Press Room

The Year in Review: 2021

(L to R: 1st row: Teju Cole (courtesy of OSL), DSO/Met musicians (courtesy of DSO), ANIM (courtesy of ANIM), Kennedy Center 50th anniversary (courtesy of KC); 2nd row: Teddy Abrams (photo by O’Neil Arnold), Atlanta Opera’s The Kaiser of Atlantis (photo by Ken Howard); Sasha Cooke, Norman Garrett, Matthew White in Bard’s King Arthur (photos by Maria Baranova); CSO/Muti (photo by Todd Rosenberg); 3rd row: Rafael Payare (photo by Gerard Collett), Nathalie Stutzmann (photo by Brice Toul), WSP’s Death By Life (courtesy of WSP); Dalbavie’s The Satin Slipper (photo by Elisa Haberer), Julia Bullock (photo by Allison Michael Orenstein)

Amidst the continuing challenges of the pandemic, a huge spectrum of innovative performance solutions characterized 2021. 21C Media Group’s clients have often led the way, staying connected to their communities both on digital platforms and in live concert settings with unprecedented creativity and resourcefulness. We’re taking a moment to look back over the past year and salute our clients’ activities and enterprises, highlighting several of special note in the list below.


ORCHESTRA OF ST. LUKE’S (OSL), long known and loved as New York City’s “hometown band” (New York Times), was especially well-positioned to create stellar-quality digital offerings in the DiMenna Center, the orchestra’s home and the city’s only rehearsal, recording and production venue optimized for classical music. As WABC’s Sandy Kenyon reported: “When most live music venues were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, one non-profit organization in New York City saw an opportunity to grow its audience online—and make it more diverse in the process.” In March-May 2021, David Hyde Pierce hosted the streamed series “Sounds and Stories,” which comprised three interdisciplinary concerts. The first was curated by award-winning Nigerian-American author, critic, Harvard writing professor and 2018 Guggenheim fellow Teju Cole, who recorded readings from his own new, unpublished narrative, Radia. Next, Anna Clyne presented a multimedia program featuring the world premiere of the OSL commission Strange Loops and the world-premiere screening of Woman Holding a Balance, a new short film by award-winning British visual artist Jyll Bradley. The series drew to a close with an homage to 19th-century Afro-European violin prodigy George Bridgetower, the first performer and original dedicatee of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata. In pre-recorded segments, Pulitzer Prize-winning former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove read selections from her book-length narrative poem about Bridgetower, Sonata Mulattica.


On April 30 and May 1, the DALLAS SYMPHONY performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in joint concerts with musicians from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Led by Dallas Symphony Music Director Fabio Luisi, the concerts – identified by the New York Times as “one of the most dramatic musical coups of the pandemic” – benefited the Met Orchestra Musicians’ Fund and the Dallas/Fort Worth Musicians COVID-19 Relief Fund, and marked the first time many of the non-DSO musicians had the opportunity to perform for a live audience since the COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020. A 90-minute documentary chronicling the collaboration called “One Symphony, Two Orchestras,” which includes the entire concert performance as well as behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, began airing in October on public television stations across the country.


On May 21, MARC-ANDRÉ DALBAVIE conducted the world premiere of his new opera, The Satin Slipper (“Le soulier de satin”) at the Paris Opera, which also commissioned the work. Opening just two days after France emerged from its third nationwide lockdown, the five-hour opera marked the Palais Garnier’s first public performances since March 2020. Five performances were given for limited, in-person audiences, and the production streamed for free on the Paris Opera site, where it is still available. Based on an epic drama of the same name by French literary giant Paul Claudel, The Satin Slipper depicts the predicament of a Spanish conquistador and a married woman forced to choose between their love and their Catholic faith.


