MESS is the acronym for MISE-EN-SCÈNE STUDIOS.
From French to English, Mise-En-Scène roughly translates to ‘staging,’ but is more broadly used to describe the world of an artwork. The Mise-En-Scène of a symphony starts when you park your car or get off of the subway and hear the orchestra tuning as you walk through the tunnel to the concert hall and encompasses your entire experience. It even reaches into the brain and extends into your memory of the experience.
Here's our story.
The story of MESS begins all the way back in the distant history of 2013 when Lachlan and I (Ben) crossed paths in the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Our first collaboration was for a recital in early 2014 during which we not only enjoyed making music together, but also spent some solid time hanging out, exploring the gin-joints of the UWS and “talking shop.”
Among musicians, the conversational flames of “shop talk,” stuff like mutual acquaintances, technique, performance experience, etc. quickly (and thankfully) burn out. In our case however, it was more of a fuse than a flame. We eventually zoomed out to a macro view of the classical arts world as a whole and discovered a shared discontent with the status quo in the classical music community. Therein lay the rabbit hole into which you now descend...
But to understand why, you’ve got to know a bit more about us.
Lachlan has been an entrepreneur since birth. Back home in Australia he started a professional baking business before he was 10 and earned enough money to buy pretty much anything an 8 year old could want. (OK, maybe he was 13. Whatever.) Then he decided to become a world class solo pianist, raise enough money to come to the USA to study at Juilliard and then work at the Met. Check, check, check.
I grew up in Kansas and dabbled in classical music while studying film production in college. Then I moved to LA and spent several years climbing the ranks at Paramount Studios. Basically I learned to hustle my butt off and back it up with hard work. But I missed music. And the little bits of my soul that Hollywood was stealing. So I got my hustle on in a new biz and practiced my butt off all the way to the Met.
All that is to say that our discontent with the status quo came from an outside perspective. A perspective from which the issues holding classical music back from fulfilling its popular potential are not intrinsically a part of classical music itself, but merely structural, presentational and identity-based challenges.
When it comes right down to it, classical music is badass. We know because we do it for a living. That’s why we do it for a living. And we couldn’t sleep at night knowing we hadn’t done everything in our power to show people why.
So over the next few months we spent all our free time breaking it down. What are the challenges? What are the shortfalls, pitfalls and downfalls? What are people seeking and not finding? We researched 100+ years of American classical and operatic business models, audiences and trends. We looked at what performing arts audiences were consuming, where, when, why, and how much. We studied who was doing it well, who wasn’t. Then we copied what worked and scrapped what didn’t. We studied the competition. And not just other opera companies, but Netflix, Broadway, NBC, Amazon. We asked ourselves what an opera company is and to whom. To its audience, artists and investors. We talked to our most trusted and accomplished friends and mentors in the arts and business worlds and asked their opinions and advice.
Then, after deciding not to spend the next 40 years trying to take over the Met, we sifted through the information and, guided by the tastes and instincts that had served us well so far, began building a completely new concept for a classical arts production company.
Thus, MESS. A company both economically and artistically unique in the United States. Here's how:
An unequalled opportunity for audiences to develop an extended rapport with our core ensemble of world-class artists.
A small annual fee grants access to several exclusive curated events per year with free food, drinks and world-class performances & offers advance tickets to our Premiere Productions.
A long-term, sustainable model built in collaboration with New York’s top non-profit financial planners.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Watching MESS develop over its first few seasons, from those first conversations to our first event on January 7, 2017, has been a thrill ride. Seeing all the good it can do - for the classical arts, for artists, for audiences, for investors who seek a future for their beloved art form - makes all the work more than worth it.
We could not be more excited to begin sharing it with you.
American tenor Ben Bliss is a 2016 recipient of the Martin E. Segal award at Lincoln Center, awarded by the Metropolitan Opera. He was also the recipient of the Mozart and Plácido Domingo awards at the 2015 Francisco Viñas International Competition in Barcelona, receiving 2nd place overall, first prize in the 2014 Gerda Lissner and Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation competitions, as well as a Sara Tucker and Sullivan Foundation grant. Mr. Bliss is also the 2013 Operalia Don Plácido Domingo Sr. Zarzuela prizewinner.
In the 2017-2018 season, Mr. Bliss will sing the role of Ferrando in Così fan tutte at the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, and Oper Frankfurt. He will also make his house debut at Opera Philadelphia as Tamino in The Magic Flute, and sing the role of Cassio in Otello with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he will return to Santa Fe Opera to make his role debut as Robert Wilson in Dr. Atomic in a production directed by Peter Sellars. Concert appearances will include singing Messiah with the New York Philharmonic in December.
