Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I am very excited to announce the Michigan premiere of MUSE of FIRE, to take place next Friday evening, March 16, 2012 at 7:30 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, near Detroit. The performance is sponsored by the Warren Symphony Society and came about through the good offices of my colleague, David Daniels, conductor laureate of that organization, who first experienced MUSE when I performed it for the Conductors Guild in Baltimore several seasons ago

Here is a link to ticket information. 

And another to a preview article on DetroitPerforms.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

RECENT performances

MUSE of FIRE is based on my experiences studying with the legendary Maestro Charles Bruck at the Pierre Monteux School in Maine, and it is like no other. No other play ever written seeks to reveal the secrets of the conductor’s art—bringing to audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the real life (and vital artistry) of classical music’s great, silent partner.

I have performed MUSE more than fifty times now—from Chicago to Halifax and Baltimore to Boston. In 2011, I returned to tour Maine, where one evening I had the privilege of presenting MUSE at the Monteux School, on the very stage where many of the events depicted in the play took place, sixteen years—to the day—of Maestro Bruck’s death there in 1995.  The bas-relief of Bruck (pictured) now hangs near the stage in the Monteux Forest Studio, a important reminder of the man and his legacy.

The large audience at the Monteux included the entire student body of the school as well as many who knew Bruck during his heyday. It was a very emotional homecoming. Afterwards, the standing ovation, the tears, the cheers—were instantaneous. In response to the tour, the Portland Press Herald hailed MUSE of FIRE as “entertaining...and important.” High praise, indeed.

Another evening in Maine returned MUSE to the Conductors Retreat at Medomak, where Maestro Ken Kiesler, esteemed Director of Orchestras at the University of Michigan, invited me to again share the play and its message with his international student body. Ken has invited me to the UofM campus for a performance there this spring. (For more about my visit to the Conductors Retreat, please click here.)

MUSE of FIRE also received its New York state debut last season, on the campus of SUNY—Fredonia, where the Fredonia Leader called it “a one-man epic,” and the president of the university labeled the performance “phenomenal.” A large and enthusiastic audience cheered the play (and more than one hundred stayed for a lengthy Q&A following the show.) Next up is a return to the midwest (with performances in the Detroit area and Ann Arbor in March), then back to the east coast for summer and fall run-outs later in 2012.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

All my bags are packed...

Early tomorrow morning, I head off to Maine, to perform MUSE of FIRE at The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor. (The curtain is at 7:30 pm.) This is a special performance for me, since Cathy Sherrill, the gracious managing director of the theater, invited me to return with MUSE again this season, following my performance last summer in this historic theater. (I can't wait to see the building all painted...a process that had just started last time I was there, as you can see from the photo above...)

“Astounding...without question one of the greats on our historic stage...
the audience was riveted, enraptured..."—Boothbay Harbor Opera House

May they be so again!

My bags are ready; the show is rehearsed; the behemoth is "standard packed" (everything back in the same place it always is); fluids topped off; reservations made; it is time to bring my unique theatrical presentation to more audiences...with more to come!

Friday, June 4, 2010

On the road again...

MUSE of FIRE hits the road again this summer and fall with performances in Boothbay Harbor, Portland and Lewiston, Maine, and soon at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

The wonderful production photo below was taken "live" at the Boothbay Harbor Opera House by Robert Mitchell Photography.

Friday, June 11, 2010 at 7:30 pm — The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor

This is a return engagement...I was immediately invited to return following my performance at the historic opera house last summer. Call 207 633-5159 for tickets or visit The Opera House is located at 86 Townsend Avenue.

“...without question one of the greats on our historic stage...the audience was riveted, enraptured...—Boothbay Harbor Opera House

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 7:30 pm — St Lawrence Arts Center, Portland

The play's Portland debut! Call 207 775-5568 for tickets or visit

“...heartfelt, absolutely wonderful.”
—Camden Opera House

and in September:

Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 7:30 pm — Franco American Heritage Center, Lewiston.

More info soon about the shows at Lewiston and SUNY...and more performances (and more stories about touring) to come!

Hope to see you at MUSE of FIRE soon!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


July 17, 2009

Following the performance of MUSE at the Conductors Retreat, pianist Lorin Hollander sent his greetings:

"I was deeply moved by the power of your performance.

"David Katz has created a remarkable evening - powerful, poignant, thought-provoking and very moving. MUSE of FIRE is aflame with creative inspiration. An unforgettable experience."

—Lorin Hollander

Friday, October 30, 2009


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Conductors Retreat at Medomak, near Liberty, Maine, northwest and inland from the breathtaking coastal village of Camden, is a summer camp for conductor training run by the estimable Maestro Kenneth Kiesler, director of orchestral studies at the University of Michigan. Only two weeks earlier, after receiving a flurry of emails from our office, he had extended an invitation for me to perform MUSE for his students.