After the extraordinary success of 2020’s virtual opera Alice in the Pandemic, which was subsequently acquired by the Library of Congress for its Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection, Cerise Jacobs and her activist opera company, WHITE SNAKE PROJECTS, completed their pandemic trilogy of virtual operas in May and September. The second in the series, Death by Life, is a monument of support for the Black Lives Matter movement that explores systemic racism and mass incarceration, and the final opera, A Survivor’s Odyssey, uses the characters Penelope and Circe from Homer’s Odyssey to weave a story about the ongoing crisis of intimate partner violence (IPV), which includes domestic violence and rape, especially as exacerbated by the pandemic. Seen and Heard International declared: “With the Pandemic Trilogy, WSP not only embraces technology but is inventing it. A Survivor’s Odyssey goes where opera has never gone before, where the internet is a scene partner. Singers are immersed in 3D environments that are remarkable for their realism and for the skill in which they are employed.”


Representing the first live in-person opera production in the New York area since the beginning of the pandemic, BARD SUMMERSCAPE produced the first fully staged American production of Chausson’s only opera, King Arthur (“Le roi Arthus”). Performed from July 25 to August 1 to unanimous acclaim, the opera was also streamed live and offered as an encore presentation in the Fisher Center’s “Upstreaming” series. Charismatic baritone Norman Garrett sang the role of Arthur, with celebrated mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Guinevere and tenor Matthew White completing the fatal love triangle as Lancelot. The original staging was by Princess Grace Award-winner Louisa Proske. As the New York Times described warmly in its review of the first performance: “It took just two words over the loudspeakers for the audience … at Bard College on Sunday evening to break into vigorous applause: “Welcome back.” Welcome back, indeed, to Chausson’s seldom heard opera … [which] proved a powerful work for this fraught, polarized moment in American life.”


In early August, a year late because of the pandemic, the San Diego Symphony under the direction of RAFAEL PAYARE debuted the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, an $85 million outdoor performance space on the city’s waterfront. The spectacular new venue, built to be a summer home for the orchestra but slated to be used through November to accommodate the continued challenges of the pandemic, is, as the New York Times says, “a project of such architectural and acoustical distinction that it would distinguish San Diego on any national cultural map.” The opening fanfare of the concert was commissioned from Mason Bates, composed with the state-of-the-art Rady sound system in mind, and written to evoke Wagner, Pink Floyd and Techno beats. Guest artists included cellist Alisa Weilerstein, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and bass baritone Ryan Speedo Green. The opening of the Rady Shell was also the subject of a feature story on PBS NewsHour.


Riccardo Muti returned in September to launch his 12th season as Music Director of the CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (CSO) with a three-week residency. Muti’s season-opening programs with the orchestra—marking their first performances together in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center since February 2020—featured the CSO premieres of works by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Florence Price and Missy Mazzoli; Beethoven and Tchaikovsky symphonies; and a collaboration with violinist Leonidas Kavakos.


On September 2, soprano JULIA BULLOCK made her Hollywood Bowl debut, joining the Los Angeles Philharmonic for works by Gershwin and Margaret Bonds, known for her arrangements of spirituals and her collaborations with Langston Hughes, and one of the first Black composers to gain recognition in the U.S. A review by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times praised Bullock as “having a thrilling and distinctive voice, demonstrating impressive technique, [and] projecting text with gripping clarity,” as well as for the extraordinary quality she brings to every performance. Incorporating in his review both Bullock’s performance and a Los Angeles recital the following week by Davone Tines, Swed raved: “It has been increasingly evident that Bullock and Tines are the two singers who can most promisingly bring something powerful, meaningful and even existential to opera. During the pandemic, both have had a presence online, using the closure of concert halls to search into their roots and their very beings. … They are the two most must-hear singers before the public today.”


On September 14, the KENNEDY CENTER kicked off its 50th anniversary season with a special concert hosted by Emmy-, Grammy- and six-time Tony Award-winner AUDRA MCDONALD, with special guests Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Ms. Rose Schlossberg. Echoing “An American Pageant for the Arts,” the 1962 Kennedy Center-opening event conducted by Leonard Bernstein, the special event featured the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta, Steven Reineke, and Thomas Wilkins. Directed and choreographed by Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse, the concert included Renée Fleming, Ben Folds, Punch Brothers, Keb’ Mo’, Christian McBride, and Rachael Price, joining the NSO to recognize the performance traditions that have enriched our varied cultural heritage. An opinion piece in the Washington Post, authored by Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein, detailed the Center’s commitment to civic engagement, and its evolution to reflect the country’s changing demographics.


