elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
elisa_rolle
elisa_rolle

Steven Blier & James S. Russell

Steven Blier, artistic director and cofounder of the New York Festival of Song, lives with a form of muscular dystrophy, and James S. Russell and him are learning to adapt. This couple met and spent the next 15 years together (as of 2013).

The New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) presents an annual series of concerts in New York City dedicated to the art of song, classical, modern and popular. In addition, this organization commissions new works and recordings, including the Grammy Award winning recording of Leonard Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles (Koch), and the Grammy nominated recording of Ned Rorem's Evidence of Things Not Seen (1997, New World Records).

The festival was founded in 1988 by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett.

For the 100th anniversary of the Juilliard School in January 2006, NYFOS collaborated on a program featuring "100 Years of Juilliard Composers in Song".

In 2007, NYFOS released a live-recording CD entitled Spanish Love Songs (Bridge), featuring Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Joseph Kaiser, performing with Blier and Barrett at Caramoor. The program was recorded live just before Lieberson's death in 2006.

In December 2008, Bridge Records released an original cast recording of Bastianello / Lucrezia, featuring soprano Lisa Vroman, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Paul Appleby, baritone Patrick Mason and bass Matt Boehler, with pianists Steven Blier and Michael Barrett. With a score by John Musto and a libretto by Mark Campbell, Bastianello is a family fable of love and folly based on a poignant Italian folk tale. In March 2008, it had its World Premiere, along with William Bolcom's comic piece Lucrezia (a version of Machiavelli′s La Mandragola, libretto also by Mark Campbell) at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, commissioned and presented by the New York Festival of Song.


Photography by Eric Ogden
Steven Blier, cofounder of the NY Festival of Song, lives with a form of muscular dystrophy, and James S. Russell and him are learning to adapt. "I derive a lot of animal comfort from being with Jim. I like being near him. There’s just this great sense of home with him. It’s the kind of thing that no one can match-make for you, because it’s so deep. But now, after being married, when I hold Jimmy, I have this feeling of, This is my husband, not just some guy I have slept with for 15 years."


James: It hasn’t been that hard to mesh our lives together. I think we were both really grateful to find each other. That was a big motivator. And partly it’s because we can be separate very successfully. Steve’s disability is progressive, so he wasn’t in a wheelchair when I met him. He had a little funny, rolling walk -- that’s very characteristic of the muscular disability that he has -- and that was it. We talked about that because it was important for me to know. But I think one of the smart ways I dealt with it was by not over-anticipating. I said to myself, Well, you know it’s progressive. I don’t know what this means. Why don’t I, for a change, enjoy what we have now? You take things as they come, and then you deal. And Steve makes it pleasurable to live with him. He has to deal with a lot, but it doesn’t define his existence. He doesn’t want to be the disabled guy who happens to be a pianist.

It’s a little hard for me to leave for long periods of time as the disability has progressed, but I was surprised when I was talking to someone recently who said, “Oh, so you’re the caregiver.” That had never been said to me before. I was really taken aback. I said, “Is that who I am?” To be identified as “caregiver” is a little spooky for me, just as Stevie doesn’t want to be “disabled guy.” Of course, I do that, but he takes care of me in lots of ways, too. It’s a mutual thing.

Steven: We live in muscle culture, where “muscle” gets used all the time. It’s considered the highest virtue of a gay man: not kindness, not generosity, not open-heartedness, not talent, not even beauty, per se. So I always felt, since I had a muscle disease, that I was just at the bottom of the food chain. It was the only reason I ever wished I was straight -- the only reason.

Jim actually has no idea what a true mensch he is, but he organically sort of accepted me just as I am. My disability never deterred him, and I think on some level that must have... well, you know how it is when you really know you’re loved? It’s transformative.

Jim will come in the morning (he gets up first), he’ll wake me up, and he’ll stretch my legs out for me and get some blood moving in my arms. He does the whole routine. He says he never has any idea which Steve he’s going to see when he comes in, or what’s going to come out of my mouth. I always know what Jimmy’s going to say. I need that. I derive a lot of animal comfort from being with Jim. I like being near him. There’s just this great sense of home with him. It’s the kind of thing that no one can match-make for you, because it’s so deep. But now, after being married, when I hold Jimmy, I have this feeling of, This is my husband, not just some guy I have slept with for 15 years.

Source: www.out.com/out-exclusives/love-issue/2013/01/31/home-him-steven-blier-james-s-russell

Further Readings:

Encyclopedia of American Opera by Ken Wlaschin
Paperback: 486 pages
Publisher: McFarland (September 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0786445963
ISBN-13: 978-0786445967
Amazon: Encyclopedia of American Opera

This encyclopedia lists, describes and cross-references everything to do with American opera: works (both operas and operettas, including separate entries for the most popular arias), composers, librettists, singers, and source authors, along with relevant recordings. The approximately 1,750 entries range from ballad operas and composers of the 18th century to modern minimalists and video opera artists. Each opera entry consists of plot, history, premiere and cast, followed by a chronological listing of recordings, movies and videos. An introduction provides an excellent overview of the general subject of American opera. In addition to the operas and the people associated with them, the work includes entries for the American opera companies and for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, listing the dates and venues of all American operas performed there. Illustrations from the author's extensive collection of music and other materials round out the work.

More LGBT Couples at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance


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Tags: gay classics, musician: steven blier, persistent voices
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