Ben Bliss’ 2016-2017 season included a US recital tour with pianist Lachlan Glen, with stops at Carnegie Hall, the Folly Theater in Kansas City as part of the Harriman-Jewell series, Theater of the Arts at the University of District of Columbia as part of the Vocal Arts DC Emerging Artists series, Hahn Hall at Music Academy of the West as part of the University of California, Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures series, and in Cincinnati with Matinée Musicale. Operatic appearances for Mr. Bliss included a return to the Metropolitan Opera, first as Tamino in The Magic Flute and then as Steuermann in Der Fliegende Höllander, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Other opera appearances included Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Atlanta Opera, Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress for a role and house debut with Boston Lyric Opera and Camille, Count de Rosillon in Die lustige Witwe in concert for his house and role debut with the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.
Highlights of Mr. Bliss’ recent seasons include a return to the Metropolitan Opera as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, conducted by James Levine, where the The Opera Critic heralded him as, “marvelous” and a “true Mozart tenor.” He also made his European debut in the same role with Glyndebourne Festival on tour. Returning as a principal artist to Los Angeles Opera, the artist appeared as Tamino under the baton of James Conlon, as well as to Des Moines Metro Opera as Belmonte. On the concert stage, Mr. Bliss debuted with the New York Philharmonic singing Tony in Bernstein’s West Side Story Concert Suite No. 1 with Alan Gilbert, Haydn’s Creation and Cassio in Otello at the Cincinnati May Festival with James Conlon, and in holiday concerts with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Lexington Philharmonic. Mr. Bliss has also performed in Carnegie Hall’s Neighborhood Recital series with pianist Lachlan Glen, and with the New York Choral Society in Handel’s Israel in Egypt at Carnegie Hall. He made his company and role debut at Santa Fe Opera as Flamand in a new production of Capriccio directed by Tim Albery.
While in the Lindemann Program, Mr. Bliss made his Metropolitan Opera stage debut as Vogelgesang in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, conducted by James Levine. In May 2014, he was tapped to fill in as Ferrando in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s production of Così fan tutte under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. As a member of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, Mr. Bliss appeared as Benvolio in Roméo et Juliette, Barbarigo in I Due Foscari, and the Male Chorus in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia with the Colburn Orchestra under James Conlon. He has been the tenor soloist for Bach’s Magnificat with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the La Jolla Symphony and made his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut singing Bach under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel.
Australian pianist, conductor and producer LACHLAN GLEN (b. 1989) regularly performs around Australia, Europe, and the United States, at venues including Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall.
As a pianist, he has performed with various ensembles throughout Australia, Europe and the U.S. in works ranging from Liszt's Concerto No. 1 in E-flat to David Gillingham's Concerto for Piano, Percussion and Wind Orchestra. He has also been featured live on national television in Australia (“The Morning Show”) and is often heard on both local and national radio in Australia, Europe and the US. His album of American art song, entitled Stopping By (with tenor Kyle Bielfield), debuted at #5 on the iTunes New & Noteworthy Classical Charts and #24 on the Billboard Classical Music Chart, and was re-released on the Decca label.
As a vocal coach, conductor and répétiteur, Lachlan has served on the music staff of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Music Academy International, Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, International Vocal Arts Institute, Castleton Festival, and Chautauqua Institution.
Lachlan’s talent in production, administration and general leadership is exemplary for a 28-year-old: in the past five years, he has produced national tours in both Australia and the U.S.; multiple solo and collaborative albums; the Operative podcast (available on iTunes) on which he has interviewed Renata Scotto, Richard Bonynge, George Shirley, Rufus Wainwright, and other influential figures in the classical music industry; and Schubert & Co., a NYC festival that performed the complete Schubert songs in 35 recitals over a single season (2012-’13). He also regularly accompanies the leading young singers of his generation and recently conducted two full performances of Die Fledermaus at the Trentino Music Festival, Italy, to great acclaim.
Born in Sydney, Australia, an early interest in composition resulted in several national awards and the performance of his orchestral work Daintree Overture at the inaugural Aurora Contemporary Music Festival 2006 (Matthew Hindson, Artistic Director). Always an entrepreneur at heart, he founded a successful baking business at age 13 while simultaneously pursuing studies on the viola and performing as orchestral keyboardist and percussionist in Sydney. Lachlan is a graduate of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program ('15), The Juilliard School (M.M. '13) and Rutgers University (B.M., Mason Gross School of the Arts, '11), and maintains a private vocal coaching studio in New York City.