On October 2, 93 members of the AFGHANISTAN NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MUSIC (ANIM) were airlifted from Kabul to Doha, and they will soon arrive in Portugal, where the government agreed to grant them visas. This followed a fervent campaign by 21C and other concerned organizations to raise awareness about the musicians’ plight, resulting in an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal and coverage by the Guardian, the BBC, the Washington Post, and many others. ANIM is known for supporting the education of girls, who make up about a third of its students, and its all-female orchestra, Zohra, has toured the world. The Taliban has threatened these efforts for years, according to the New York Times, which also reported that the school faced “an uncertain future amid signs that the Taliban will move to restrict nonreligious music, which they banned outright when they previously led Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001.”


On October 12, Teddy Abrams, the galvanizing conductor of the LOUISVILLE ORCHESTRA, was named Conductor of the Year for 2022 by Musical America. From his earliest days in Louisville, Abrams has been lauded for his efforts to connect the orchestra with the community at large, exemplified most recently by his musical responses to the global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, as well as creative initiatives like his rap-opera, The Greatest, honoring heavyweight champion and Louisville native Muhammad Ali, which featured local rapper – and now, newly elected Louisville Metro Councilman – Jecorey Arthur. Abrams and Arthur discussed the legacy of Black music and the role of artists in times of upheaval on NPR’s All Things Considered.


On October 13, Nathalie Stutzmann was appointed Music Director Designate of the ATLANTA SYMPHONY, becoming the second woman to lead a major U.S. orchestra. Widely recognized as “a musician of great refinement and sophistication” (The Times of London), whose performances are known for their “delicate sensuality” (Die Welt) and “huge emotional punch” (Seen and Heard International), Stutzmann currently holds positions as Principal Guest Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Chief Conductor of Norway’s Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra. She leads two ASO programs this season before succeeding departing Music Director Robert Spano and beginning her initial term of four years with the 27-time Grammy-winning orchestra next fall. Stutzmann was interviewed about the appointment on NBC’s Today show.


THE ATLANTA OPERA’s nimble response to the pandemic included the “Big Tent” series: 40 performances of six new chamber opera productions during the 2020-2021 season in a custom-built venue that maximized the safety of all participants. The venue proved so popular with audiences that it will be brought back in spring of 2022 to host the Discoveries series production of Cabaret and As One. The company’s new subscription streaming platform, Spotlight Media, also created in response to the pandemic, allowed The Atlanta Opera to reach a global audience. New productions and films will be added to Spotlight, making it a mainstay of future seasons. The Wall Street Journal declared that the company’s innovative solutions demonstrate “how imaginative direction can harness Covid restrictions for artistic effect,” and Broadway World, reviewing the Big Tent production of Threepenny Carmen that was also streamed on Spotlight Media, found that “the result is a festival for the eyes and ears, even as the opera is stripped down to its essentials of sex, lies and, now, videotape. [It] celebrates ingenuity, of the director and his team of creatives, as well as the cast.”

New recordings released by 21C artists in 2021

Daniel Hope: Schnittke: Works for Violin and Piano (Feb 5, Deutsche Grammophon)
Pat Metheny: Road to the Sun (March 5, BMG Modern Recordings)
Hanick Hawley Duo: A Gentle Notion (April 30, Il Pirata Records)
Leif Ove Andsnes: Mozart Momentum 1785/1786 (May 28, Sony Classical)
Pierre-Laurent Aimard: Beethoven Hammerklavier (July 2, Pentatone)
Inbal Segev: 20 for 2020, Vol II(Aug 27, Avie Records)
Daniel Hope: Hope (Sep 3, Deutsche Grammophon)|
Marin Alsop: Porgy and Bess (Sep 7, Pentatone)
Daniil Trifonov: Bach: The Art of Life (Oct 8, Deutsche Grammophon)
Marin Alsop: Candide (Oct 15, LSO Live)
The Atlanta Opera: Glory Denied (coming this month)

More information about the recordings listed above is available here.

# # #

© 21C Media Group, November 2021


Return to Press Room