CONCERT FOR A MAD KING

The youthful, venturesome International Contemporary Ensemble is readying “Theatre Music,” a free concert of theatrical and staged works by John Cage, George Crumb, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Cage’s “Credo in Us” for prepared piano, radio, and two percussion was written for his 1942 initial collaboration with lifelong lover Merce Cunningham. Crumb’s whale song-based “Vox Balaenae” stands as one of the 20th century’s most performed works. “Max” Davies, also something of a gay activist, is a venerable British eccentric in the line of Britten and Michael Tippett. His “mini-opera” “Eight Songs for a Mad King” witnesses the deranged George III trying desperately to teach his caged bullfinches (the instrumentalists) to sing, while his attendant (the percussionist) stands by.

Young American tenor Peter Tantsits, a frequent ICE collaborator, sings George under Lydia Steir’s direction. His operatic work has encompassed Ramiro (that’s Prince Charming to you) in Rossini’s “Cenerentola” and roles by Rameau, Mozart Janácek, and Copland. He’s toured England, Russia, and the U.S. performing works by Britten. At that composer’s legacy festival, in Aldeburgh, Tansits performed Charpentier’s “Actéon” with early music rising star Emmanuelle Haïm. He also specializes in works by contemporary composers like Sofia Gubaidalina and Michael Nyman, which will hold him in good stead for what he calls the “insane, exciting” Davies work, with its near-freakish four-and-a-half-octave range and variety of technical demands.—

David Shengold

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