be forever. The conductors and players go in and out, and the music director is the groundskeeper." He pointed to Levine, ''Now it's his turn."

Studying Bolcom's works
Singer Joan Morris and composer/pianist William Bolcom gave a master class on Bolcom's cabaret songs to the vocal fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center late last week.

Bolcom's songs, written to texts by Arnold Weinstein and tailored to the voice and personality of Morris, have become repertory pieces for most American concert and opera singers, as well as for cabaret performers.

Both artists had significant musical points to make, but they also emphasized the visual aspect of communicating. At one point, they asked a singer to perform a song on nonsense syllables, while still delivering its full meaning.

Bolcom recalled the video of one concert by Maria Callas in Hamburg. ''She's wearing a formal gown," he said, ''but in her face and eyes you can see what the character she is portraying is wearing, where she is, the setting, the other people who are present, and what her relationship to them is -- not to mention her emotional state."

For the bitter song ''At the Last Lousy Moment of Love," Morris asked the singer to describe the scene. Her scenario had a woman in a piano bar, holding her favorite drink, a Captain and Coke, trying to hold herself together as she poured out her story to the piano player, who had heard this story a thousand times before.

For the song ''Surprise," which is about an office worker who goes off in a corner to drink iodine at an office party in her honor, Bolcom and Morris worked on the singer's delivery of the word ''iodine." The singer was delivering it with relish; together they worked out another intent -- surprise and horror, as if nobody really knew this woman they worked alongside for years.

Toward the end of the class, a self-confessed longtime fan of both, James Levine, dropped in and asked what everyone else longed to, but didn't dare: Would they do a few songs, especially ''Lydia, the Tattoo'd Lady"? Morris gamely obliged, and the singer in glasses and summer smock became a different person with every song, moving effortlessly from hilarity to horror to pathos, sometimes within a single phrase.

If she minded handing over ''her" songs to a new generation, she certainly didn't show it. At the end of the class, she complimented the young singers by saying, ''I heard something new in every song."

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