I had not known Ken previously (except by reputation) and was not only delighted to accept his invitation, but moved that he was a person of such open mind and heart as to eagerly welcome the story of another great conducting mentor into “the very heart of his kingdom.” Few maestros would so willingly (or so confidently) offer to their students a differing approach to how it’s done.

The Conductors Retreat at Camp Medomak is an idyllic location for study and contemplation. The facilities are not lavish—just cabins and a lodge under the pines, with a meadow across the road. No stage nor stage lighting for this performance of MUSE. I constructed my compact white and black set directly on the floor of a classroom that doubles as a rehearsal space—placing Bruck’s chair and platform (the focal point of the action) not five feet from the first row of seats.

At performance time, the hall was packed. It seemed as if every student at the school was there, along with Kiesler and famed pianist Lorin Hollander (a mutual friend from my old Opera Maine days.) 

On tour, I have discovered that once my set is in place and the lights are focussed, it does not really matter if the hall in front of me seats 90 or 900. I do adjust my vocal projection to suit the environment, but once the play begins, the set (not the auditorium) is my home. I simply tell my story to friends I cannot see sitting out in the dark.

Medomak felt a little different. Performing at audience level, with the ceiling lights in the room left on, I did not have the usual comforts of a stage on which to “hide” nor stage lights to “hide” behind. I could see everyone, and I could tell how every second of the play was being perceived. (The audience could not “hide” either. When, during the play, Maestro Bruck roars at hapless conducting students, those seated in the front rows reared back as best they could, squirming, trying to avoid the flood of saliva flying from my mouth.)

I loved the intimacy, and so, apparently did the audience: the standing ovation at the end was immediate.

Best was the give-and-take following the performance. Some students were horrified by Bruck. Others (especially students from Europe) recognized a familiar pedagogical method. It became clear, whatever Maestro Kiesler’s teaching may share in intensity and commitment with Bruck’s, it is absent screaming or sarcasm. “There are going to be some changes around here!” Kiesler remarked to the assembly afterwards, and everyone laughed, to which I added, “Hey, Ken, our plan worked!,” which made everyone laugh harder.

Ultimately, the play left some students shaken, others thoughtful; virtually all, I would say, had been moved, and entertained.

Upon leaving, I again thanked Ken for the uniqueness of the opportunity. “Bruck is an important part of the legacy of conductor training in America,” Ken said, deflecting my praise. “The students need to know of him.”

Driving back down the dirt driveway, leaving the camp behind me, I glanced at the school banner on the road. “Discovering the nature conducting,” it read. Perfect sentiment. Perfect place.

And also this: at Medomak, when the urge to find a bathroom strikes, simply select your composer: PUccini or PISton. Here's proof (click on the photo for a larger version):

Monday, July 13, 2009


The set for MUSE of FIRE came out of storage on July 2nd for two weeks of intense preparation in Hat City Music Theater’s rehearsal space. (Hat City is the non-profit producer of the play.) Even after many performances, there are always things to be polished and revised—in the staging, in the script.

Today, the set was loaded into my Behemoth (a blue Ford Expedition, actually, license plate MUSFYR, of course). The vehicle was purchased expressly to hold the set, props and other equipment necessary for the play’s many on-the-road performances. (MUSE of FIRE most recently toured northern Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in February, and returns to Midcoast Maine for more performances now in July and again in September.)

When I went to purchase the vehicle, I arrived at the Ford dealer with a tape measure—to be sure the rear opening was big enough to handle the largest of the set pieces, a collapsible 4x8 flat with an attached projection screen, used to show the images of music, conductors, locations mentioned in the script, providing an additional visual element for a play that is so much about listening, about feeling.

The furniture and props are all colored either black or white (like notes on music paper.) Even a pair of crash cymbals, which make their appearance near the end of Act I, are painted one white, one black. (I can imagine my friend and colleague, Gordon Peters, former principal percussionist of the Chicago Symphony and an alum of the Monteux School, cringing at the thought of cymbals with paint on them. He attended and praised the very first performance of the play—and immediately offered to give me cymbal lessons!) Actually, the paint helps dampen the sound of the cymbals, (a good thing for the audience), for the moment when I imagine placing Bruck’s head between the two clanking plates, after he’s insulted me once too often.

Now, I'll hit the road to Maine. But before I do, I need to consider all the details: extra copies of the script for the light and sound tech, and for me to check my memory. (I am always revising, so I keep the script close at hand, to be sure it is right—and I am, too.) I pack the playback rig and multiple copies of the cd of specially-selected classical music that is a key component of the play, contracts, cell phone, chargers, clothes—walk around clothes in addition to the costume I wear—a cooler for water (my only on-the-road drink) and intermission pick-me-ups, like nuts and power bars. I try to take everything with me. Less expense, and less worry.

There have been phone calls and emails from the venues, today, too, with last-minute details of their own. I will check all my lists (more than twice), in the hopes nothing key will be forgotten.

I'll say some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I'll sleep. (pace DT).