Kirsten Blase brings early music to the big world.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Make no mistake about it, the church music of the 18th century is inspiring stuff—even if the lyrics are indecipherable. At the ongoing Carmel Bach Festival, many performances provide English subtitles but, in some cases, mere words can’t really do the compositions justice.
Take, for instance, Friday night’s performance of Mozart’s “Exsultate Jubilate” at 8pm at the Sunset Center in Carmel. Originally written in Latin, the subtitles for this exuberant piece include flashing phrases like “exult” and “rejoice.” Those are certainly words to live by but, to truly appreciate the music, you’ve got to put your literal brain on hold and let those celestial, early music vibes wash all over your tortured, world-weary 21st century soul.
That might seem like a tall order, but not when soprano Kirsten Blase is belting out classics like the aforementioned.
A rising star in the close-knit world of classical music singers, Blase is on the road more than half the year singing in Europe and the States. She’s also performed in composer John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer” with the BBC Symphony and in the film version of the opera.
This year marks Blase’s third appearance at the Festival. Her rendering of “Exsultate Jubilate” marks her first solo performance at the Festival’s main stage (the Sunset Center) and her maiden voyage working with the Festival’s longtime baton-wielder, Bruno Weil.
“It’s one of those pieces that is very uplifting, and you can use it for lots of different occasions,” says Blase, who notes that it’s often used as a finale for weddings. “Even if you didn’t know Latin you would definitely get the gist, definitely know that this is a very happy piece.”
Even wishy-washy agnostics can probably find something to get excited about with this number.
“The most leery people, who might be afraid of going to church for whatever reason—it still lifts them to a higher level. You can’t help but get something spiritual out of this music because it’s so divinely inspired. Whether you’re a Christian or Jewish or Muslim or whatever, that music comes from someplace other than on this Earth,” says Blase.
Despite her own enthusiasm for early music, Blase almost didn’t find her way to Carmel. She first applied to the Festival’s Adams Fellows apprenticeship program for singers in 1994 as a junior at Indiana University, but was turned down for her lack of experience in a letter from David Gordon, the Festival’s Vocal Coordinator and Education Director in charge of the program.
Rather than round-file the rejection, Blase tucked the letter away and went on to get her BA and MA at Indiana, and also began performing professionally. When she reapplied in 2000, Blase stapled Gordon’s words of advice to her application with a letter detailing her experience and ended up garnering one of the four coveted spots.
Blessed with movie star looks, Blase is the first to admit that her appearance hasn’t hurt her career, but doesn’t want to let it get in the way of the music.
“There’s nothing more disappointing than if you’re doing a concert and that’s the only thing that gets remarked—obviously, I’m a musician,” says Blase, who also downplays the allure of living out of suitcase half the year. She says she needs a T-shirt that reads “The Glamour Never Stops.”
“What it really boils down to is that you spend your time in a hotel room,” says Blase, who calls Oxfordshire, England home when she is not on the road. “Just me and my career and my suitcase. We’re very well traveled.”
For her, the real perks are those moments after a concert: “There’s nothing better than to come offstage and have someone say, ‘I was really moved by what you did.’”
For Bach Festival tickets, call 624-2046. For a complete schedule, visit www.bachfestival.org.