By Michael Shae [The New York Review of Books, 24 January 2015]
Maria Callas converted me to opera. I am sure I am not unique in this, except in the particulars. In my early college years I immersed myself in recordings of the nineteenth-century symphonic repertory—Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, the Russians—but for a long time I refused to listen to opera, would listen to an overture and then rush to change the record before the singing started. Then one day my roommate put Callas’s 1953 Tosca on the turntable and dropped the needle onto “Vissi d’arte.” I had no idea what she was singing, but near the conclusion of that imploring aria, as she comes to the end of the arching wordless phrase that soars from an A down slightly to a G, there is an audible intake of breath. She gasps—or is it a sob?
By John Yohalem [Parterre Box, 25 January 2015]
Operamission, a scrappy little company that performs music from all sorts of eras and styles in venues all over town, is in fact its Kapellmeisterin, Jennifer Peterson. Her latest brainstorm was to give A Countertenor Cabaret, starring no fewer than 14 of these once-rare songbirds, in the cabaret space of the Duplex on Sheridan Square, and to live-stream the entire event, with translations of the remarkably varied musical fare.
By David Abrams [CNY Café Momus, 17 January 2015]
Beyond the austere set and surreal visuals, Willy Decker’s controversial 2010 Met production probes deeply into the heroine’s psyche.
By Francis Carlin [FT, 19 January 2015]
Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936) was Italy’s answer to Ravel as far as orchestration is concerned and best known for a trio of tone poems on Rome. He also completed nine operas, none of them on today’s performance radar.
With news that The Metropolitan Opera is having financial problems -- again -- now a dispute is brewing over the assets of the defunct New York City Opera with a view to reviving the company. Why bother?
By Martin Bernheimer [FT, 14 January 2015]
Bartlett Sher’s interpretation of Les Contes d’Hoffmann was a mess at its Met premiere back in 2009. The sets, designed by Michael Yeargan, looked gaudy, the narrative seemed confused, and the stage remained chronically overpopulated.
By Neil Shah [WSJ, 11 December 2014]
Nearly eight million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year, industry data show. Younger people, especially indie-rock fans, are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl and the ritual of putting needle to groove.
From Open Yale Courses
Lecture 17 — Mozart and His Operas
Mozart and the nature of his life and work make up the topic of this lecture. Professor Wright begins by discussing the basic ways in which classical music differs from Baroque music. He then launches an exploration of Mozart's life and compositional process, making use of Mozart's letters and compositional sketches to illustrate his points. The lecture culminates with a performance of select scenes from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, featuring guest singer Professor Richard Lalli.
By Matthew Gurewitsch [WSJ, 12 December 2014]
While he lived, the schoolmaster’s son Franz Schubert made no great splash in the world. Intimates called him Schwammerl, or Mushroom, supposedly because he was small and round. His occasional travels never took him more than 200 miles from his native Vienna. Before his death, much of his music was played only at private gatherings or not at all. Yet the catalog of symphonies, piano sonatas, chamber music and sacred works he brought forth in his brief 31 years—four years fewer than Mozart’s, 26 fewer than Beethoven’s—places him well and truly in the company of the immortals. Arguably most impressive of all is his legacy of song, inexhaustible in its Shakespearean variety, upward of 700 items, each, to the mind of Graham Johnson, “a law unto itself.”
By John Yohalem [Parterre Box, 12 December 2014]
A Birnam Wood of Macbeths and Ladys has come traipsing through New York this year. Dell’ Arte Opera staged Verdi’s early masterpiece last Summer, and the Met revived its grandiose production of the work back in the Fall. The Met followed that up with a splendid revival of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. And now the Manhattan School of Music’s Opera Theater program (through Sunday) is giving performances of Ernest Bloch’s opera of the same (only to be whispered) name.
By Eric Felten [WSJ, 28 November 2014]
In our age of easy playback, it’s hard to imagine how ephemeral music once was.
By John Yohalem [Parterre Box, 22 October 2014]
It was a night a-tingle with excitement at the Metropolitan Opera House. At least part of this lay in never knowing when vocal protests might explode (verbally) somewhere in the auditorium.
By Ari Shapiro [NPR, 12 October 2014]
For more than a century, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England has hired composers to write original music for its productions. That sheet music has sat in a vault for decades — until now.
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